LIBBY — When Theodore Montgomery is roasting coffee beans at Camp Creek Coffee Roasters, he’s usually thinking about how much moisture is in the air, the temperature at which the beans are browning, their specific flavor notes.
Though the coffee beans have a decidedly non-Montana origin, Montgomery already has very local plans for them before they cool in the roaster, doing his best to give them a personal twist, one based on growing up in the forest and mining cultures of Lincoln County.
The result is Camp Creek Coffee, the only coffee roaster in the area. Montgomery said the closest option to the east is in Sandpoint, Idaho, and the nearest roaster to the west is in Kalispell.
“I like to ask people, ‘Do you like vegetables? Do you like fresh meat? Why not get fresh coffee?’” he said.
The company is now located on Libby’s Mineral Avenue, having moved from its original East Third Street location. And though it has only been open about two years, Shayla Montgomery, Theodore’s wife, said local folks have shown up to give their appreciation.
“It’s been surprising,” Shayla Montgomery said as she put together a fresh pot of coffee for the shop. “It’s been seriously awesome; the community has been so supportive.”
Camp Creek Coffee started two years ago with Theodore and his brother, Ben Montgomery. The brothers grew up in Troy, on Highway 56 near Bull Lake. The business is named after a creek local to that area. The bull elk antlers hanging on the wall in the coffee shop belong to one of a pair of bulls Theodore’s brother and dad shot on Thanksgiving Day in 1996 at Camp Creek.
“Camp Creek is my old stomping grounds,” he said. “I still hunt up there.”
The Montgomerys wanted to bring something new to Libby, something sustainable.
“I’m not trying to get rich; I’m just trying to make a living for my wife and my kids,” Theodore said.
Now owned solely by Theodore and Shayla, Camp Creek Coffee focuses on creating hyper-localized coffee products for those who live and work and play in Lincoln County. For example, they created a special label for a mining-ventilation company that buys pour-over single packs of Camp Creek Coffee to give to mining clients, since open flames aren’t allowed underground and water is heated via microwave.
The pour-over packs also work well for camping, hunting and fishing trips, the Montgomerys said. They’ve also done customized packaging for weddings — “Grounds for Celebration” — and school fundraisers.
Camp Creek Coffee’s main seller in the first year of business was the espresso-based Bigfoot coffee; when he first started, Theodore focused on roasting single-origin beans to learn their various flavors. Then it was a process of blending the different kinds and flavors together. The shop’s first custom blend is called Old Highway 2 Brew.
They’ve also built blends for specific customers. One account wanted a blend made with fruity and earthy flavors as an homage to Bigfoot and its diet, he said.
It’s the kind of work Theodore hopes to be able to do full time. Currently, he also works managing a mining supply company, while Shayla is a teacher with the local Headstart program.
In the shop on Mineral Avenue, customers can purchase the various flavors of coffee beans, as well as get a cup of joe. They don’t have an espresso machine, because they don’t want to take those customers from other local businesses.
“It’s not everyone from out of town keeping (local coffee shops) going; it’s the local people,” Theodore said. “We don’t want to be competition.”
Instead, Camp Creek Coffee provides the roasted coffee beans for 17 accounts spread around Libby, Troy, Eureka, and Kalispell. And while the Montgomerys certainly welcome new customers, their company’s size allows them to create small batches of beans, which means they have more control over the quality.
With the new location and new blends expected this summer, Camp Creek Coffee Roasters hopes to caffeinate all kinds of adventurers. Roasting coffee has already become one of Montgomery’s treasured Lincoln County activities.
“I want to hunt and fish and make coffee,” he said.
For more information on Camp Creek Coffee Roasters, visit www.campcreekcoffee.com.
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