Mogiana Coffee

When you come to The Cultch and have a latte at our Café and Wine Bar, or have a drip-brewed cup of coffee from our lobby, we are happy to say that it’s Mogiana coffee that you are tasting. Cristina Dias runs the company locally in Richmond, but the beans come from her family’s farm in Mogiana Valley in Brazil. The coffee farm was started by her great-great grandparents in the 1890s. What’s not to love about a company that is family-run for five generations, sustainably grown, and award-winning?  We are reposting this article about Mogiana written by Jim Tobler originally published in WOW Travel, Kiwi Collection’s Digital Travel & Lifestyle Magazine to share more about this wonderful company.

Chocolate, caramel, and crema. It doesn’t get any better.

Cristina Dias is sitting in The Laughing Bean coffee shop on Vancouver’s East Hastings street, agreeing that the recently pulled espresso she is sipping has distinct, rich chocolate notes, with an overture of caramel. “It is because of the over-ripe beans we include in the final blend for the espresso,” she says. “When the beans get a little over-ripe, they tend to take on a bit of sweetness, and after the roasting, these notes come out nicely.” Yes they do.  Acidity is very mild, richness is accentuated.

Mogiana Coffee Farm

Cachoeira Farm. Photo courtesy of

Mogiana Coffee is run by Cristina, who markets and distributes the product, and her brother, who brings the beans in raw from the family plantation in Brazil. He lives in Portland, and retired from his engineering job to dedicate his efforts full time to roasting and packaging the coffee. Grandfather Dias still lives on the plantation, and oversees the operation in Brazil.

The label has a coffee bloom on prominent display, since “It is a special time of the year, when the blooms come out. All white, like a snowfall visited us,” Cristina says. But the bloom lasts two or three days only, and the petals drop, to later reveal the ripening, reddening beans themselves.

A Labour of Love

The property is called Cachoeira Farm, and nestles in rich volcanic soil on the border between Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais. Ecology is foremost on their minds, partially as a legacy to future generations, and also because it ensures a high quality bean. Hand-picked, and all energy consumed in the process of growing and harvesting is derived from sources on the farm itself.

Mogiana Coffee Farm

Cachoeira Farm. Photo courtesy of

There is also a school, with 300 students, from both the families working at Mogiana and from neighboring farms as well. The school is named after Dona Mathilde de Carvalho Dias, great grandmother to Cristina. She lived to 103 years of age, and her diary, a book, was titled “Amor e Trabalho”. Labour of Love.

Perhaps that is why that espresso tastes so fine. Living history, and an ongoing commitment to sustainable farming, even including education. We can look forward to drinking excellent coffee and sharing it with our own grandchildren.

Darwin the Dinosaur is a Hi-Tech Show for the Whole Family

This weekend, prepare for a whole new kind of theatre experience at The Cultch! In a larger than life, glow-in-the-dark puppet show, Darwin the Dinosaur tells the story of one dinosaur’s journey to find love and courage!

As part two of The Cultch’s three-part Family-Time Series, Darwin uses a product called electroluminescent wire (EL wire) to bring to life the magnificent, neon glowing puppets of Darwin, his creator Professor Henslow, and the many friends he meets along his journey. In pitch black theatre, the effect is amazing! This technology is great for theatre because its flexible nature makes it ideal for attaching it to clothing for costumes. El Wire consists of a thin tubing of solid copper wire surrounded by a layer of phosphor that glows when a current is applied to it. Unlike traditional strings of wire, EL wire creates a 365°, unbroken line of light. And, its battery powered!

El wire up close

Glowing EL wire. Photo courtesy of

Nevertheless, the creators of Darwin the Dinosaur, Corbin Popp and Ian Carney of CORBIAN Visual Arts and Dance, still had some technical problems to figure out when they started construction of the show. First, they had to figure out how to bend and mold it while ensuring it doesn’t break or cause the brilliant glow to fade. Second, as the story of Darwin is told through dance and movement, they had to ensure that the weight of the wire and battery packs didn’t weigh them down too much. (more…)

Christine Fellows Writes Songs About Strong Women: Mermaids, Runaways and Nuns of Franco-Manitoba

By Amanda Ash originally published in Exclaim!

