The Rialta Coffee Tour ”Our New Saturday Series

Traveling the country is easy in this bad boy. It's a 2000 VW Rialta RV that drives like a car, gets 18 mpg, and slips onto streets at night unnoticed, where we sleep like babies, then get up and move on the next morning.

Editor’s note:  We began publishing reports from Don Niemyer about the cafes he visited on his cross-country coffee tour back in the summer of 2013, and we’ve loved following his journey, learning about amazing coffeehouses out there in the United States, ever since. We’ll be publishing reports from Don about his recent journey around the Central and Northern states every Saturday this fall. To catch up on Don’s earlier posts about his explorations of coffee culture throughout the Western United States, click HERE. We hope you continue to enjoy Don’s reports as much as we do!

By Don Niemyer

Shhh!!! You're observing Don in his natural habitat.  What you're looking at is about 60 of the 99 square feet he lives in. His wife and 2 kids are probably in the other 39 behind you, playing a game of Yahtzee.  Let the poor guy have this moment with his cup of coffee, for crying out loud!
Shhh!!! You’re observing Don in his natural habitat. What you’re looking at is about 60 of the 99 square feet he lives in. His wife and 2 kids are probably in the other 39 behind you, playing a game of Yahtzee. Let the poor guy have this moment with his cup of coffee, for crying out loud!

All right barista-land, are you ready to go on a national coffee crawl? Here’s your chance! My family and I have been working a plan for the last couple years to relocate from Oregon to Colorado and go see some of the nation’s great coffee shops along the way. We did figure out that the straight line between those two places missed a few shops, so we said, To heck with it! We’ll just take the long route, hitting every one of the lower 48 and try to visit a representation from each one of ˜em. Yeah, it’s kind of a big bite to chew on, but honestly, can you think of a better way to spend a few months? Neither could we!  So a couple of years ago, we moved into a tiny VW Rialta RV and started the whole thing, blogging about what we found, even including a few posts here on the Barista Magazine blog!

Traveling the country is easy in this bad boy. It's a 2000 VW Rialta RV that drives like a car, gets 18 mpg, and slips onto streets at night unnoticed, where we sleep like babies, then get up and move on the next morning.
Traveling the country is easy in this bad boy. It’s a 2000 VW Rialta RV that drives like a car, gets 18 mpg, and slips onto streets at night unnoticed, where we sleep like babies, then get up and move on the next morning.

Eventually we sold our shop in Portland, and then we really cut loose, working hard on the best ways to share the experience with the barista community. We want to be thorough, but not exhausting, so here’s what we came up with:

  1. INSTAGRAM, TWITTER & FACEBOOK: Follow me (DonNiemyer) to see the œbest of  stuff. We post pics of what we see, and give you links to read more if you so desire.
  2. BMAG BLOG: We’ll be posting weekly updates right here, where we’ll give you the abbreviated report, including the highlights from that week.
  3. DonNiemyer.com: This is where you can go for a more detailed report. You can even search the site to easily find exactly the shop(s) you’re most interested in!

Now, there may be some other pieces to the puzzle you’ll want to put together. Like, how has my family of four lived in a 99-square-foot mobile œtiny house  for over 2 years, or how we are able to pay for this trip on barista wages? And those answers are available at our website if you wanna poke around over there. But for most of you? You just want to see the shops and know what they’re up to. So let’s get started!

Over the past year, we did the West Coast, going all the way down to San Diego, across to Oklahoma, then back to Portland. Click here  to see some shops we visited on that portion of the trip. Here’s where we went on that leg:

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This year, we began by heading across to Montana then back south to Amarillo.

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As we travel, we have a few different goals. First, simply find good shops and share our experience of going there, from the regional stalwarts to the new kids on the block. Second, we look for innovative approaches that are interesting and potentially helpful to others in the industry. From cool layouts to cutting edge equipment, we’ll try to share what we find with you. Finally, we want to include each state we go to. That means some great cafés get left out while some mediocre ones get included simply based on geography. To our great disappointment, we just can’t go to all of them!

With all that said, let’s have a peek at what we found on our first leg, Oregon to Amarillo!

