Interview, article, and photos by Stacey A.
Honestly, I’m not one of those coffee-drinkers who has a specific allegiance to any one place in Truckee. I’ll go to Coffeebar or Wild Cherries depending on convenience, and Dark Horse is more than worthy to be thrown into that mix.
Dark Horse Coffee Roasters on the corner of West River St. and Brockway Rd.
Dark Horse Coffee Roasters opened mid-August in the building where the old bookstore used to be off West River Street. I was lured in by their five star Yelp review and a recommendation from a friend. I interviewed co-owner Drew Taylor about his passion and business.
Taylor and his wife and co-owner, Cassidy, met in 2009 while working at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters in San Diego.
“Once I tasted their coffee, I was hooked,” Taylor says.
Inspired by Bird Rock owner, Chuck Patton, Taylor devoted a few years to learning everything he could about coffee. Shortly after, he began home-roasting coffee beans from a starter kit off the Internet.
“It was like a rabbit hole for me, trying to learn about this specific plant.”
Taylor with Dark Horse coffee flavors: Ethiopia, Guatemala, Columbia, Brazil, and Decaf.
Taylor started Dark Horse with a partner in San Diego and then expanded to the Truckee location to be closer to family in Carson City.
“It's been pretty good. Definitely a better start than I anticipated. “
Dark Horse offers coffee in cold-brew, French press, and pour-over styles. I asked Taylor to explain the differences between each of their brews.
Cold-brew: “You're not applying any heat to the coffee. If you don't ever put hot water to it, a low acidic cup of iced coffee is the end product.”
Pour-over: “It’s the fastest way to brew coffee and allows for the freshest cup. A lot of times coffee in a carafe has been sitting, and that changes its flavor. Pour-over is the same as a coffee pot but without the automation.”
French-press: “That's our house coffee. It’s a thicker cup. The plunging allows for some of the sediment to get into your coffee whereas the pour over produces a much cleaner cup of coffee.”
Taylor explains that depending on brew method, a cup of the same coffee could produce very different flavors. On the same note, differently roasted beans from the same region could also produce very different flavors.
Dark Horse's coffee roasting machine and raw coffee beans.
"It's like an art. There are so many different ways to roast coffee.” Dark Horse uses an American-made roaster and infrared heat to produce their characteristic flavor. “I'm just trying to brown the sugars enough to bring out the subtle characteristics…if you roast the coffee this way, you can really tell the differences between an Ethiopia and a Guatemala."
Taylor says a lot of roasting is trial and error but that he’s always striving to make a better product. “Taste-testing is huge.”
He made a pour-over in front of me so that I could see the process and then let me try it.
Dark Horse pour-over method.
He says, modestly, “It's hard to say that somebody's coffee is better than somebody else's. It's so subjective…what we do here is more of a full-city, medium roast…it caters to a certain preference.”
Dark Horse gets their coffee beans from a direct trade company, Bodhi Leaf Coffee Traders. “Direct trade is cutting the middleman out and going directly to the farm yourself,” Taylor explains.
According to Taylor, direct trading results in more socially responsible coffee that is better for not just the coffee company but also the coffee farmers.
“They're living in some of the worst conditions ever. Just to be able to bring awareness to that starts to change people's mindset on drinking a cup of coffee.”
In the near future, he plans on sourcing his own coffee by doing direct trade himself and going on sourcing trips.
“I want to travel the world and meet the farmers who are actually growing the coffee. You're able to support the farmers so much more that way.”
Dark Horse has an eclectic mix of records in their collection.
Dark Horse is named after a George Harrison album, and Taylor and team are keen on keeping the place a little old school.
“We've acquired a lot of this from families, thrift stores, auctions. We wanted to try to bring the books back…we play records in here…we got the old piano from Virginia City, built in 1881.” They do, however, have wifi.
Taylor is committed to supporting other local businesses in the area. Dark Horse sells muffins and donuts from Treat Box, raw, vegan treats from Vibrant Vixen Pure Foods, and teas from Sunshine Organic Herbals, all out of Truckee.
Aside from sourcing his own coffee, Taylor has other big plans for the future. He’d like to do coffee classes in the space, explaining that there are over 800 distinguishable characteristics of coffee beyond just aroma and acidity, as compared to around 200 for wine.
Taylor also wants to bring music and open mic nights into the space. Dark Horse’s first live music is tonight with a free show at 7 p.m. from Liam Kyle Cahill of Reno and Travis Hayes of San Francisco.
Dark Horse is open 7 a.m.-5 p.m. everyday and offers coffee and teas ranging from $2.00-$3.25, depending on size and method of brew.
Insider Contributor, Stacey Alonzo, is an outdoor enthusiast, yoga instructor, aspiring journalist, Burner, and lover of food, drinks, live music, and travel.