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  • Writer's pictureMarc S. Tremblay

Solving the Espresso Equation

Updated: Mar 27

As I continue my spotlights on members of the Mayne Island community, let’s meet Carol and Michael Barnes, owners of Espresso Equation.

 

A long-time romance - strong family roots

 

Michael and Carol met over 35 years ago. At the time, Carol was working for Mike’s dad at B.C. Biomedical, and Mike was starting a typesetting business in a shared office space with her. They started to get to know each other. They’d sneak off for occasional dinner dates and kept their budding romance secret until Mike invited Carol to the house for a Sunday dinner. They dated for a year and a half until Mike proposed, and they celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary last year.



Espresso Equation Coffee Wagon Mayne Island

Carol and Mike both grew up in West Coquitlam. When it was time to get their own place, they bought Carol’s family home, and so that house has been occupied by her family since the early 60s. The area is changing with the addition of high-rise towers, replacing many single-family homes and eroding the homey feeling they got accustomed to raising their family there, but the area still has charm.

 

They have three adult children. Rose is the oldest at 33. She and her husband and their grandson live in Alberta, with another grandson on the way. Stephanie, 31, lives with her fiancé in the family home in Coquitlam, and finally, Jim, 27, lives in Port Moody with his girlfriend.

 

Mike’s sister lives on Pender Island, so they visited that island often. They liked it, but it reminded them of a suburb of Vancouver. One day, they decided to visit Mayne Island. They stayed at Raylia B&B at the end of Montrose Road and hiked Mount Parke. It didn’t take long for them to fall in love with Mayne’s quirky vibe, its beauty and the slower pace of life, so they started looking for a house. They finally bought one on Village Bay around 2015 with help from Kathie Warning. For them, the best part of living on Mayne Island is “the calm, the quiet, and the community.”

 

But what about coffee, what about the Espresso Equation?

 

For them, the words Espresso and Equation go together well. The “equation” is symbolic of the formula required for creating delicious coffee concoctions: the beans, the grind, the espresso machine, all put together by the barista. Maybe this is the equation?


Espresso Equation Coffee Wagon Mayne Island

But neither Carol nor Mike were career baristas; they are self-proclaimed “coffee addicts!”

 

Carol managed a large dental office in Burnaby, while Mike was in the printing industry for a while and taught at BCIT before becoming un professeur de français, teaching in French Immersion.


Why open a coffee trailer?

 

At first, Mike and Carol were only on the island part-time. They found it difficult to meet others and integrate into the social fabric of the Island. Being coffee lovers and not quite ready to stop working altogether, they thought opening a coffee trailer seemed like an exciting adventure to embark on, and so they did.

 

For years, they had a professional espresso machine in their kitchen, but the coffee wagon gave them the opportunity to step up to a high-quality, high-volume Elektra and to buy more and more equipment — like three professional coffee grinders!


Mike and Carol Barnes Espresso Equation Mayne Island

They both love coffee, but it’s the social connections that brew around the trailer that is most exciting and rewarding for Carol and Mike. Their customers have become friends. Customers have befriended other customers. As Mike puts it, “there’s a lot of social fermentation on the Green at Fernhill Centre. We’re very pleased about that.”

 

At the start of every shift, the machine is cleaned and tweaked for optimum performance. For the sake of quality control, Mike will make sure it's running well by having an espresso, or two, or three. For Carol, her beverage of choice at the moment is an Americano, but she switches to iced Dirty London Fogs during summer months.


They discovered their favourite coffee beans by chance. Once on Pender Island, they had coffee from Vanilla Leaf Bakery Cafe, which buys their beans from a Spirit Bear Coffee Company, an Indigenous business based in Port Coquitlam. Once they tasted their coffee, they decided to serve it at Espresso Equation.

 

For Mike and Carol, the biggest challenge in running Espresso Equation is that sometimes, it feels like work. Actually, it’s not that they mind the work, but they really enjoy spending time sitting and talking with friends outside the trailer. And they both have hobbies they would like to spend more time on. For Carol, it’s pottery-making. For Mike, it’s spending time with his papermaking machinery and print shop. Oh, and they love to travel too, and they volunteer for some of the Island’s non-profit associations: Mayne Island Assisted Living Society, or MIALS and the Mayne Island Lions Club.

 

Grateful to their loyal customers and for

Mayne Island’s strong sense of community

 

Mike and Carol are very grateful for all the good-hearted customers and friends they’ve met at the coffee wagon. They’ve never had an unpleasant exchange with anyone, and they love the fact that people meet in line and on the Fernhill Centre Green to chat about coffee, or some other topic under the sun: “so much camaraderie towards us and towards other folks spending time at the Fernhill Centre - we want to thank Mayne Island for supporting us.”


They're already open for the 2024 season, so pay them a visit for your favourite java concoction and a bakery item, Fridays through Mondays, from 8:30 am to 1 pm (8:00 am on Fridays and Mondays).

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