(Sipping) the Cold Smoke

Cold Smoke’s interior blends Montanan and sleek modern styles. Photo by Matt Weigand.
Cold Smoke’s interior blends Montanan and sleek modern styles. Photo by Matt Weigand.

A little over two months ago, yet another coffee shop opened up in Bozeman. Walking into Cold Smoke Coffeehouse it appears they are doing well, proving once again that there is currently no end to the number of pizza restaurants, bars and coffee shops this town can sustain.

Although the proliferation can probably be economically explained as a side effect of a growing community and campus, there is more at work. Coffee fills many roles in our lives — some of us want a decent cup as fast as possible, some want the best environment for doing homework and others want the most quality drink possible.

Any owner would tell you they do all of these things well, but the reality is that each shop has its strong suits that cater to the desires of a diverse group of consumers. Thus, we have almost a dozen coffee companies instead of 15 Starbucks.

Cold Smoke’s strongsuit is service: not generally, but as a specific mindset dedicated to giving back to communities. Owner Caleb Walker, affectionately known as “papa” to his staff, is a Bozeman native that spent five years as a youth pastor for Bozeman’s Journey Church. Walker does not want to line his pockets, but improve lives.

10 percent of all proceeds at Cold Smoke are donated to humanitarian organizations. Currently, Cold Smoke is helping fund a clean-water well project in Ethiopia managed by Journey Church. In addition, Cold Smoke serves exclusively organic, fair-trade coffee.

Walker also wants to serve Bozeman. He sees Cold Smoke as an alternative to the late-night bar scene, which is why they are open until 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 12 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. “We love people” Walker said, in summary of these practices.

Cold Smoke gets their coffee from a fantastic company with similar humanitarian goals, called Brown Water Coffee. Currently, Brown Water is subcontracting with local Ghost Town Coffee Roasters to provide Cold Smoke’s beans. While Ghost Town provides some of Bozeman’s best to shops like Cafe M and Sola, I can’t say I was impressed by Cold Smoke’s coffee.

Cold Smoke is unsure of their espresso blend, telling me that it changes frequently, but has a Brazilian bean as a key component. Typically when a barista can’t tell me what they are serving, it’s a bad sign of what’s to come. Sure enough, my 8 ounce americano had a flat profile and mildly smoky flavor (which some people like.) It had a heavy body, and it became a little sweeter as it cooled off. All in all, it wasn’t bad, but I think it’s a blend that is meant to cut through a large milky drink and I didn’t give it a fair chance by tasting as a 12 ounce latte.

I also tried their Guatemalan huehuetenango as a pour-over coffee. Also called melita-style, this method is not common in Bozeman right now, so tip of the hat to Cold Smoke. Although appearing simple, pour-over can be just as hard to master as espresso. My cup at Cold Smoke was well done, however it still didn’t provide the depth of flavor profile that pour-over can achieve.

The atmosphere in Cold Smoke was a little contradictory for me. The amalgamation of leather chairs, original 1880 wooden floors, ipads, steel chairs, a moose head (shot by Walker’s mother), white walls and glass harkens to a polished Montanan style. It doesn’t feel as natural to me as a setting like Zocalo Coffee House, but many people like this style and I won’t discredit it. On a related note, soon there may be outdoor seating in a plaza.

Cold Smoke has an energetic staff, solid food menu, good hours for students and a central location on W. Main St. Their humanitarian goals are admirable and their coffee doesn’t go down badly. If you haven’t yet, stop in and make some of your own impressions.