'Slabs' and 'shrubs': Missoula coffee company adds unique menu items

'Slabs' and 'shrubs': Missoula coffee company adds unique menu items


Black Coffee Roasting Company has finally moved into its new digs at 525 E. Spruce St., and while the company is still focused mainly on roasting and selling coffee, they’ve added some unique items to their menu that aren’t available anywhere else in Missoula: Artisan toast and shrubs. For the those who are now picturing little bushes behind the counter, shrubs are beverages made from pureed fresh fruits and apple cider vinegar.

“The toast and shrubs kind of happened separately,” said co-owner Matt McQuilkin. “The toast is something that my business partner Jim (Chapman) and I have been talking about wanting to do for awhile. We spent some time in California going to some roasting classes, and just doing research down there, and toast is something you are seeing more of in San Francisco and L.A. And we have one of the best bakeries right here, Le Petit Outre, that I’ve ever been to. People that come to Missoula talk about how awesome the bread at Le Petit is. And so we’re taking this idea that’s already been started and doing it in a Missoula way. It seemed like a natural fit.”

McQuilkin said that they wanted to add something to their menu that was a little more substantial than just the pastries they were doing before.

This isn’t your grandmother’s toast. They offer five different varieties right now: whipped butter with cinnamon sugar on Italian sourdough, Nutella hazelnut on brewer’s grain, Wustner Brother’s creamed honey on brewer’s grain, organic almond butter on Birdman and avocado and coconut oil with cracked pepper on sourdough.

The two purchased specialized toasters that sear the outside while still leaving the inside of the bread moist and chewy. They call their bread slices “slabs” because they are at least an inch thick.

“We wanted sweet and savory items to make visiting here a more well-rounded experience,” McQuilkin said.

The shrubs came about because Chapman and McQuilkin’s families had been playing around with fresh fruit and vinegar drinks at home. Chapman’s wife Ella is the wizard behind the recipes right now.

“We thought it would be really awesome to add something to our menu to offer people something to drink in the afternoons, particularly on a hot summer day, but even in the winter,” McQuilkin said. “Something not caffeinated. We wanted to add more depth to our menu and offer people something to drink after they’ve had their coffee for the day.”

The fresh fruit is infused with a little bit of sugar and vinegar and fermented over the course of a week. There is no alcohol, and the drinks are served over ice. Right now, they company is offering five flavors: ginger, orange, grapefruit, blackberry lime and apple cinnamon.

“It’s actually an ancient drink,” McQuilkin said. “It’s sort of an old-school way of making a soda. You can take a little bit of this condensed shrub and add it to sparkling soda. It’s a nice digestive aid.”

“It’s really a form of fruit preservation,” Chapman explained. “I think more than like a soda treat, it’s a form of preservation. It’s been done for thousands of years.”

The company also added teas from the Floating Leaves Tea Company and the Lake Missoula Tea Company.

Both said that while the customer response has been overwhelming to their new offerings, they aren’t straying too far from their original business model that has brought them so much success thus far.

“The main, main focus of this business is still very much coffee,” McQuilkin said. “That’s what we’re all about. But this adds more depth to the experience. If somebody wants to come down and buy some coffee to take home, they can also get something to eat and drink while they are here.”

“We’re branching out into things that we think are awesome, but coffee is it for us,” Chapman said.

For more information visit Black Coffee Roasting Company's Facebook page.

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