Christine Fellows at the Piano: Live Music in Vancouver, March 8 at The CultchTake a black-and-white photograph and bring it to life — that’s what Winnipeg, Manitoba’s Christine Fellows did with her fifth and most innovative release, Femmes de chez nous. The 13-track record and accompanying DVD, Reliquary/Reliquaire, were written during, and inspired by, Fellows’ six-month residency at Le Musée de Saint-Boniface. Femmes de chez nous, which translates to “our gals,” celebrates Franco-Manitoban history, delving into the lives of nuns, a mermaid, a troubled runaway and a small-town stenographer crowned beauty queen. Some characters are real, some imagined, but all are connected through their experiences. Fellows memorializes her characters, telling their stories of strength and fortitude via brilliant theatrical instrumentals. The lyrics of “Dragonfly” unsettle the soul, while the title track announces Fellows’ sympathy; she holds these women close to her, as if they’ve been placed in a locket and worn around her neck. On “Reversed Arrow,” Fellows sings: “We trip and cringe and cry/We hold our hands up to the light/We speak in languages and gestures just like yours.” Her loving voice rises above the background gang vocals and serenading violin, bringing together two languages and listeners through songs of decidedly different natures yet universally similar sentiments.

Who are the femmes de chez nous?

Christine Fellows: Femmes de Chez Nous Album Cover

Femmes de Chez Nous Album Cover

That’s why I wrote the record: to express these people, real and imagined, in song instead of writing stories about each or making up people. Femmes de chez nous is actually based on a book of the same name, published by a small house here in Manitoba. It’s this fantastic book; it’s basically a photograph, with a little caption and a brief history on all of these women from the French community here. I just took that format and borrowed some of the real women’s names and captions that went with them.

What kind of connection did you feel with these characters?
The museum [I spent a six-month residency at] used to be a convent. It was the home of these incredibly strong women. The first four nuns came by canoe from Montreal in the 1800s, so I felt the spirit of that building was very female and I wanted to locate the work right from that point — from those first four nuns. It’s funny because my last record was all about solitary characters and playing on the word “spinster”. This was a happy accident, coming upon the idea of working on the history of nuns. I’m a completely secular person. I wanted to memorialize these women before we forget.

A Profile of the Rio Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award

With Firebird 2011 currently playing to sold out audiences at The Cultch, it’s not a surprise that many people have heard about something called the Rio Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award. As this critically acclaimed production by Vancouver’s own Turning Point Ensemble was last year’s winner, we thought we’d give those of you unfamiliar with the prestigious award a brief run down on what it’s all about.

The Rio Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award is an admirable $60,000 production fund granted to a BC-based performing arts organization. The award was conceived to foster the creation of new work by providing a significant financial investment in a new production by the chosen company. The recipient of the award rotates annually between in the disciplines of music/opera, theatre or dance. In addition to the cash prize, the recipient is also awarded a four night run of the winning production in The Cultch’s following presentation season.

2012 Rio Tinto Alcan Winner - Les Productions Figlio

2012 Rio Tinto Alcan Winner - Les Productions Figlio

In order to receive the award, the hopeful organisation must undergo a rigorous application process followed by an even more intense adjudication. A panel of independent professionals immersed in the particular discipline being awarded that year evaluate applicants to determine the best possible winner. Once the winner is selected, they are announced at the opening night of the winning performance from the year before.

This year, on the opening night of Firebird 2011, Les Productions Figlio was announced as the new 2012 winner for their performance Elles. This dance performance from Artistic Director Serge Bennathan is sure to be a stunner as it investigates the visceral, raw physicality of 10 – 12 women dancers from across Canada. Elles will have its world premiere in March 2012 at The Cultch.  With a prestigious award like the Rio Tinto Alcan backing them up, they can’t go wrong!

Dispatch from Iran: My Final Day and Nothing is What it Seems

Cultch Executive Director Heather Redfern is in Tehran, Iran taking in the 29th Fadjr Theatre Festival, and comments on the mood of the city amid opposition protests.

