Ah, coffee. Loved universally by hipsters and hard chargers. The sweet caffeinated bliss that carries us through bleak Monday mornings and miserable midnight watches. The better version of water. Most of us will do anything for it; spend billions of dollars, dig through animal poop, we’ll even wake up earlier to get a pot going. (No? Just me?)
Brandon Buttrey’s love affair with coffee started during his time in the military, but it quickly grew years later into an obsession. He dreamt of bringing coffee that tasted amazing to the hands of vets who weren’t as enamored with the artisanal coffee shop scene. So, Counter Strike Coffee was born.
“Throughout your military experience, you always appreciate coffee,” Brandon said. A U.S. Navy FMF Hospital Corpsman and combat veteran, he’s used to doing whatever he could to stay awake.
“[One time] we found this percolator, and we would scrounge up whatever we could get, ” he said. “We loved it. It’s a form of motivation for a lot of people.”
Brandon transitioned out of the military into the Oil and Gas industry. He also began teaching classes on field-to-urban medical integration on the side. During his class, he provided coffee in the back, along with a donation bank that people could contribute to. The donations poured in. People need their coffee… and Brandon had an idea.
Brewing a Business
Artisanal coffee for the veteran community? On the surface, it’s a bit of a hard sell. Most people would sooner throw some prepackaged Folgers into their Keurig and be on their way. But Brandon searched for ways to step away from the “hipster” coffee scene and create a military-focused, “manly” coffee line that just plain tasted good without all the extra fuss.
Luckily, there was an entire community of fellow vets and entrepreneurs in his area ready to help make his idea a reality.
“I was pointed in the right direction by a fellow veteran… through the veteran community, I [found] resources to get everything started,” he said. “I started the company with $1000 of my own money and three roasts of coffee… I have not put any more money into the company, I don’t have any investors, and I don’t have any debt. Over time, it’s just skyrocketed.”
Brandon went from those first three roasts to six specialty roasts and he has several more on the way. He can barely keep his product on the shelves.
“I need a warehouse, I need more roasters, I need all kinds of stuff,” he said.
Lone Star Veterans and the Marine for Life Network were among the organizations that offered Brandon tools, training, and connections to help get his business going. In return, he now lists some of them on his coffee and donates a portion of the proceeds back to the people that helped him. For Brandon, family comes first.
“Just as my seniors in the military raised me to be a hard charger, my veteran companions here have raised me to be a successful business owner,” he said. “The hardest part has been patience, of course… I’ve brought in no income from this company [yet].”
The Good Stuff
Out of all his roasts, Brandon chose “Smooth Operator” fairly quickly as his favorite blend; it is one of the members of his original trio. A great medium roast that isn’t too bitter, you can drink it throughout the day; either black, or with all the additions you want.
The “Bombshell Brandy” is a pleasant surprise – a buttery and rich coffee that has just the right touch of flavor while black, a bit like a Brandy Alexander. Add a little cream and sugar, and you’ll make your morning that much better.
The “Never Quit” was like Christmas morning; vanilla, caramel, rum, Irish cream, and chocolate, all in one cup? Any way you drink it, this coffee really doesn’t quit.
“Napalm” was the darkest roast, and had a bit more bitterness to it. Waking up smelling this blend is awesome. Drink it black.
The “Infidel” roast is an interesting experience, to say the least. Flavored with hickory-smoked bacon and whiskey, drink this either black or with a little extra whiskey for the best experience.
Finally, the “Fire Watch.” A higher caffeine brew, you’ll certainly be kept awake. Don’t drink this late in the day, unless you have accepted that you’re an addict and you need more coffee. Black or cream only recommended.
The only sample that wasn’t available to try, due to overwhelming sales, was Brandon’s newest roast: “Liberal Tears.”
Brandon said that the maple bacon coffee tasted like drinking a pancake. Every roast is available in whole bean or ground.
Brandon doesn’t only want to expand his coffee lines. He envisions “having a coffee shop that resembles a veteran stomping ground.” A place where vets can come to talk business, smoke a couple cigars, and have a few cups of delicious, premium roasted coffee, packaged in a hilariously motivating way. Until that vision is reached, he’s willing to strike back at fatigue.
For more information on Counter Strike Coffee, follow them on social media or visit their website.