Where it all Started

Where it all Started

Courtroom to coffee: Former lawyer opens specialty coffee roasting service

By DAVID ERICKSON - Ravalli Republic RavalliRepublic.com | Posted: Wednesday, January 12, 2011

DAVID ERICKSON - Ravalli Republic Randy Lint, owner of Big Creek Coffee Roasters, carefully watches his computer monitor as fresh-roasted coffee beans spill out of his roasting machine at his shop in Hamilton. The computer software allows him to control the temperature and air flow to the beans, among other things.


Although he was a successful lawyer with a wife and two kids, there were two things Randy Lint didn't enjoy about his life: The everyday stresses of practicing law in a small town, and the inability to find a decent cup of coffee.

Last October, he finally took care of both nuisances by opening his own specialty coffee roasting business in Hamilton, Big Creek Coffee Roasters.

"I went from dealing with some pretty serious life-or-death situations to being a bright spot in people's mornings," he said on Wednesday, as he carefully watched the temperature on a fresh batch of roasted coffee beans. "It took courage and finances, but I finally was able to take that leap. Now, I own my own business and it's something I'm interested in and I enjoy. It's the American dream."

Lint has held several high-profile positions over the years, including Ravalli County Justice of the Peace, but he long dreamed of working for himself.

"Now I have the best smelling office in town," he laughed.

Coffee has always been a passion for Lint, going back to his days at law school in Boston. When he moved to Montana 20 years ago, he found that it was expensive and frustrating to get fresh-roasted beans, because he had to have them shipped.

"Fresh-roasted coffee is vastly superior," he said. "It has a lot more aroma and flavor. After a couple of weeks, coffee beans lose those things. People have become conditioned to stale coffee, because the national brands ship their coffee to supermarkets and that's what people are used to."

Rather than order his fresh-roasted coffee over the Internet and pay the expensive shipping costs, Lint decided he would just do it himself.

"I found that roasting coffee at home is not as insanely difficult or expensive as I had thought," he explained. "I started to educate myself about different growing regions and it's really fascinating."

Lint is highly selective when choosing his beans. He buys only premium-quality beans, and he focuses on places where he feels that the growers put the extra effort into their work.

"I focus on single-origin beans (coffee with a single known geographical origin)," Lint said. "I like to know exactly where it came from, right back to the specific farm."

For example, Lint found a type of coffee from Rwanda that is grown by war-widows from the Rwandan genocide.

"They formed a co-op after the genocide to make money because their husbands and sons were killed," he said. "They process this coffee themselves. They charge a higher price, but to me it's worth it because the story behind the coffee makes it more interesting than if it comes off a ship from Mexico or something."

Lint bought a state-of-the art coffee roasting machine from a manufacturer in Sandpoint, Idaho, and installed it in his remodeled shop. He uses a laptop with special software to monitor the controls, such as heat and air flow. He is able to control, with precise measurement, just how light or dark each batch gets roasted. If a customer likes how their coffee was roasted, Lint can save the exact parameters of that batch and roast it exactly the same for their next order.

"It's half art and half science," he explained. "This is the next generation of coffee roasting. It's fairly easy. Anyone can do it, but not everyone can do it well."

Lint says he has seen a very positive word-of-mouth response from his customers.

"I've met a lot of coffee snobs since I've started doing this," he said. "I've talked to people that don't even drink coffee who say that it smells amazing."

Lint said he is currently in the process of getting certified as an organic roasted coffee distributor, and he would eventually like to focus on home delivery.

"I would like to model my business after the old milk man model," he said. "You know how they used to leave a bottle of milk at your door every morning and they would take the old bottles. Eventually, I would like to deliver fresh coffee from Darby to Lolo, at your doorstep, for free."

Every batch of coffee is roasted after the customer places the order, and Lint said he is going to take a big risk by placing a roast date on each of his bags of coffee.

"Putting a date on each bag causes a lot of headaches," he said. "But I think it is important to ensure the highest quality product. I can't compete with national brands on price, but I can blow ‘em out of the water on quality and freshness."

Big Creek Coffee is available at several retail locations all over the valley, and takes orders online and ships to all 50 states. It also delivers coffee anywhere in Ravalli County for free, and gives out samples at the shop, located at 1091 S. First St. in Hamilton.

