Showing posts with label montana. Show all posts
Showing posts with label montana. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Bloom and Vine

Subject: Bloom and Vine (also known as Bloom Coffeehouse & Eatery)
Location: Glendive, MT
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

When I first arrived in Montana those many years ago, I only held interest in the western portions of the state. Sure, I drove through the east, but that was simply because I needed to get through it to get somewhere else. It wasn't until years later that I realized how foolish I had been.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Essy's Coffee and Frozen Yogurt

Subject: Essy's Coffee and Frozen Yogurt
Location visited: Bozeman, MT
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

As a place I called home for nearly a year, I am always happy to return to Bozeman. The town is sadly losing some of its quaint quirks with its ever-growing popularity, but one positive is the increase in quality coffee establishments. The newest to my eyes on my recent visit was a combo that is not often seen, that of frozen yogurt and coffee at a place called Essy's. 

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Ghost Town Coffee Roasters

Subject: Ghost Town Coffee Roasters
Location: Bridger Center Dr location, Bozeman, MT
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

In my last trip to Bozeman, my lodging provided some coffee from a roaster I had not heard of prior, a local roaster called Ghost Town. After a quick google search, I opted to leave the free coffee at my shelter and made my way over to one of their cafes to experience it firsthand.

Monday, February 08, 2021

Cotton-Top Pastries

Subject: Cotton-Top Pastries
Location: Helena, MT
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Bakeries dot the landscape of America, but there are fewer than twenty that I would call excellent. Sadly, many bakeries exclusively do fancy cakes (and I am a man who orders exactly zero fancy cakes each year) and (too) many other operations specialize mostly in hackneyed and yawn-tastic items like jellied shortbreads and butter cakes. But the handful that do it right, I have each time considered the possibility of relocating my family in order to be closer.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Drum Coffee

Subject: Drum Coffee
Location visited: Broadway St, Missoula, MT
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Music and coffee are natural pals. For many folks the combo is an obvious pairing, especially for those who have lived with an open mic coffeehouse nearby. Thus, when I found a coffee shop involving the drummer of Fitz and the Tantrums in Missoula, I made sure to give it a stop when I next passed through town. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Uptown Hearth / Azul Coffee Bar

Subject: Uptown Hearth / Azul Coffee Bar
Location visited: Columbia Falls, MT
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

For gorgeous mountain majesty, no place in the USA compares to Glacier National Park. Few places bring such unique beauty in a single place and thanks to the ever-rising popularity, the area outside of Glacier improves every time I visit. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Clyde Coffee

Subject: Clyde Coffee
Location visited: Missoula, MT 
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Navigating a frozen pass is one of the few things I dislike about the northwest mountains. Living on the east coast, we have our share of icy slopes but not many of them exist on an interstate. Just recently, I had to get from Spokane to Missoula around the beginning of March, and since every realistic route involved a major mountain crossing, I just went with the obvious road and took Lookout Pass. Thank the Lord it was mostly thawed by the time I got to it, but the experience still proved slightly harrowing.

Friday, August 07, 2020

Montago Coffee

Subject: Montago Coffee
Location: Helena, MT
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

State capitals and their administrative complexes usually aren't much to look at, but sometimes excellent gems sit next to their concrete walls.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Treeline Coffee Roasters

Subject: Treeline Coffee Roasters
Location: Bozeman, MT
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

There are a few states that hold a special place in my heart, and the hardest one to physically get to has been Montana. After a decade of foiled attempts, I finally found myself back in Bozeman just a few months ago. North of Yellowstone and full of old memories, I was delighted to find so many good coffee options, some from yore but many new to me.

Monday, March 09, 2020

Le Marché by NP

Subject: Le Marché by NP Flagship Boutique and Coffee Bar
Location: Whitefish, MT
WiFi?: yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

Multifaceted coffee operations definitely jump out to me most vividly. There are a host of things that go well with coffee, yet many times coffee shops seem to follow the same template.