Friday, February 18

Today is my last day in Tehran and the mood of the city is somber. You can feel something in the air bubbling up from deep down; it is the strangest of several strange days. Like everything in Iran, we all know what was happening regarding opposition protests, but there is no public acknowledgement that anything is awry. The protests were broadcast a little in the Iranian media, but cell phones and websites to American and British newspapers were blocked. Our first news of what had happened was from The Globe and Mail and a Greek newspaper’s website.

Heather's group heading home

Heading home

A friend of one of our group had been killed in the protests two days earlier and was very upset. The young man’s funeral was to be held the morning of my last day and the government had concocted a story that this young man was a member of the militia and had been killed by the protesters. They were going to bury him in the military cemetery. His friends at university were very angry because he was actually a protester who had been gunned down by the police. That morning the police took five bus loads of students from the university and detained them somewhere while the funeral was taking place so they could not protest. However, protests did break out. Some government officials, in addition to misrepresenting the young man who had been killed, had called for the execution of opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi.  I imagine the protests will continue.

Finally I have to say that in Iran nothing is what it seems; everyone is pretending in public that things are not happening, but everyone seems to know what is happening. Real life takes place behind the closed doors of people’s homes. Public life is artifice. No one ever gives you a straight answer. Many of the young artists say they are not interested in politics, they are more interested in the relationships between people, which is really a very politic thing to say.

The Ways We Love Paris: Le Macaron

Come celebrate with The Cultch on April 4th at Paris, in love. It’s an evening of French food, music and memories of mid-Twentieth century Paris to support The Cultch’s season and the annual IGNITE! Youth Arts Festival. To get you in the Parisian frame of mind, we wanted to share our favourite things about this romantic city:

Pistachio Macaron

Pistachio Macaron

It seems that everywhere I look I see these fabulous pastel desserts.   No, they’re not new, but they’re new to me.

French macarons (not to be confused by the all-to-common coconut macaroons) are small, round, almond cookies, crisp on the outside, smooth and soft in the middle, sandwiched with flavoured fillings.  The posh pâtisserie Ladurée in Paris wraps these confections in a stylish embossed box with a ribbon on top. Laduree’s multi-coloured macarons come in scrumptious flavours, ranging from the traditional raspberry and vanilla to the decadent orange blossom and salted butter caramel (yum!).

But while pâtisserie Ladurée is one of the few iconic macaron makers, it seems everyone nowadays has a hand in these desserts; even Martha Stewart has a recipe online.  I’ve seen them in blog posts, advertisements, and in Paris guide books.  The world seems to be crazy for these cookies that are equally beautiful as they are delicious.

At least they seem delicious, but I wouldn’t really know.

You see, to this day, I have not actually ever had a macaron.  I have never had the opportunity to bite into one of these mouth-watering creations, and as we continue to prepare for Paris, in love on April 4th, with each passing day my craving for an actual macaron grows. (more…)

Dispatch From Iran: A Visit to Tehran’s Largest Bazaar

Cultch Executive Director Heather Redfern spent one week in Tehran, Iran, taking in the 29th Fadjr Theatre Festival. While not seeing shows, Heather and some of the international delegates from the festival are able to take in some of the locales of the city that are sanctioned for visitors.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Heather at the Bazaar

At the Bazaar

Tehran is a city of contradictions. For one example, Iran is the number one provider of nose jobs in the world. Iranian plastic surgeons are reputed to do the best job at the best price and it is very common to see both men and women with bandages across their noses. Tehran is also a major centre for sex change operations and the procedures are covered by the state health plan.

The day before I leave there is one more excursion, this time to the largest of Tehran’s bazaars.  One of the delegates had befriended a carpet merchant on a previous trip to the city and he hooked us up with this fellow. He would give us a tour of part of the bazaar. It is ten kilometers across so we could not see the whole thing. We were to come to his carpet store and perhaps purchase a carpet.  In true Iranian fashion, he picked us up in a couple of taxis at the theatre, ensured we stayed together in the bazaar, put us in a taxi when we left, and made us promise to call him when we had returned safely.