For more information, visit www.bigcreekcoffeeroasters.com

Brewing up some business: Big Creek Coffee Roasters opening new shop in downtown Hamilton

June 27, 2012 7:52 pmThe coffee shop wasn’t officially open Wednesday, but several people stopped by anyway.

“We smelled it from outside,” said Janet Lamb, a visitor from California.

The alluring scent was coming from the roasting machine situated right in the middle of Big Creek Coffee Roasters’ new shop on the corner of Main and Third streets in Hamilton.

Owner Randy Lint was making a fresh batch.

The coffee beans started out a pale green and several minutes later turned to a deep brown. The beans steamed and wafted a rich scent as they poured into a mixing bowl of sorts.

Those beans are special, Lint said.

“There’s a lot of people selling coffee in Hamilton, but there’s nobody that’s buying the kind of unroasted coffee that I am,” he said.

The process of coffee is a long one that few people know, Lint said. It grows on shrubs and each bean has to be handpicked. It then goes through a series of processes before it can be packaged.

“We’re just the very last link in this really long chain and we have to be careful as that last link not to ruin everyone else’s hard work,” Lint said.

Big Creek’s coffee beans are bought from importers who specialize in supplying small roasters. Lint said he has roasts from single origins as well as blends, but all are certified organic and contain no chemicals.

Lint says his love for coffee began in high school and after moving to Montana about 20 years ago, he couldn’t find a local cup of joe that he liked and started ordering online.

“It was good, but inconsistent,” Lint said.

So he started roasting at home.

“I found it fascinating and started educating myself,” Lint said. “I just geek out on all that kind of stuff.”

The past lawyer and judge decided to roast full time just under two years ago.

“I just made a big career change,” Lint said. “I just want to chase my own American dream.”

Lint originally sold the beans out of a “nice garage” and online. With that, he managed to ship to 46 states in the U.S. The new location will have a full espresso bar, bags of coffee beans in 12-15 different varieties and pastries from Red Rooster.

The shop itself was once a lawyer’s office, very fitting of Lint’s old career. Lint peeled away layers of flooring and plaster to reveal hardwood floors and bricks.

“All of those things that I hoped to find here I did,” Lint said. “I just thought it was perfect for an on-site roasted upscale coffee shop.”

The shop is slated to open at 6 a.m. Monday.

Sarah Southwell said she plans to drop in opening day.

“Everywhere I go I try the coffee and this beats it,” Southwell said. “It’s the best coffee.”

Southwell said she’s bought bags of beans for family and friends for holidays as well as for herself.

Southwell’s reaction to his product is what Lint loves about his work.

“There’s not many jobs where you can say my customers are always leaving happy,” he said.

The shop’s phone number is 375-7508 and the website is www.bigcreekcoffeeroasters.com.

Big Creek Coffee hosting hospice fundraiser

Charlie Palermo, roaster, supervises the beans at Big Creek Coffee.

April 01, 2014 8:31 pm (1) Comments

Big Creek Coffee Roasters of Hamilton is hosting a heartfelt fundraiser for Marcus Daly Hospice on Saturday.

Randy Lint, Big Creek Coffee Roasters owner, is opening his heart and his business in memory of his mother-in-law, who supported him in the opening of his coffee business, and in appreciation of the care she received from Marcus Daly Hospice.

Like most people, Lint was unfamiliar with hospice until the need arrived.

“I never gave them 10 minutes of thought – I’m too busy living,” he said. “It was a nice education into the process. I was moved by the staff and how they took care of the dying, but also the family. It was really neat. It is nice to know they are there – such an asset to the community.”

About four years ago Lint, a former lawyer, decided to remove the stress from his life and changed professions. With the support of his wife, Jennifer Lint of Boatwright Law Office, and in-laws, John and Barbara Boatwright, he started a coffee roasting business. Barbara was a huge supporter and regular customer. She battled Alzheimer’s disease and was a patient of Hospice.

Lint has written the story for all to read on his website and postcards he distributed about the event.

“We lost one of our first, and favorite, customers earlier this year,” said Lint. “Barbara Boatwright, my mother-in-law, died after a long hard battle with Alzheimer’s disease. I’d like to tell you a little about her and the role she played in helping launch Big Creek Coffee.”

