Dogtown Coffee may not have won the America’s Best Coffeehouse Competition yet, but making it into the semifinals has to count for a lot.
The OK Falls café is one of six semifinalists in the western region of the international competition, rising above competitors from Alaska to Arizona and Hawaii to Saskatchewan to make the grade.
Corrie Corfield, owner of Dogtown, said they entered the competition just to see what would happen, since they were already planning to attend Coffee Fest Seattle, where the semifinals and finals for the competition take place from Oct. 4-6.
Gaining a spot in the semifinals was a combination of earning a high score from a secret shopper sent by the competition and voting by customers and supporters.
“Every community has their little coffee shop and a place where people can come and feel at home and be inspired,” said Corfield, explaining how she opened the café just over a-year-and-a-half ago after feeling OK Falls was lacking that community meeting space.
“It’s really taken off from there, we’ve got a lot of really loyal customers and people who have really gotten the concept of what we’re trying to do here,” said Corfield. “There are places you can go where you can get a quick cup of coffee. We’re not one of those places.”
As much as good ingredients matter — Dogtown uses high-quality blends and roasts from Summerland’s Lone Tree Coffee — Corfield said there is more to a good cup of coffee.
“You are not just selling that cup of coffee, you are selling that whole experience of getting together with a friend over a cup of coffee and connecting with someone,” said Corfield. “There is a whole social aspect to coffee that has always really intrigued me. There is a lot of science that goes behind coffee, but we are also passionate about that thing that happens between people and coffee.”
People, in terms of Dogtown Coffee, ranges from moms coming in with their babies to chat over morning coffee, seniors enjoying breakfast, work crews stopping in between jobs to workers from many of the local wineries.
“We have our core group of customers, we have a lot of musicians that come because we do a jam session twice a week, so they have been quite supportive of us,” said Corfield. “In the summertime it is a lot of tourists, just because that is where we’re at. It’s been fun, we do get a lot of everybody.”
Corfield hasn’t neglected the quality of her coffee and operation, though.
“It takes time. It’s a combination of the beans and the roast, so it goes all the way back to the farmer that grew the coffee. The equipment, the skill of the barista, the quality of the milk that you are using in lattes, it’s a lot of factors all coming together to make the perfect of coffee,” said Corfield.
“It’s very complicated. People don’t realize that,” she said. “We did everything to the best limit we could. People are realizing that it is good quality, same thing as you would get in a city or wherever.”
Corfield set herself three goals when she opened the business: quality, inspiration and community.
“My husband and I live here. We’re raising our kids here in OK falls,” said Corfield. “I didn’t just want to start a business to make a paycheque, I wanted to start a business that was really going to do something for the community.”
Now, along with her husband Chris and Dogtown’s chef, Karl Mancheron, she is taking that passion for coffee to what promises to be an intense competition.
During the semifinals competition at Coffee Fest, duelling coffeehouse teams of three employees each will be filling roles such as barista, bar back, and greeter/cashier, who will serve attendees and judges. Three teams will be eliminated, with the final three competing on Oct. 6 for the title.