Seeds for sale at the bazaar

Seeds for sale at the bazaar

The bazaar is packed. It is a mix of old and new. Each area has specific items it sells: there are markets for gold, jewelry, spice, nuts and dried fruit, fabrics, housewares and most notably, carpets. Everything is there. We buy pistachios and dried berries and have the opportunity to go into a mosque that is in one of the many squares that are part of the bazaar. The women go in one entrance, the men in the other. We take off our shoes and are each wrapped in a chador by a woman at the entrance. There are many women sitting on the floor or at small stands praying. There is a prayer room and in the central area a shrine with the remains of the fourth Imam. A woman kisses the shrine. The centre of the mosque is remarkable, it has a high domed ceiling and the entire room is a mosaic of mirrored tiles. The effect is breathtaking, like standing inside a massive crystal. When I emerge from the mosque into the sunny square I understand how this place was the centre of daily life; 300 years ago this bazaar comprised most of the city of Tehran. (more…)

Dispatch from Iran: Theatre-Going at its Most Enthusiastic

Heather Redfern Photo

Heather Redfern

Cultch Executive Director Heather Redfern spent one week in Tehran, Iran seeing performances at the 29th Fadjr Theatre Festival. In her fourth post, Heather describes the amazing level of excitement audience members bring to seeing a show there.

The shows that we are seeing at the festival run the gamut from traditional Persian folk stories to ones that use very experimental technologies. There are productions that feel like amateur and student productions and there are companies that, given some resources, could develop into world class touring artists. There are a handful of companies that have toured, or are ready to tour. There is a strong puppet culture also covering a range of performance sensibilities.  I would say that there are four companies I will keep in touch with and whose work I will follow and try and have the opportunity to see again.

Every show is packed with audience members. We are given VIP status and are allowed into the theatre before the crowds are let in and given our choice of seats most times. Other times there is a crush of people trying to get in and any effort by the theatre manager to ensure the international guests get seats is thwarted. The crush is real and sometimes frightening, like being in the mosh pit at a concert or walking down the street after Canada won the gold medal in men’s hockey at last year’s Olympics. Everyone wants to be there. For all of our efforts at The Cultch to make every person’s experience at the theatre a memorable one, I am envious of this crowd pushing and shoving trying to get in the doors. Going to the theatre is really important to them. Once the doors open, every seat fills quickly and people are given cushions, which they put on the floor in the aisles and in front of the stage, sometimes even on the stage. We are crammed into the theatre. At the end of the performance everyone stands up immediately and claps enthusiastically for the performers.

We tried to get in to see a production of Antigone, and there was a crush of people trying to get in. It got very scary with everyone just pressing into the doors. In the end we did not make it inside but apparently the theatre was packed with two people sometimes sharing one seat and people sitting and standing in every nook and cranny. At the end of the performance the director came on stage and announced that this would likely be the last performance as he had not made the changes to the production required by the censoring committee. They had performed the show as he had directed it, and they would likely be shut down. Apparently it was a wonderful production and the air in the room was electric. These are some of the most appreciative audiences I have ever seen.

DISPATCHES FROM IRAN: From Macbeth to Feasts in Tents

The Cultch’s Executive Director Heather Redfern is in Tehran, Iran to attend the 29th Fadjr Theatre Festival. It’s an interesting time indeed in that part of the world. Here is her third dispatch from the festival. Click the following links to read her first and second posts!

This past week we have been immersed in meeting Iranian artists and seeing their work. In the morning, six or seven artists make presentations about their companies and shows. We then have an opportunity to talk to them and take away their promotional information. The late afternoons and evenings are devoted to seeing shows. While this all seems very straightforward, it really isn’t. The presentations and shows always start late (often an hour late) making it difficult to fit in the 3 shows a day we would like to. This does seem to be a normal thing though, and no one gets too stressed about it. The international delegates are used to packing as much into a day as possible, so we have learned to be patient.

The best part of these festivals is meeting the artists, who are from all over Iran, not just Tehran. Because there is very little theatrical activity outside of these festivals in Iran, this time is very important to the artists because it is an opportunity to meet foreign presenters.