Monday, May 04, 2009

CC: Caffe Vita Coffee Roasting Co.

What's does "CC" mean?

Location visited: Seattle, WA
(Capitol Hill location)
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

I never thought I'd be introduced to a great Seattle coffee company in Montana, but in my visits to Rockford Coffee of Bozeman, I became enamored with their roaster at the time, Caffe Vita (note: Rockford now seems to roast their own). Every time I got a drink at Rockford (especially their americanos), I really wanted to make a road trip to Seattle to taste the coffee direct at the source.

It took a while, but finally I was able to make a trip to the source. On a brisk weekday morning, I meandered over to Caffe Vita to meet a colleague for a cup of coffee. The shop is clearly visible from afar, as their mammoth sign broadcasts the location clearly. Upon moving closer, a few pieces of well-placed furniture underneath their ample awning drew me right through their front doors into the line. The inside itself has two floors, both with abundant furniture and rich woods, but the downstairs has a much more cozy and dim aura while the upstairs has a brighter and soothing feel.

Caffe Vita roasts their own coffee, having a nice selection of single origins and blends. Prior to this visit, most of my experience with their brewed coffee came from but one or two single origins, so I decided to try their Bistro Blend. It produced a zesty and buttery cup that had merit, but overall tasted a little too dark and a bit lackluster. The espresso came out better, as it was pulled short and demonstrated tinges of bittersweet chocolate and condensed milk, albeit small hints of bitterness on the back end. As for their teas, they have their own line of free leaf teas.

Given my past experiences, I would say this encounter with Caffe Vita really rounded out my perceptions of the operation. While I didn't end up falling as head over heels as I thought I might, I would say that I'm even more intrigued by the company than before. Definitely will warrant another try.

Thus, if you're in town, make a bee line for Caffe Vita to give them a shot yourselves.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

CC: Sweetwater Coffee

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Sweetwater Coffee
Location visited: Dillon, MT
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 3+ [see key]

Small towns have a certain charm to them, but growing up in the crowded East, I don't think I ever really got to truly see a small town until I went west, where in some places in New Mexico and Nevada there stands only one main road through all of town and you can take the tour in about 10 minutes.

Of all the west, Montana is the state that I have by far visited the most small towns, some of them more like a NJ rest stop then a town while others do hold a bit of charm. On one particular road trip through the lovely state of Montana south to Idaho, a colleague and I stopped in one such described-charming place that's home to some mutual good friends, a town called Dillon.

Arriving in town early in the mid-morning, Dillon qualified as a good coffee stop, especially because my one friend raves about one specific establishment called Sweetwater Coffee. And as any good friend would, I made a bee line for the venue in the heart of Dillon (it's near city hall, I recall).

To say the the least, the outside failed to blow me away, with a very industrial, bleh-looking building with but a small (by comparison to the backdrop) circular sign. The inside fortunately was a whole lot warmer and enticing, with very bohemian, mis-matched furniture as well as some interesting local art. The place seemed to be a local hangout for people of all ages (even though not many people seemed to be around at 10 AM this particular Thursday).

They serve only espresso (only americanos for the usual drip/press coffee drinkers) with their espresso blend being Montana Coffee Trader's French Roast. The doubleshot I had was a bit sharp with an ok acidity, but nothing amazing. The barista, who was very amiable, seemed to know what she was doing but as I was a bit scatterbrained that morning, I failed to note her skills. Also, didn't note the tea but I did observe that they do offer hot lemonade (new one to me), and though it was tempting, I didn't want to leave on a sour note (haha, get it?).