Read the full story that Lint has written at https://www.bigcreekcoffeeroasters.com/Articles.a... but have a box of tissues handy – it is a very moving and honoring tribute.

On Tuesday, John Boatwright, Lint’s father-in-law, entered the coffee shop obviously moved and said that everywhere he goes everyone who reads the back of the postcard announcing the event tears up.

“I do too,” he said.

Lint said he values the story and appreciates the support he was given.

“I love the story. Everyone who has success has something going on behind the scenes, financial or emotional. My wife and in-laws provided both,” he said.

Lint said the fundraiser was an idea he was compelled to carry out. “I just decided to do it. It is my contribution – something I wanted to do. My family is excited about it.”

What they are doing is a 100 percent contribution of all money made through the sales of drinks from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and additional donations gathered.

Marcus Daly Hospice Services will be the recipient of the funds.

“We are really excited about it – we’ve been spreading the word,” said Jane Hron, department head for Marcus Daly Hospice Services.

Donations help offset the cost of providing services.

“So many times the reimbursements don’t cover what the family needs,” said Hron. “Most health insurance is limited in their coverage or for specific skilled medical needs. We look much broader – we look at the whole family and we take a multi-dimensional approach and meet the needs.”

Hron oversees Home Health and Hospice and said there are currently 23 patients in hospice care.

“In Home Health our goal is to cure, in Hospice our goal is to provide the highest quality of life and to be sure that they are comfortable. The majority [of patients] are at home because that’s where they want to be. We care, support and teach. Some families have never been involved in medical care so they feel inadequate to care for their loved one. We provide the training they need to do a good job.”

According to Hron, the hospice center opened in 2001 and has made a difference.

“We’re so fortunate to have the hospice center here. There are four [centers] in all of Montana: Lewiston, Great Falls, Billings and Hamilton. The patients we see here may have an elderly caregiver – it may be an elderly couple, so we care for both. It is really special.”

Although there may be 80 hospice volunteers on the roster, only 50 might be active at any one time.

“We have a very active spiritual support team. Doug Peterson is volunteer coordinator and chaplain. He motivates us all,” said Hron.

People want to support hospice and this fundraising event will bring it into the community conversation.

“It still surprises me that people don’t know what hospice does. They know we are out there, but tend to avoid conversations about death,” said Hron.

Peterson said that last year 70 people gave 2,300 hours of service with hospice and that these numbers reflect our caring community.

“I get to hang out with people who care about people; they sit with people and run errands for people at the end of life. Volunteers come into the room with a smile and say, ‘I’m just here for you, how can I help’ – which is very supportive to hear for families.”

Volunteers are matched to families by location (Florence to Conner), backgrounds and interests.

“A volunteer may only serve a couple of times a year – but they may just be the right person at the right time,” said Peterson. “Every hospice volunteer goes through a 12-hour training course which we offer four times a year. If people want to find out more about it they can visit with me at the event or call the hospice office at 363-6503.”

Peterson said hospice is grateful for the event.

“We want to thank Randy and the matching-fund groups. Fundraisers like this help us provide care for patients and their family at the end of life regardless of their ability to pay.”

Donation matches will double the money on Saturday.

Bitterroot Drug is making a donation match of $300.

“We thought it was a good fit for our store, we’ve always been in support of hospice,” said owner Jenny Seifert. “We see how important it is and how valuable it is for the families. Randy feels strongly and he just does it – he shared a very neat story.”

Also making a donation match of $300 is Healthcare Providers Pharmacy owned by Leon and Jessica Jessop and Deidra Markette.

“All of us have had family members in hospice,” said Jessica. “We realize how important hospice is to the community and to family members.”

There are added incentives to support this event. Come in, sign up and order a beverage to be entered in a drawing for a pound of roasted coffee each week for a year. If you are an online customer, you can be included in the drawing by placing an order that day.

Big Creek Coffee is available at several retail locations in the valley. They take orders online and ship to all 50 states.

In fact, they have been receiving out-of-state donations toward this hospice fundraising event.

“A customer from Delaware sent a check in the mail – we’ve been receiving cash and checks from customers all week,” said Lint.

Big Creek Coffee is located at 1091 S. First St., in Hamilton, and they are hoping for big business on Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m..