Vancouver live theatre: Roasting stand in Darband, just outside of Tehran

Roasting stand in Darband, just outside of Tehran.

There are some overriding themes that I have noticed in the works I’ve seen. We have been presented with at least 5 different productions of Macbeth, everything from a marionette production of Verdi’s Opera to one with an original score and very little text, to another with a full Farsi translation. There are also many productions inspired by the Greek tragedies. Much of the work is themed around death and suicide. Some of it deals with local issues in the city such as immigration and air pollution. There is an international program as well in the festival with shows from countries such as Italy, Estonia and Germany, however we are concentrating on seeing as much of the Iranian work as possible.

I’ve learned that the most important person working on a theatrical production in Iran is the director and then the playwright. The name and reputation of the company and the actors are relegated to a distant third. Opera is not allowed, except in the case of puppet theatre, as women are not allowed to sing and dance on the stage. In the theatre it is fascinating to see how the directors work within the boundaries of the law: All women perform in Hajib (headscarves) and modest dress, the sexes must not touch each other, and a dress rehearsal of every production is watched by the council to ensure it meets their standards and it can not open until they give it their okay.


DISPATCHES FROM IRAN: In and Around Tehran

The Cultch’s Executive Director Heather Redfern is in Tehran, Iran to attend the 29th Fadjr Theatre Festival. It’s an interesting time indeed in that part of the world. Here is her second dispatch from the festival. You can read her first post here, with more to come tomorrow.

Cultch Executive Director Heather Redfern visits Iran to see live theatre at the Fajdr Festival

At the pomegranate stand: David from Ireland (l), Manuel from Columbia (r)

Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011

Friday afternoon we were briefed by the festival and finally had an opportunity to see a bit of Tehran. We went to the north part of the city which is much brighter than the grey quality the streets have near our hotel. There are stores selling chain store chic clothing, people walking together in the streets, neon signs and for us a stop at a pomegranate stand where you can get all things pomegranate. On the advice of our translator we all had the pomegranate ice cream which was truly wonderful despite the chilly weather. This morning it snowed hard but the sun is out and the snow melted this afternoon. People think of Tehran as being hot but in fact it is in a bowl surrounded by mountains and can be very much like Vancouver in the winter.

In front of the bakery

In front of the bakery (l-r) Levon from Toronto, our translator Semper, Teresa from Berlin, Mojca from Slovakia, Avra from Greece

This morning at the festival we had our first encounter with the young Iranian theatre artists whose work it is we are here to see. At the “marketplace” in the foyer of the beautiful opera house, they made video presentations and invited us to speak with them. The atmosphere was very formal but the artists are eager to share their creations with the world so we are keen to learn about them.

Beginning tonight we will see their performances on stage. There are several international guests here including Peer from Germany, Shahin from One Light Theatre in Halifax, and Levon from Toronto. They have worked on co-productions with Iranian companies and their familiarity with the culture, language (Farsi) and some of the artists is very helpful to all of us in the International delegation as we try to decipher the program and get to know the work of these artists. I truly believe that this kind of artistic sharing and exchange is very important to international diplomacy. It is by seeing contemporary art being made by artists that we begin to understand a culture and develop a view of a people that we don’t see on the television news.

Street Sweeper

A Street sweeper readies the street for the celebrations of the revolution with strings of celebratory lights behind him

Some random observations:

There is a big difference between public and private life here. There is a formality to being in public. People are very nice to us but there is definitely a protocol. Though I have yet to experience it, I understand that when people are in their homes they lead a more relaxed life than we see.

There is one station on the television with English subtitles and the news out of Egypt is being compared to the Iranian revolution and celebrated as the beginning of Egypt’s Arab revolution.

The traffic in Tehran is wild and the air pollution is very bad. We have been grateful for the wind and snow showers that help to clear the air.

For lunch I had a most wonderful stew made with pomegranates and walnuts. This was a welcome change from the diet of rice and kebabs (meat and fish) that we have been offered at every lunch and dinner. I am now determined to seek out these interesting stews that are traditional Iranian fare but are not as widely available as the kebabs.