Overall, Dillon proved favorable and Sweetwater satisfactory. I would say my friend gave a fair recommendation as Sweetwater may not be the best coffeehouse EVER, but for a small town it's a nice operation. For those in Dillon or passing through: if you try the hot lemonade, let me know how you like it.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

CC: Le Petit Outre

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Le Petit Outre
Location visited: Missoula, MT
Free WiFi ? : no
Rating: 5+ [see key]

*Update 7.6.11

I am a hard sucker for mountains, and one of the prettier drives I've driven was a drive from Bozeman to Kalispell. I traveled with three companions (two from over the ocean) and at a non-snowy period where everything is green (go between May and July for best results), there's few places that can compare.

And of course, no road trip would be complete without a good coffee stop somewhere in the middle, which going the long scenic route, Missoula falls smack in the middle. Ironically, the place that got the most legitimate hype in my research was actually a bakery, Le Petit Outre (I tried an online translator to guess the name's meaning and it came out to roughly "the other little one").

The location is right near the old downtown of the city, on the corner of a side street with perpendicular parking. The exterior to my recollection was nothing fancy, a standard barn-esque structure with a really beautiful sign. The interior was a huge bakery warehouse of sorts with a large rack of bakery delights as well as a small coffee counter behind the register. Basically, the place was much more of a grab and go then a sit and study.

They serve Espresso Vivace out of Seattle and much like Vivace, strictly stick to espresso. They seem to be huge fans of David Schomer (the barista sang me his praises and recommended to me his book) and judging from the shots pulled and the quality taste, they know a good deal about pulling shots. No filtered coffee here (to my recollection), so grab an americano. Don't remember if they had tea or not.

On a less common side note, since they're known more as a bakery, I did grab an almond croissant which was out of this world, so I would also propose grabbing a baked item to complement your drink.

Thus, if you ever find yourself in Missoula in need of a French pastry and an espresso, give Le Petit Outre a go, especially if you're there in the winter; you'll need something to warm you up.

*Update 7.6.11

Alas, I have not been back but in looking over my posts I realized that a 4+ did not aptly describe my experience and that Le Petit Outre demonstrated a 5+ for sure (I think it had to do with a past, now-debunked opinion that a place that doesn't serve non-espresso was inferior to a place that served both (2007 was a long time ago for me in coffee knowledge)). I hear that the place is still going strong (and ironically enough, now seems to serve non-espresso coffee).

Friday, May 11, 2007

CC: City Brew Coffee

What's a Coffee Commentary?

City Brew Coffee
Location visited: various
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

Yet another small road trip ago, I got to see the lovely city of Billings for the second time in a much more comprehensive manner then the first (it was a 1 AM pit stop in a 10 hr drive). While it definitely can boast as the "city" of Montana (it has skyscrapers!) it's still no thriving metropolis.

Now that might sound critical and condescending, but it actually has a lot of perks. For one, never was it overwhelming to navigate the city. And secondly, its local coffee chain hadn't gone the way of charred disgusting-ness.

The chain I reference is City Brew Coffee, the other Montana coffee chain found mainly in its home in Billings. While I had heard much about it from a good pal (she's their biggest fan), I tend to hold skepticism of a coffee operation with so many locations across such a wide space...

So cut to the chase, I had to try it while I was in Billings. After a decent dinner out, a nice-sized group (about six of us) headed over to the closest branch to our sleeping quarters. The exterior of City Brew looks corporate as does the inside, with the expected Panera/Starbucks environment (which isn't bad, just a little overdone).

But the decor is where the corporate look stopped. I was stunned to see they offered french press (at a decent price too!) and that their espresso machine wasn't automatic (not completely manual either, but few places can maintain those machines at quality operation).

They roast their own coffee, and unlike many of their chain-brethren, its actually not over-roasted to an oily misery. On top of it, their various brews actually tasted decent (though not overly amazing either).

Their espresso, while light years beyond corporate charred espresso funneled out of an auto machine, still didn't really impress me. It had a decent body and flavor, but overall was pretty bland. The shots also failed to be consistent in my several visits, which would be the weakness of multiple locations.

The teas were also their own, though I didn't get to try them.

