- Our Town
Bowen espresso places third
The judges have made their decision and it is now official that the third best espresso found in the western states of North America comes from a small island in Howe Sound called Bowen. Gino Rutigliano, owner and operator of the Bowen Island Coffee Roasting Company has just returned from Seattle’s CoffeeFest with a glass plate that says he has won third place in America’s Best Espresso competition.
He is full of excitement as he drops by the Undercurrent office with his two daughters, Jasmin and Skyla, and says he has to “come back down to reality.” Asked what they think about the success, Jasmin says, “It’s pretty neat,” and Skyla adds, “It’s like he’s famous.”
“We’ve put Bowen Island on the map, not just in terms of coffee but also geographically,” says Rutigliano, explaining that, during the competition, people repeatedly came up to ask him and his wife Victoria where Bowen Island can be found.
“I was so excited to be in the top 32,” he said. “When I heard that I was in the semifinals, I felt like I had nothing to lose.”
“In the first round, I had to go up against Velton’s Coffee Roasting Company and they had scored 94 out of 100 - that’s about the best score you can get,” he recalled. “I went up there very calmly and pulled my shot - it felt like I was serving my customers on Bowen. When the judges announced that we won the round, I heard Victoria scream.”
Rutigliano’s first round took place on Saturday, September 22, and the competition ended last weekend. With a winner move on - loser go home-style tournament, he could never be sure of the rounds’ outcome. He prepared three shots of his 100 per cent organic Valhalla Espresso Royale and submitted them to the judging table staffed by restaurateurs and chefs that had been selected by the Washington Restaurant Association. The judges evaluated the shots of espresso in the categories of flavour and complexity, mouth feel and aftertaste.
Rutigliano went through four rounds undefeated. “We showed up the next day and won again,” Rutigliano recalled, adding that again, his wife again let out a whoop of victory.
“On the last day, we were fighting for the top eight and we won that one,” he says. “But when it came to the final four, we lost by one point. We were told that it was a close call.”
After that, Rutigliano competed for third place but he didn’t get the results until the award ceremony. “ We went to the podium and then it was announced that the third place was going to the Bowen Island Coffee Roasting Company,” he said. “And I heard someone yell, ‘Go Canada.’”
Rutigliano was the only Canadian roaster with a place on the podium. The first place went to the Blue Star Coffee Roaster from Twisp and the second place to Conduit Coffee Company from Seattle, both located in Washington State.
Rutigliano is well aware of the honor of winning the prestigious award. “Seattle is a coffee mecca. It’s amazing how many quality coffee roasters are located there. We went and visited the original Starbucks and found that there was a good coffee bar at every other corner,” he said. “To win something there was indescribable.”
Rutigliano is back at his place behind the counter to serve his loyal customers on Bowen Island and says, “We were really surprised how many people embraced us and followed the competition.” The Valhalla Espresso Royale blend is available at the BowenCoffee Store, at Whole Foods Markets and other select organic stores. For more info, please see www.bowencoffee.ca.