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A Dark Horse in Truckee

San Diego coffee roaster posts up in a space more resembling a ski lodge than a café

The Truckee location of San Diego company Dark Horse Coffee Roasters
The Truckee location of San Diego company Dark Horse Coffee Roasters

By my latest count, there are no fewer than 37 active coffee-roasting businesses in San Diego county, and one San Diego-affiliated coffee roaster outside of San Diego County. Dark Horse Coffee Roasters became the first local roaster to expand outside So Cal in the summer of 2014 when it opened a shop in Truckee. Located about 15 miles north of Lake Tahoe, Truckee is best known for its proximity to several ski resorts and the notorious Donner Pass. Not the first place most coffee companies would look to expand to, but there's a story behind the move.

Cassidy and Drew Taylor moved from San Diego to the Lake Tahoe region to open Dark Horse Truckee.

Drew and Cassidy Taylor operate the Truckee location in partnership with Dark Horse founder Daniel Charleson, but their connection to San Diego coffee goes back a bit further. The married couple met six years ago while both working at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters in La Jolla. Though he didn't roast beans for Bird Rock, the experience working with Bird Rock owner Chuck Patton and quality control manager Jocylynn Breeland inspired Drew to began roasting at home.

Place

Dark Horse Coffee Roasters

3260 Adams Avenue, San Diego

"I got into roasting on a little popcorn popper at the house," remembers Drew, "I started trial and error — understanding what the coffee was doing. I picked Jocelyn's brain every now and then, Chuck's brain." Eventually, Drew left that job to travel, and when he returned, the original Dark Horse shop in Normal Heights was just about to open, so Drew stopped by to see about getting a job.

"When Dark Horse Coffee Roasters first started in early 2013, Drew Taylor was one of the very first employees that we hired," says Bryan Charleson, speaking on behalf of Dark Horse. "Daniel, owner and head-roaster, was working the shop all by himself until he could afford to hire someone. Daniel would start to roast a batch in the back roasting room, run out to the counter to help customers... Drew finally came in to the picture and alleviated some stress and helped grow Dark Horse into what it is today. We wouldn’t be where we are without Drew in those early days."

Before long, Drew and Cassidy discovered they were expecting, and started to consider moving to northern California to be closer to her family. "We were trying to decide if we were going to stay in San Diego, or move up north after we had the baby," Cassidy recalls, "Daniel basically said he wanted us to be a part of the business: 'Find a location wherever you wind up, and let's put a Dark Horse there.'"

This sign for San Diego company Dark Horse Coffee Roasters hangs outside its shop in the Sierra Nevadas

"We visited when we could throughout the build-out, and backed them with anything that they needed because we really believed in Drew and Cassidy," Bryan adds. "Also, Truckee was in dire need of a great coffee roaster at the time."

Drew roasts beans in a space more resembling a ski lodge than any San Diego café — though for locals, the main point is availability of fresh roasted beans. "As far as specialty roasting goes," Drew says, "we're really the only ones in Tahoe doing it."

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The Truckee location of San Diego company Dark Horse Coffee Roasters
The Truckee location of San Diego company Dark Horse Coffee Roasters

By my latest count, there are no fewer than 37 active coffee-roasting businesses in San Diego county, and one San Diego-affiliated coffee roaster outside of San Diego County. Dark Horse Coffee Roasters became the first local roaster to expand outside So Cal in the summer of 2014 when it opened a shop in Truckee. Located about 15 miles north of Lake Tahoe, Truckee is best known for its proximity to several ski resorts and the notorious Donner Pass. Not the first place most coffee companies would look to expand to, but there's a story behind the move.

Cassidy and Drew Taylor moved from San Diego to the Lake Tahoe region to open Dark Horse Truckee.

Drew and Cassidy Taylor operate the Truckee location in partnership with Dark Horse founder Daniel Charleson, but their connection to San Diego coffee goes back a bit further. The married couple met six years ago while both working at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters in La Jolla. Though he didn't roast beans for Bird Rock, the experience working with Bird Rock owner Chuck Patton and quality control manager Jocylynn Breeland inspired Drew to began roasting at home.

Place

Dark Horse Coffee Roasters

3260 Adams Avenue, San Diego

"I got into roasting on a little popcorn popper at the house," remembers Drew, "I started trial and error — understanding what the coffee was doing. I picked Jocelyn's brain every now and then, Chuck's brain." Eventually, Drew left that job to travel, and when he returned, the original Dark Horse shop in Normal Heights was just about to open, so Drew stopped by to see about getting a job.

"When Dark Horse Coffee Roasters first started in early 2013, Drew Taylor was one of the very first employees that we hired," says Bryan Charleson, speaking on behalf of Dark Horse. "Daniel, owner and head-roaster, was working the shop all by himself until he could afford to hire someone. Daniel would start to roast a batch in the back roasting room, run out to the counter to help customers... Drew finally came in to the picture and alleviated some stress and helped grow Dark Horse into what it is today. We wouldn’t be where we are without Drew in those early days."

Before long, Drew and Cassidy discovered they were expecting, and started to consider moving to northern California to be closer to her family. "We were trying to decide if we were going to stay in San Diego, or move up north after we had the baby," Cassidy recalls, "Daniel basically said he wanted us to be a part of the business: 'Find a location wherever you wind up, and let's put a Dark Horse there.'"

This sign for San Diego company Dark Horse Coffee Roasters hangs outside its shop in the Sierra Nevadas

"We visited when we could throughout the build-out, and backed them with anything that they needed because we really believed in Drew and Cassidy," Bryan adds. "Also, Truckee was in dire need of a great coffee roaster at the time."

Drew roasts beans in a space more resembling a ski lodge than any San Diego café — though for locals, the main point is availability of fresh roasted beans. "As far as specialty roasting goes," Drew says, "we're really the only ones in Tahoe doing it."

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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