After much deliberation and visits to multiple locations (even the new one in Bozeman), I would say amongst coffee chains they're head and shoulders above the competition, but in the world of specialty coffee they still have a bit of improving to do. If you ever set foot in a Montana city (the places with more then 20K people), keep your eye out for one and give it a whirl.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

CC: Spotted Horse Cafe

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Subject: Spotted Horse Cafe
Location visited:
Belgrade, MT
Free WiFi ? : maybe
Rating: 3+ [see key]

Urban sprawl back in the Northeast US usually appears to me as something that has happened; a process that took place centuries (usually decades) ago and only now do I see the effects of past urban and industrial centers. But out here in Montana, the population and spread of settlements sits still so sparse that such towns as Belgrade stands obviously as a dependent of "big city" Bozeman. Still thriving today as a "suburb", the town has a great deal of character, complete with the old-timey feel.

One particular place that seems frozen in time is the town's coffeehouse, The Spotted Horse Cafe, located right near the main intersection. Business has gone continually for 30 years now (if not longer) which definitely puts the original owners as ahead of their time. But despite their years of operation, it seems they haven't changed much since their inception (who charges $0.50 for cream?).

The venue has a saloon bar with a large mirror behind it, heavily dominating the pizzazz-less interior (granted they might be going for that old west, neutral color look). The largest detractor was that the place reeked of onions (they served a full menu, which brings it back to the age old question of whether a coffeehouse should do so with such risks...).

The coffee of their choice was Montana Coffee Traders and when brewed fresh, tasted decent (their brewing methods seemed up to par). The espresso was OK, but after taking an initial sip, I asked the barista for cream, to which she insisted on adding, and ended up diluting it heavily (sigh). I didn't catch the tea or chai.

To put it simply, the Spotted Horse Cafe may have been a pioneer in specialty coffee, but I would recommend they update some of their practices. It's one thing to have history, but it's another matter to not alter with the times. Nonetheless, if you're in the Bozeman area (especially if you fly into the airport), take a side stop to try out the java at the Spotted Horse in nearby Belgrade. If anything, it's a nostalgic cup of coffee.

Monday, February 12, 2007

CC: Venus Rising Espresso House

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Subject: Venus Rising Espresso House
Location visited: Butte, MT
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

Every town has its highlights, the things that make the town really unique. But in West Montana, it seems that Butte (pronounced byute) has some odder claims to fame then most. For one, it has a mile-deep polluted hole full of highly acidic water, all as a result of copper strip mining (which still goes on today). The town was also home to one of the last legal red light districts, the Venus Alley, finally closed down in the 1970s with Reno, Nevada's.

Oddly enough, I managed to find a coffeehouse named (seemingly) after the old red light district, called Venus Rising Espresso House. Giving them the benefit of the doubt that they're not a front to bring back the old brothels, I and a couple colleagues checked the place out. The decor was very very bohemian, with a full art gallery in the back and a very random (yet well-placed) layout of furniture and art all throughout the place. The bar was an old saloon bar, complete with the huge mirror behind it.

They brew Montana Coffee Traders, which has been good at some places and poor at others but as always, I decided to give it a crack here in Butte. Stored in air pots, the coffee came off decent.

The espresso played out as a very odd anomaly. The espresso the first time I stopped relayed horribly blah and watery (poor baristaship mainly) but then the next trip, the doubleshot hit the spot, coming off fairly smooth though (still not phenomenol) due to much better baristas the second time.

The tea was Montana Tea and Spice Traders, a series of tea I finally got to taste only to find them mediocre and not very tasty (*tear*). I had higher hopes...

Overall, if you find yourself in Butte staring at a large hole full of copper water, I would take a side-trip to Venus Rising in "old" Butte.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

CC: FireTower Coffee House and Roasters

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Subject: FireTower Coffee House and Roasters
Location visited: Helena, MT

Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

I recently noticed that a road trip length holds a bit of a dependency to where you're living. For example, when you live in NJ, a trip from Philadelphia to NYC is about a 2 hour excursion and seems to take forever yet when you live in a state like Montana where substantial towns exist about an hour apart, a 2 hour trip feels like a quick grocery run.