“Please bring your friends, have some delicious coffee and a good time, and help us raise a pile of money for this incredibly valuable community asset,” said Lint.

For more information, visit www.bigcreekcoffeeroasters.com or call (406) 375-7508.

Big Creek, big hearts, big boost

Big Creek Coffee Fundraiser Photo-Edited

When Randy Lint of Big Creek Coffee Roasters on Main Street in Hamilton opened up shop on Saturday, April 5 for a “Spring Fling” and Marcus Daly Hospice fundraiser, he didn’t know exactly what to expect. “I am excited to create a buzz downtown, give back to a great cause, and share my story about my number one supporter and mother-in-law, Barbara Boatwright,” said Randy.

As friends, families and neighbors lined up throughout the morning, it was clear Big Creek Coffee Roasters was the gathering place for the Bitterroot Valley. The corner coffee shop buzzed with chatter as the aroma of freshly brewed coffee filled the air, and the donations flowed in.

More than five hours and 220 cups of coffee later, Big Creek Coffee Roasters had raised over $4000 to help provide care for Hospice patients and their families.

“I never thought about Hospice services – I have been busy living,” Randy said. “But when my best customer and number one supporter needed it, I was moved by how the staff cared for the dying, and the family.”

“Since we opened this morning, we’ve had a line of customers,” said Randy. “This is amazing and fun!”

Customers waited patiently to purchase their beverage and show their respect to the Lint Family and Barbara Boatwright. Dave Harper, artist from Darby, meandered in and offered an original sculpture to auction off in support of Hospice. He, too, had had a family member cared for by Hospice. Then Lifeline Farms donated a case of milk, and Red Rooster came by with a fresh pan of cinnamon rolls.

In addition to the coffee proceeds, donations and auction proceeds going to support Hospice, both Bitterroot Drug and Healthcare Providers Pharmacy gave $300 match donations.

“We’ve always been supporters of Hospice and in our line of business see how important and valuable it is for the families,” said Bitterroot Drug owner Jenny Seifert. Healthcare Providers Pharmacy owners Leon and Jessica Jessop and Deidra Markette echoed the sentiment. Jessica said, “All of us have had family members in Hospice and realize how important Hospice is to the community and to family members.”

By the end of the day, coffee sales, tips, checks, auction, and matching funds topped the $4000 mark. Randy was worn out, but thrilled with the result. “I’m smiling from ear to ear,” he said.

For more information about Hospice Services, call 363-6303 or visit www.marcusdalyhospice.org.

Local coffee roaster awarded trio of outstanding scores from world's leading coffee guide.

October 21, 2015, Hamilton, Montana. The Coffee Review, internationally recognized as the world’s leading coffee guide, today awarded Hamilton’s Big Creek Coffee Roasters scores of over 90 points for three of its coffees.

The Coffee Review, much like The Wine Spectator, reviews coffees and assigns a score based upon objective criteria and blind taste testing. Coffees that score above 90 points are considered “outstanding.”

Big Creek Coffee Roasters was started by former attorney, judge, and long time Bitterroot Valley resident Randy Lint in 2010.

Of the coffees reviewed, Big Creek’s Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Natural Process was awarded a score of 91, with marks of 9 out of 10 for both aroma and flavor. Blind assessment notes included “Deep-toned, rich; floral and chocolaty.”

Ethiopia Duromina Organic, also scoring 91 points was summarized as, “Delicate, sweetly bright acidity; light but plump mouthfeel. Flavor consolidates in a quietly resonant finish.”

Rounding out the three with a score of 92 points was Kenya Nyeri AA, described in part as “deep, plummy, black currant, dark chocolate. Roundly crisp acidity; silky, buoyant mouthfeel. Rich, cocoa-toned finish.”

“Montana is not a location you’d typically associate with world class coffees,” owner Randy Lint said, “ but we hear on a daily basis from coffee lovers from larger cities that our coffee is as good or better than what they’re accustomed to back home.”

“Blind assessments like these from a leading authority really serve to validate what we’re trying to do here.”

Big Creek roasts unique and rare coffees produced in a socially conscious manner, which

it sells locally through a storefront roastery on Main Street in Hamilton. It plans to open a second roasting facility in Hamilton later this year to handle its nationwide web-based orders through BigCreekCoffee.com.

