Any decent road trip benefits from spontaneity—following a sign to a nearby waterfall you didn’t know existed or walking into a restaurant because it looked appealing from the outside, without Yelp or TripAdvisor (or 5280’s dining guide) leading the way.

It’s in that spirit that, on a wintry drive home from Crested Butte, I discovered Tributary Coffee Roasters. The seven-month-old Gunnison cafe and roastery serves sustainably-sourced java and from-scratch treats in a contemporary (read: lots of wood and metal) space.

Owner and operator Travis Colbert opened Tributary to bring new options and a modernized space to his community. He first dove into roasting during a two-day workshop in Idaho but has otherwise learned on the job, working all over the high country, at Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea and Crested Butte’s First Ascent Coffee Roasters and even launching his own roasting business in Leadville.

When he heard that the owners of Gunnison’s longstanding Bean Coffeehouse & Eatery were looking to move on, he jumped at the opportunity to open his own spot in the Valley. So, he renovated the space, bought a six-pound roaster, and opened Tributary in July 2018. “We’re establishing ourselves as Gunnison’s first and only coffee roaster,” Colbert says.

Tributary Coffee Roasters
A selection of pastries at Tributary Coffee Roasters. Photo by Daliah Singer

To that end, caffeine-seekers will find a global selection of coffees, roasted in-house and sourced from small, sustainable producers. The house espresso blend combines beans from Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Ethiopia. “I try to find a wide range of coffees and roast profiles that appeal to a pretty diverse audience,” Colbert says. “I’m really trying to create roasts that are smooth, sweet, and flavorful.”

For sustenance, there’s a mouthwatering array of house-made pastries, including cookies (the chocolate chip crunch is made with earthy buckwheat groats, the hulled seeds of the buckwheat plant), cakes, and breakfast breads. On the savory side, Tributary serves breakfast burritos, quiches, and more, including vegan and gluten-free options. Colbert tries to source ingredients locally, bringing in eggs from Olathe, bread from Paonia, and maple syrup from Crested Butte.

The three grab-and-go sourdough sandwiches are not your standard between-the-bread options, with toppings like mushroom-walnut tapenade appearing on the roasted veggie version, and chimichurri and kale on the turkey.

“We’re introducing some fun and new things to a small town in Gunnison County,” Colbert says. “I think we’re finding our niche to be that creative, healthy, just slightly different option than has been here in the past.”

In other words: a worthy pit stop on your next southwest Colorado road trip.

Java School: Every other month, during the First Friday ArtWalk & Music of Gunnison, Tributary hosts an informal coffee tasting to introduce folks to different origins and flavors. Keep an eye on the cafe’s Facebook page (Colbert tries to keep it updated).

120 N. Main St., Gunnison

Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer is an award-winning writer and editor based in Denver. You can find more of her work at