Dobson Creek Coffee Roasters in Ronan, MT.  “ We love to find great coffee in obscure places.  Ronan, MT is a tiny mountain town, but brothers Troy and Trent don't let that stop them from roasting great coffee and serving it up right.
Dobson Creek Coffee Roasters in Ronan, Montana: We love to find great coffee in obscure places. Ronan, Montana is a tiny mountain town, but brothers Troy and Trent don’t let that stop them from roasting great coffee and serving it up right.
Dobson They also had one of the most beautiful custom mugs we'd seen, emblazoned with their name and featuring real leather stitching in the handle.
Dobson also had one of the most beautiful custom mugs we’d seen, emblazoned with their name and featuring real leather stitching in the handle.
Black Coffee in Missoula, Montana: When we visited, their café and roaster were crammed into one tiny space. But they're opening up a new, larger location soon.
Black Coffee in Missoula, Montana: When we visited, their café and roaster were crammed into one tiny space. But they’re opening up a new, larger location soon.
Hopefully, they'll include this super-cool, custom built rolling shelf in the new Black Coffee space. It looks like a wall, but easily rolls away when the barista needs to  œescape  to clean a table or deliver a drink.
Hopefully, they’ll include this super-cool, custom built rolling shelf in the new Black Coffee space. It looks like a wall, but easily rolls away when the barista needs to œescape  to clean a table or deliver a drink.
Rockford Coffee Roasters in Bozeman, Montana: We were fortunate to meet the roaster at Rockford, who kindly showed us around the roastery.
Rockford Coffee Roasters in Bozeman, Montana: We were fortunate to meet the roaster at Rockford, who kindly showed us around the roastery.
There was plenty to like about Rockford, but we especially enjoyed the cold brew they were offering. Delicious!
There was plenty to like about Rockford, but we especially enjoyed the cold brew they were offering. Delicious!
Old Town has been working it hard in Lander, Wyoming for years, so we had to stop in and taste the goods.  When we were there they were serving 49th Parallel and Heart Roasters and ”after a week in Yellowstone ”it was a welcome sight for some sore taste buds.
Old Town has been working it hard in Lander, Wyoming for years, so we had to stop in and taste the goods. When we were there they were serving 49th Parallel and Heart Roasters and ”after a week in Yellowstone ”it was a welcome sight for some sore taste buds.
The cappuccino we had at Old Town was one of the best we've tried, and I loved this self-serve water station.
The cappuccino we had at Old Town was one of the best we’ve tried, and I loved this self-serve water station.
Ozo is a mainstay in Boulder, Colorado, and for good reason. They're roasting and making great coffee in three locations, constantly pushing the bar higher. Their downtown café is one of the busiest we've seen.
Ozo is a mainstay in Boulder, Colorado, and for good reason. They’re roasting and making great coffee in three locations, constantly pushing the bar higher. Their downtown café is one of the busiest we’ve seen.
When you walk into Ozo's Arapahoe location, you are greeted by this walkway which Ozo's Greg Lefcourt calls  œThe Gauntlet .  I walk into a LOT of cafes, and love to see this level of clarity directing guests where they need to go.
When you walk into Ozo’s Arapahoe location, you are greeted by this walkway which Ozo’s Greg Lefcourt calls œThe Gauntlet . I walk into a LOT of cafes, and love to see this level of clarity directing guests where they need to go.
A newer addition to the Boulder coffee family, Boxcar is already making a great name for themselves.
A newer addition to the Boulder coffee family, Boxcar is already making a great name for themselves.
Utilizing a cleverly shared space with a meat-and-cheese shop, Boxcar is rockin' this little Kees van der Westen espresso machine hard. Don't miss the transparent panel on the end there!
Utilizing a cleverly shared space with a meat-and-cheese shop, Boxcar is rockin’ this little Kees van der Westen espresso machine hard. Don’t miss the transparent panel on the end there!
Palace Coffee of Amarillo, Texas, has a beautiful space with great design, serving Evocation Coffee Roasters (also in Amarillo). Their flavor and presentation were spot on, and owner Patrick Burns could not have been more hospitable and gracious.
Palace Coffee of Amarillo, Texas, has a beautiful space with great design, serving Evocation Coffee Roasters (also in Amarillo). Their flavor and presentation were spot on, and owner Patrick Burns could not have been more hospitable and gracious.
Palace's original location is just a few miles away in Canyon, Texas, but this new space is in the heart of Amarillo, breaking up a long stretch of coffee-barren wilderness between Colorado and Oklahoma.
Palace’s original location is just a few miles away in Canyon, Texas, but this new space is in the heart of Amarillo, breaking up a long stretch of coffee-barren wilderness between Colorado and Oklahoma.

 

So that’s what we’ve been up to  this  week. Come back here to Barista Magazine’s blog on Saturday, October 4, and  we’ll give you the report on what we found between Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Until then, follow us in real time at our social media sites or at www.DonNiemyer.com. See you soon!

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

donandcarissa

Don Niemyer used to own three coffee shops in Portland, Ore., where he and his wife Carissa spent 8 years immersed in the excellent coffee culture there, milking it like a dairy cow for every drop of expertise it would give them, making lots of friends, doing some USBC judging, and learning all they could. One day, they decided to move their kids closer to family, so they bought a tiny RV, moved into it, and have been œmoving to Colorado  ever since, visiting coffee shops, practicing minimalism, and having lots of fun. That was over two years ago. One of these days, they might even end up living in Colorado.

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1 Comment

  1. Looks like an awesome trip/adventure. My wife and I recently moved from Miami,FL to New Jersey and took three weeks on the road and visited as many coffee shops along the way as we could. It was a great experience to see the different vibes and styles of each shop along the way.

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