We caught up with Tommy Inglis, manager of Tahoe Roasting Co., on Valentine’s Day, when he was drawing a frothy little heart into a customer’s latte. The man is serious about coffee, and it shows at the cozy little shoebox-sized cafe at 616 West Fourth St.
When did you open, and how would you describe the cafe?
We opened Nov. 11. It’s jazzy, kind of retro but hip, laid back and mellow, and really friendly.
Where is your coffee roasted?
We’re part of a co-op, so it’s a lot of small roasters roasting together—Washington and kind of all over. We’re working on getting our roasting location set up, but we’re too small at our location at the moment. But all of our blends and coffees are exclusive to us. We worked for a year to develop the Tail Wagger, the Sierra Europa and the Truckee River Rush—that’s one we do here in-house that we developed just from listening to our customers and finding out what they ant.
What’s special about it?
What’s unique is you add a little cream to it, and it makes it really chocolatey, and it has virtually no acidity, but it’s a strong cup of coffee. It’s almost like a hot chocolate coffee.
I saw “white coffee” on your menu. What’s that?
White coffee is an unroasted coffee bean, and then we use a special grinder that grinds it up for an espresso. It has a significantly larger proportion of caffeine than an espresso shot, but it doesn’t have the taste of coffee. It makes drinks really rich, almost like ice cream. And unlike Red Bull, it doesn’t have the sugar, so you don’t get the crash from it.
What’s your perfect cup of coffee?
It’s one of those things that depend on day and mood. In the morning, a stiffer cup of coffee, and in the afternoon, maybe a latte or ice thing depending on the weather. Coffee can adapt to the mood and the weather, so it’s hard to have one sort.
How did you get into this?
My dad makes wine, so I got into tasting and blends and mixing flavors with wine with my dad. I worked with a 4-H summer camp, and my boss did a lot of roasting, and I learned a lot from him. I ended up meeting one of the owners, and they found out I knew about coffee and told me they were starting a coffee shop, and that’s how it all started.
Some of the coffees on your menu sound like wine descriptions, like saying your Sierra Sunrise blend has hints of “blueberry and maple.”
Coffee is where wine was about 10 years ago. Starbucks made coffee popular. A few years ago, you could ask people about cappuccino, latte or mocha, and they couldn’t tell you what it was. Now, everybody knows what a venti is. There’s an entire language that’s been developed about it. There’s a lot you can do with coffee. … There’re literally thousands of combinations you can make with coffee.
You also serve food?
We do breakfast sandwiches, bagels; we have homemade cakes and soups that the owner’s mom makes. Well, she’s an owner, too. It’s family owned—a husband and wife and the husband’s mom and dad. The mother makes the cakes and soups, and the soups are all vegetarian. … Everything is Fair Trade Certified. We believe in developing countries, not taking advantage of them. All the plantations go through a three-year [program] to make sure there’s no child labor or anything going on. And we do have a very large selection of organic coffees. We have well over 50 different coffees available. And all of our artwork in the building is local artists, and we have free wifi. And we do a little art in the drinks, as well.