Hence when I went from Bozeman to Helena, the trip went by comparably quickly (especially since I still had four more hours to go) and allowed for a small chunk of time to hunt down some decent coffee. After romping all around the quite unsightly uptown (I mean c'mon people, this is the capital?!), my fellow passengers and I found the (mostly) better kept downtown and (fortunately) found a decent coffee joint on the first run through.

We parked in a very small yet convenient parking spot and ran (it was precipitating) to shelter within the newly located coffee establishment, FireTower Coffee House and Roasters. Located right in an old Main St-ish storefront, the place had nice big windows on either side of the door and a handsome exterior. The inside came across throroughly warm and comfortable yet also somewhat rag tag (needing a bit of an interior design update as well as a powerwash).

I slowly approached the counter, studying the menu as much as I could before I ordered. I asked to try the coffee, which they kept in airpots parallel to the counter (behind me, for you visual folk). With the title "roaster" in their name, I'm praying they know what they're doing and to my elation, the coffee came across smooth and tasty (and not stale, which seems to be a problem with people who use airpots).

The espresso on the other hand wasn't anything to "yippee kai-yay"(sp?) about. Their barista skills were mostly good and but I do remember staring at oily beans in the grinder and grimacing because of the horror those beans had gone through (and how that horror made its way to my cup). In other words, the espresso tasted so so.

Their tea was a Adagio, a new brand to my peepers that looked fairly decent. Sadly, we were in a rush and I didn't get to sample.

Straight up, if you're in the town of Helena it's a great place to pop in and grab some coffee (and maybe espresso). I didn't get a chance to scout anymore of the town, so it may also stand as the only place to grab decent java in town. And if that's the case and you don't like FireTower, you'll have to head to Butte, Bozeman, or Missoula. Fortunately, road trips don't seem to take that long in MT.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

CC: Leaf and Bean

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Subject: Leaf and Bean
Location visited: Bozeman, MT
(both Main St and 19th St locations)
Free WiFi ? : yes

observe here
Rating: 4+ [see key]

A small piece of history, the Leaf and Bean stands as the oldest coffeehouse in all Bozeman, started back in the 70's in order to have a venue where one could grab a decent espresso or cup of coffee along with decent atmosphere for those dining in.

Today, the business has expanded to two shops on both sides of town, one in the bustle of downtown Main St and the other in the shopping plaza of 19th St and Oak. Both have spacious atmospheres (Main St has a high ceiling and 19th St has a really open dining area), both decorated in a pleasing and subtle manner.

Getting into the coffee, Leaf and Bean serves Montana Coffee Traders as their bean of choice. I had enjoyed MCT's coffee when I had it at their Columbia Falls location, but every time I've had it at Leaf and Bean, it's been stale (a matter of keeping the java fresh) or over-roasted (a bean problem).

And on the topic of brewing, I have to say I'm amazed they never used their french presses for coffee, only for tea. I mean a press is a good tool for brewing free leaf tea but to not even consider offering french press service for coffee (I asked so many times) doesn't compute. But alas, I think they have done away with the presses altogether (*tear*).

The espresso is also really sharp here, with a very strong bitter aftertaste. I don't know if it's always been the case for the past 30 years or if most of their patrons get sugar-ladened drinks and don't notice, but the times I've sipped the espresso have caused me to wince. On a chipper note, their small army of teenage/young adult female baristas do seem to be wise in their ways.

Montana Tea and Spice purveys the tea. This company I still have not sampled but with the attention given to it by the baristas (solely using french presses for just tea), I'd guess it's decent. We'll see...

I would say that I would diagnose Leaf and Bean as a promising establishment with some areas of improvement with their coffee/espresso. I like the establishment but I can't fool my tongue.

