Greg Thomas runs Trystero Coffee out of his garage. On a recent morning there, folks drank cups of cappuccino chased with brewed Kenyan coffee. On a couch was a regular who sells wedding dresses and writes poetry in his free time. Several more people dropped by as the morning progressed, to pick up beans, have a cup of coffee and to chat. The regulars brought their own cups.
A neighbor who had heard that there was "a notorious coffee place" nearby came for her first cup. There was a work-from-home writer who stopped by for a cup before biking to the gym -- and then to Ricky's Fish Tacos for lunch. There was another first-timer who ended up talking about how difficult it was to understand "The Windup Bird Chronicle" on the first pass. It was water-cooler conversation shared around a coffee table piled high with books and magazines.
The idea of Trystero began eight years ago when Thomas and his friends went to some concerts in San Francisco and made a stop at Blue Bottle before leaving. He said he had a cappuccino that opened his eyes because it was much better than anything he had ever tried. He immediately started buying beans from Blue Bottle.
After a while, Thomas said, he began to wonder how the roast would affect the taste of the beans and started reading about the topic. He realized that it was "as easy as buying a cast iron pot, having a wooden spoon and stirring the beans on the stove." He bought his first green beans from Sweet Maria, a one-stop merchant for home coffee roasters based in Oakland. He said that even though his first roast was only suitable for his own consumption, he knew he wanted to continue honing the craft.
Thomas said that though it's difficult to get a consistent roast in a cast iron pot, he found that it was a great way to learn because it was easy to see the change in color of the beans as they roasted, as well as to gauge the roast by aroma. He said that once he was committed to the idea of roasting as a side business, he bought a small two-pound roaster -- a Diedrich IR-1 -- and got started.
He said doing the work in the downtown apartment he shared with his then-girlfriend was difficult because neighbors complained about the smell. It was then that he started looking for a new place to live, he said, and when he saw a Craigslist post in 2014 for a spot in Atwater Village with a garage overlooking the street, he knew it would be perfect for Trystero.
He said the bar and espresso machine were gifts from the former girlfriend, who also arranged the furniture donated from friends. Thomas said he started brewing for friends, word got out and the garage "blew from there."
Trystero offers an espresso roast as well as a roast suitable for brewed coffee, but the temperature difference between those two is slight. Thomas said he shoots for a slightly more caramelized and sweet taste for the espresso. Most of his green beans are bought from Coffee Shrub, a subsidiary of Sweet Maria. Thomas roasts on Tuesdays and Thursdays, going through a 50-pound bag each week.
The demand for his beans is now enough that people reserve a bag via phone or email before a roasting day. Trystero beans can be found in limited quantities at Taza in Arcadia and Cognoscenti locations. The coffee can be tasted at Thomas' garage, at Thank You For Coming and at Le Comptoir. At one point, Thomas even roasted beans that Le Comptoir's Gary Menes had harvested from a coffee shrub that his mother had brought from Hawaii.
To order beans, contact Trystero via email