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Bowen Roastery burned but not broken

A near disastrous incident this fall could have finished the company - but a determined owner has the Bowen Island Roasting Company back in business
If you think the coffee from Bowen Island Roasting Company is devilishly good, that’s because owner Chiara Perin has help from Satan himself - the name given to her trusty partner and roasting machine.

It’s a cold, snowy morning in late December – perfect weather for a hot beverage – and Chiara Perin is busy tending to the coffee beans at her Snug Cove roastery.

“You have to listen to the coffee,” she says, describing the intricate process which unlocks the flavour of green coffee beans. In a small space near the ferry dock, Perin curates the beans which are then sold by her company, Bowen Island Roasting.

It’s work she has carried on for a few years now, after taking over the company from former owner Gino Rutigliano. “I’m Italian and I really liked his recipes that he had,” says Perin, noting that she enjoys how he leaned toward producing a more Northern Italian styled coffee. Perin hails from just outside Venice, and is a fan of the nuttier and sweeter taste the region’s coffee is known for.

“When he was leaving I almost felt that it was an obligation to keep the coffee here on Bowen. I liked the product, I know many people liked it,” says Perin, who had worked with Rutigliano in the Bowen Island Espresso Hut before moving into an ownership role when he left the island.

Bowen Island Roasting Company survived the pandemic, though unfortunately the Espresso Hut did not. Perin’s transition to a full focus on roasting has proved popular though – her product is sold in the General Store, at the Ruddy, and delivered to many individual customers on the island. While she enjoyed operating the café, Perin says she finds the roasting work fulfilling, adding she had a big head start taking over a product people had already come to enjoy.

But after managing to resiliently ride out the last two years, an October incident almost erased all of Perin’s hard work. A routine roast session in the middle of the month became a nightmare experience when Perin went to turn on the roastery’s after burner. Not only was it not working, it had been extremely damaged.

Perin’s operation hit a serious snag when her after burner was damaged this fall. But a newly fixed piece of equipment means her coffee is now flowing to Bowen Island once again. / Alex Kurial

Perin went outside to find the main controller valve, along with other parts of the equipment’s machinery, badly smashed and unable to function. Without a working after burner, the roastery would spew smoke into the air, which isn’t allowed.

“I didn’t think I would survive this,” said Perin.

The tucked away location of the after burner outside makes it less likely such significant damage was caused by accident. Perin alerted the local RCMP – vandalism was theorized but no answers have been found yet. Her only recourse was to file an insurance claim, which fortunately processed well ahead of schedule. Perin’s quote was approved in two months, and just a week before Christmas she was back at the gears producing fresh bags of coffee.

It was just in time to make Christmas deliveries to the local stores, though Perin regretted she wouldn't be able to make her usual individual deliveries during the holiday season. She hopes to make up for it in the new year – coffee will still be a necessity in the cold months of January and February after all.

Perin thanks all the customers who have stuck with her, not only during her recent unexpected pause, but during the pandemic as well. She wants them to know the coffee is going to keep flowing – the roastery just hit a little bump in the road.

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