Learn more at www.coffeereview.com


Five years in: Big Creek Coffee Roasters to celebrate success by giving back

Big Creek Coffee Roasters is donating 100 percent of the purchase price of all drinks to the local nonprofit Bitter Root Land Trust. “We like to give back to the community that supports us and allows us to be a business,” Lint said.

November 18, 2015 7:04 pm (0) Comments

Five years ago, Randy Lint stopped practicing law and started roasting coffee. Since then, Big Creek Coffee Roasters has expanded distribution from its building on Main Street in Hamilton to all 50 states and is nationally recognized for excellence.

Big Creek Coffee Roasters will hold an anniversary party to benefit the community on Nov. 28.

“In keeping with the spirit of Thanksgiving, we are donating 100 percent of the purchase price of all drinks sold that day to the Bitter Root Land Trust,” Lint said. “We like to give back to the community that supports us and allows us to be a business.”

Each year Big Creek Coffee Roasters has hosted a benefit for nonprofits. Recipients have included the Bitter Root Humane Association, the Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital Hospice Center and Haven House Food Bank.

“It’s a tradition we’re building here – to be thankful,” Lint said. “Bitter Root Land Trust is an organization I admire. Everybody who lives in the Bitterroot has made some sort of voluntary choice to make less money in order to live where they want to live and it is Bitter Root Land Trust’s mission to preserve a lot of the natural beauty that makes this place so attractive.”

Bitter Root Land Trust Executive Director Gavin Ricklefs said his group is excited to be the beneficiary.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to celebrate things we are fans of – great coffee and beautiful land,” Ricklefs said. “From a nonprofit standpoint, local businesses and the community make nonprofits possible.”

Bitter Root Land Trust has been a community partner since 1997 to help private landowners conserve water, wildlife and working lands.

Ricklefs said the organization is expanding to meet the needs as it gains landowner support for keeping lands open and protected.

Big Creek Coffee Roasters appreciates its customers. Lint said.

“We feel strongly about our customer base,” he said. “We always strive for a focus on managed growth. We want to make a profit, but not at the expense of quality or living a good life or going to my children’s choir concerts.”

Lint said he missed out on life for the first three years of business.

“I worked seven days a week minus Christmas and Thanksgiving,” Lint said. “I think that’s probably the only way to create a successful business in the Bitterroot Valley - put a lot of time in.”

For the first three months he was the only employee. He roasted coffee beans, made and served all the coffee, and did all the ordering. Out of necessity he hired employees and learned to delegate.

Lint is building his business. He invested in his five employees recently sending his apprentice roaster for a three-day intensive roasting school and sending a barista to Georgia for more in-depth training. Big Creek is getting a second and larger roaster that will be dedicated to wholesale customers, web sales and allow expansion to larger accounts.

Big Creek sells to independent retailers in the valley – Hamilton Market Place, Life Line Farm, Rainbow’s End Natural Foods, Wildflower Confections, and some fine restaurants including Mission Bistro in Stevensville and Bouilla in Hamilton.

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Big Creek sells and ships coffee to all 50 states.

In October, the roasting industry confirmed that Big Creek makes great coffee. The world’s leading coffee guide – The Coffee Review – presented Big Creek Coffee Roasters with three “outstanding” scores in a blind taste test.

Lint said he values the validation.

“Very educated, big-city, professional coffee tasters tasted coffee that we roasted, not knowing where it came from, and applied a score that is objective and they all reached the same score,” Lint said. “Montana is not a location you’d typically associate with world-class coffees, but we hear on a daily basis from coffee lovers from larger cities that our coffee is as good as or better than what they’re accustomed to back home.”

Lint said Big Creek was listed on a national website as a result of the awards, which led to orders from all over the country.

“Our customers are excited about our awards,” Lint said. “It puts us on the map, which is really great. One of the visions for this business has always been to reach beyond the Bitterroot Valley and find coffee lovers around the country that appreciate what we’re doing.”

Big Creek Coffee Roasters will be open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Small Business Saturday Nov. 28. Bitter Root Land Trust representatives, maps and project details will be available at the coffee shop from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information visit bigcreekcoffeeroasters.com.

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