This is the third in a series of interviews with people who work in the coffee industry. Going forward, I’ll be posting an interview with someone in the coffee world once a month. I like learning how people ended up working in this business, and this gives me an excuse to ask all the questions I want. 🙂 If there is something you’ve always wanted to know about the world of coffee, post your questions in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll do everything I can to get you the answer.
Q&A with Greg Thomas of Trystero Coffee
Last week, I interviewed the very cool and awesome Greg Thomas, founder of Trystero Coffee, a small specialty coffee roaster that has been around since 2009 (or as the website says “Serving paranoid conspiracy theorists since 2009.” More on that at the bottom of this post.) Trystero has a sort of pop-up coffee shop out of a garage in Atwater Village, where Greg serves coffee and sells beans (pre-orders strongly recommended as beans sell out) on most Wednesdays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and also on some Sundays. Check trysterocoffee.com before heading over as the hours are subject to change from week to week.
Q: When did you first discover really good coffee?
A: April 2009, when we were in SF to see Throbbing Gristle, at the Ferry Building farmers market. While I was there, I had my first really good cappuccino. So April 2009 I really caught the coffee bug, and then it was after Christmas 2009 that I started roasting coffee at home. Then in 2011, I started roasting on a commercial roaster the day after Thanksgiving.
Q: How did you end up starting Trystero Coffee?
A: I was working at NBC in the IT department when I first started roasting as side business in 2009. My NBC job was really a 24/7 job because I was mostly supporting the news station(s), and I was starting to get pretty burned out. Thanks to some really great and supportive friends, Trystero had some really good publicity early on, and that was really what made it an option to make it a full-time business in May 2014.
Q: Your roasts tend to be lighter. Did you always like the lighter roast coffees?
A: I started off roasting darker roasts, and because I first learned to roast from the Diedrich manual, my roasts were darker and longer than my current roasts because that is their way. After spending time on some coffee roasting forums other roasters encouraged me to try shorter and lighter roasts, especially on my favorite washed Ethiopian beans, so I went from ~17 minute roasts down to ~11:30 minute roasts and also to a lower final temperature.
Q: What are some of your favorite places to get coffee outside of Los Angeles?
A: In San Francisco, I really like Stanza Coffee. In Portland, Heart is my favorite. Actually Heart has been my inspiration for my roasting style. I really am impressed with their roasting philosophy.
Q: Where do you plan to go on your next vacation?
A: Well, it’s been a while since my last real vacation, which I took to Barcelona right after I quit my job in 2014. But I am actually going away for a long weekend to the Wonder Valley Experimental Festival in Joshua Tree. The festival is hosted by this crazy bar, The Palms, and artists and desert dwellers and bikers come to the festival to listen to experimental music and drink beer and camp. It’s a cool experience.
Q: Any coffee places you are looking forward to visiting on that trip?
A: I always go to Joshua Tree Coffee Company when I am out there. Everyone there is really great.
Q: How do take your coffee?
A: If it is drip, I take it black. If it is an espresso drink, it’s cappuccino with whole milk.
Q: What is your favorite thing to eat with your coffee?
A: I usually have coffee when I am first waking up, and I am never hungry, so I guess I don’t really eat when I am drinking coffee.
Q: What is one item of clothing you love?
A: My cut-off shorts. I wear them until they can’t be worn any longer, and then I take them to get fixed so I can keep on wearing them. Definitely it’s the cut-off shorts.
Q: What do you think is the one thing that you feel has had the biggest impact on your success?
A: I would have to say it is that I have a great group of extremely supportive friends. So much of the success of this business has been in some way a result of the efforts of my friends, who know and trust the quality of my product and who want to see me do well.
Q: What is the significance of the horn in the Trystero logo?
A: The logo is a muted post horn which is the symbol for the Trystero in Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49. The Trystero is a fictional postal service created by Pynchon to do battle with the original first real postal service in Europe, Thurn und Taxis. The logo for Thurn und Taxis is just the post horn and is still seen on mailboxes to this day, especially in Europe. Actually one of my customers in Los Feliz has a horn on his mailbox, the only one I’ve seen locally.
Since Trystero was created to “mute” out Thurn und Taxis in the book Pynchon added a mute to their logo. And in the book the Trystero still exists in modern times and if you paint the logo on a trash can it turns it into a Trystero mailbox. You address your email, drop it in the trash can, and a mysterious Trystero scoops it up in the middle of the night.
Many times when The Crying of Lot 49 is read in lit classes the logo starts popping up everywhere. Some day I’ll do a bicycle event based around finding as many muted post horns in a neighborhood as possible. And maybe throw in some Thurn und Taxis agents to sabotage people’s efforts.
City-dweller, designer, writer and lifestyle consultant practicing the art of living well in the 21st Century. Fixated with good coffee, great design, and any little thing that makes life better.
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