Dawn-Luv Charles wanted to compete at the Western Canadian regional barista championships in Vancouver earlier this month.
But she couldn’t.
The owner of Kelowna’s Bean Scene Downtown coffee shop on Bernard Avenue and the Bean Scene HQ coffee shop on Dickson Road, was in Italy, enjoying all that Tuscany has to offer.
How she got there is a story unto itself. But more about that later.
When Charles returned to Canada from Italy, she asked the organizers of the competition if she could compete in the Prairie regional instead B.C.’s.
And then she asked again. And again. And again.
“I basically wore them down,” Charles says with a smile. “In the end, they let me compete in a region where I don’t even live.”
So next week, Charles will pack up her specially roasted coffee beans, her cups and other coffee-making paraphernalia and head to Calgary to go head-to-head with some of the best baristas from the prairie provinces, all vying for a place in the national barista championship in Toronto later this year.
Not bad for a woman who admits that prior to 2010, her knowledge of coffee consisted only of knowing her favourite Starbucks order.
But since then, the intricacies of the coffee business—everything from roasting beans to blending flavours to pouring that perfect shot of espresso and creating a masterpiece in a cup—have become her world.
“When I came here I was a real ‘green’ bean,” she says. “Now, I just love it.”
The Charleses bought the well-known downtown Kelowna coffee shop two years ago from former owners John and Deb Anderson.
Charles and her husband had just arrived in Kelowna from Ontario and were looking to buy a business.
“Our realtor said he heard the Bean Scene was for sale, so we went to have a look. The minute I walked in, I felt at home.”
Six months after buying the business, Charles made another deal with the Andersons, this time to buy the retail portion of the bigger Bean Scene outlet the pair were planning for Dickson Road behind the Landmark office towers.
That store contains the roasterie and bakery that supplies not only the Charles’s two Bean Scene stores but also a third one in the Landmark 3 office building and a few other coffee shops around the city.
Using the Andersons as her coffee mentors and in particular John Anderson as her bean roaster, Charles said the investment has paid off as she is loving life behind the counter.
The Calgary competition will be her first as a barista and she is looking forward to it.
The contestants will have 45 minutes to set up, prepare 12 different drinks—four espressos, four cappuccinos and four “signature” drinks—and clean up.
They will be judged not only on technique but also flavour and a host of other technical aspects.
They have to supply all their own equipment and supplies for the competition (other than the actually espresso and cappuccino machines), including the coffee, cups and ingredients and then prepare the coffees to the exacting standards of the judges.
“There’s even a certain amount of showmanship involved,” said Charles.
The showmanship should come fairly easy.
That trip to Tuscany was won on the daytime television game show The Price is Right.
Charles and her husband stopped in Los Angeles when they were moving out to B.C. and got tickets for the show.
Charles said the 300 audience members are all interviewed before the show in order to select possible contestants. Her husband was selected and he ended up winning. Part of the prize was that trip to Italy.
So, if he has passed on a few of his showmanship pointers to his self-confessed “coffee geek” wife, she should do just fine in Calgary.