Friday, October 27, 2006

CC: Montana Coffee Traders

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Subject: Montana Coffee Traders
Location visited: Columbia Falls, MT
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

he state of Montana: land renown for its natural beauty and fossils, home to a dedicated breed of people who love the cold and/or downhill sports. Given the 7-9 month periods of cold (depending where you are in the state) and the natural progression of trends from the West Coast, Montana is slowly developing a strong coffee culture of its own.

One place that seems to be extending its influence throughout the state is Montana Coffee Traders, a 25 year old operation based out of Northwest Montana near Glacier National Park. I personally had heard of their beans but did not get a chance to visit a shop until recently running through the town of Columbia Falls. This particular location had a
restaurant paired with a coffee bar (I was happy to see that the two aspects were not merged, but that the coffee area was a distinctly separate chunk of the establishment). The interior had a TGI-Fridays-meets-hunting-lodge look (when in Rome?) with seemingly adequate seating (definitely not enough for the Sunday rush).

The coffee, to my chagrin, was fairly tasty. The medium blend hit the spot, though the dark blend was a little overdone (couldn't put my finger to whether it was brewed strong or if it had something else to it). They offer numerous blends and seem to be very dedicated to well-roasted, socially-responsible
(i.e. fair-trade) java.

The espresso was completely different; it tasted so burnt I nearly spat it on the floor. The beans seemed stale as well as a little too over-roasted. That paired with questionable barista skill(s) (maybe it was an off day?) definitely exposed a possible weak spot in a seemingly strong tank.

The teas came from Montana Tea and Spice, a company out of Missoula that's been around since disco. This tea I've seen in various Montana coffee locations though I have yet to sample it. It looks promising (I hope).

Regarding the various coffeehouse aspects, I'd have to say it was good, especially for a small town like Columbia Falls. If you're going to Glacier or you're of the few hardy folk who live in NW Montana, I'd say it's a good java option.

PS: the breakfast here is AMAZING (though not cheap)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

CC: International Coffee Traders

What's a Coffee Commentary?

Subject: International Coffee Traders
Location visited: Bozeman, MT
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 3+ [see key]
Hours: observe here

The town of Bozeman, a nice college town nestled in the mountains, has so many coffee establishments, it's almost ridiculous (keyword: almost). One of the few next to campus, though quite concealed behind a gas station, is International Coffee Traders (from here on in the post I will refer to them as ICT). I actually heard of them before I got to visit. I was told they were pretty good and a nice place to hang out.

Well, they were right about the hang out. ICT displays a very exotic, tropical decor with lots of green plants, tables made to look like they were straight out of South America, and numerous other tropical accents. The seating and tables are well-spaced and they even have two computer consoles free to customers.

But I wasn't as impressed with the coffee. Admirably, they roast their own coffee but they only know how to do really dark blends. Their light roast is about as dark as I can drink it and their dark roast is blackened to oblivion. The tang of over-roasted beans typically shadows the drip (and they don't do french press service either).

The espresso is not much better sadly. The shots have the same bitter, over-roastedness as the coffee. I'm no professional, but my taste buds definitely grab its jagged sharpness . The issue with the espresso could also just be that the blend/single-origin is not meant for espresso, but I think it's still more the roast profile.

On a positive note, ICT does have an intriguing way of doing iced coffee. They use a process dubbed "Cold Press", where
heavily concentrated coffee is extracted through a specialized filter, then added to ice and water/milk (depends on your preference). It comes off smooth and very chocolaty, but alas I have not had it in awhile b/c they either run out or the weather is not right for it.

ICT also has a fair offering of Numi teas, but nothing extensive. Regarding their sweeter/sugary drinks,
from what I gather they tend to hit the spot (though I cannot vouch for such beverages).

Overall, it's a great place to hang out or study, but not so great if you're looking for a great shot of espresso or a well-roasted cup of coffee. We'll see if that changes...