In the Boise foothills region of Idaho, Matt Bishop packs his mule and hikes up the Kestrel Trail to set up his nitro cold brew stand. He gives beverages out for free to build a sense of community — something he discovered while serving in the Marines, deployed in Iraq.
Matt Bishop: In 2005, I spent a majority of my time, when I was deployed with Iraqi civilians. We would patrol and get invited into people’s homes all the time, they would offer us food. My thing was, to my marines, “Go, sit down, have tea, share bread with them.” I could see that even though it was a time of conflict, I could do something positive. I think, for me transitioning to civilian life, I still felt like I wanted to have a broader mission.
We’re in this society that is becoming more and more polarized, where people don’t communicate with one another face to face, and they may be neighbors, but not talk to one another. I see what we’re doing as … In a very small way, as a hedge on that. It’s this disarming thing to be able to be generous and give someone a cup of coffee. I think that kind of brings down people’s guard.
In 2015 Matt bought a mule and learned how to brew coffee.
Matt Bishop: When you tell people, “I’m gonna create a trail side coffee service,” you usually get the nod of, “Yeah, sure. Neat idea.” Nobody takes you seriously that you’re actually going to execute. I became very entrenched that no, I was going to execute it and I was gonna bring this about, because I believed in it.
I serve cold brew coffee on nitrogen. It helps give it kind of a head, like Guinness beer would have and it makes it really creamy. I started serving coffee for free, and I didn’t accept tips, I didn’t accept donations, and this really cool community element formed around what I was doing.
Matt Bishop to cyclist: Morning.
Cyclist: Good morning.
Community member: There’s the first pooch.
Matt Bishop: Runners, bikers, people hiking with their kids, they all kind of convened and you can see ’em cross-pollinate in the real world.
Cyclist 2 to Matt Bishop: Good morning.
Matt Bishop to Cyclist 2: How far you riding today?
Cyclist 2 to Matt Bishop: Just up here to have coffee.
Matt Bishop to Cyclist 2: That’s all right.
Cyclist 2 to Matt Bishop: And meeting some friends that are on the trail right now on foot.
Matt Bishop to camera: They put down their devices and they were just hanging out, enjoying a cup of coffee, looking at the scenery and petting my mule.
Man to mule: Hi Richard.
Little girl to mule: Hey Richard.
Matt Bishop to camera: Everything I had done I can always look to and I felt like I can see a broader purpose. There’s this stigma, people are different, you don’t understand them, and there’s this resistance. The minute you sit down and literally break bread, you no longer become “the other.” You become, “Oh yeah, they were here and they seem like decent people, and now maybe I can understand a little bit more.” I think there’s this great commonality that we all have as humans, to connect with one another, and there’s power there for building a community.
Matt served almost 200 cups of coffee during today’s free trail service. He and Richard will be back on the hills with cold brew next Saturday.