How To Quit Your Job And Become A Coffee Roaster In Montana
Almost ten years ago, Natalie Van Dusen ditched a tech career in San Francisco for one in a polar-opposite industry and location: coffee roasting in Bozeman, Montana. During a motorcycle journey through Colombia, Van Dusen experienced an epiphany while watching a farmer roast his coffee beans on a stovetop. Stovetop roasting was, and still is, fairly standard in the world’s second largest Arabica coffee producing country. A novice could learn the same artisan techniques used by small lot farmers with potentially great results. The manifestation of that seed of an idea? Treeline Coffee Roasters in Bozeman, Montana.
Why coffee? “I always had a passion for it. At 6 years old I would make my parents coffee and then help myself to the rest of the pot (with lots of milk and sugar. As I got older, I loved coffee shop culture. The sense of community and connection over coffee. It wasn’t until I visited that coffee farm in 2008 that I learned about coffee roasting and picked that up as a hobby,” said Van Dusen.
Not unlike the mountains of western Colombia, home to some of the world’s best coffees, the stunning mountainous terrain surrounding Bozeman drew Van Dusen for a business. She founded Little Red Wagon Coffee Roasters in 2013, soon joined by her childhood friend or “little sister” Deejay Newell in 2014.
Both hail from California. Van Deusen dabbled in a few industries from camp director in California, a ski school program manager in Whistler, BC, and a technical recruiter in the Bay Area. Newell was on her way to law school when she visited Van Deusen in Montana for a summer. She was in Bozeman for a week when she called her parents to share the news: She was staying in Bozeman with Van Deusen to run Treeline.
Three years in, Van Dusen earned her Q grader certificate (coffee quality grader) and with co-owner Newell, they rebranded the business to Treeline. They implemented a strong sustainability ethos, from sourcing to product packaging like compostable materials in the café and are working towards their B-Corp Certification. They only source from socially and environmentally conscious farms and focus brand image on promoting an outdoorsy, adventurous, optimistic lifestyle.
The company runs two cafes in Bozeman, one inside its roastery and another adjunct to the downtown Lark Hotel which echoes it’s fresh, clean, and bright atmosphere. The look draws on Scandinavian themes with its light wood tones, pastel hues, natural light, another region of the world renowned for its love of the outdoors, affinity for coffee, and high happiness quotient.
Van Deusen and Newell also work hard at fostering community. Treeline is one of the few predominantly women-run coffee companies, at roughly three quarters of employees, from the founder to baristas.
“Natalie and I have made it a point to promote diversity and inclusion from our core to extend outwards into everything we do. We provide a safe working environment for everyone; we have teamed up with equality organizations in Bozeman to help fight discrimination within our community. We are partnered with Oboz Footwear who introduced us to an amazing organization called Black Folks Camp Too that breaks down barriers and fears for Black people, allowing more access to the outdoors and outdoor recreation,” said Newell.
Other organizations they’ve partnered with include “Run Hard Mom Hard,” “Yellowstone Forever,” and “She Jumps.”
Beyond the cafes, design sense runs through every aspect of the business, from the brewing and serving equipment, to the good-looking swag and gear sold in the shop and on their website. In fact, Treeline’s merchandising is attractive enough to be a standalone business. Check out the hats.
For those who can’t reach Bozeman on the way Yellowstone or the slopes, Treeline sells beans online (free shipping is offered for purchases above $40) whether single bags or subscription services.
Subscribers are offered 15% off every billing cycle and free shipping once they reach a $30 threshold (a low standard for a daily coffee drinker) and can choose delivery intervals (weekly, monthly, etc.) and four grind choices or whole beans. Most of the options are blends, but Treeline’s roaster’s choice allows customers to narrow selections to single origins and even between natural or washed processed coffees.
Treeline offers two on-the-go coffee options for those who need something thin, lightweight, and easy-to-pack, whether hikers, campers, or long-distance fliers alighting in coffee deserts (looking at you, Paris). Steeped’s teabag-like single coffee satchels come five to a pack and are good on the go, and superior to commercial instant coffee. For those looking for a mini café experience, there’s the GEO. This single-serving, disposable pour over works by tearing open a small pouch of grounds that is bordered by thin carboard tabs which can be stretched over a coffee cup. Insta pour over. Voilà!
For the 3 million tourists that visit Yellowstone each year, or the hundreds of thousands who camp, ski, and enjoy the Montana mountains, Treeline has a specialty coffee solution. For all others, order online but follow their advice and drink it outdoors.