“I’ve been everywhere man…” is the Johnny Cash tune that’s been playing over and over in my mind since I visited Dark Horse Coffee Roasters in Normal Heights yesterday. Maybe it was the black T Daniel the owner was wearing, or his travels through the world of construction, music and coffee at such a young age.
Daniel has been everywhere…or at least a lot of places in his young life. Born and raised on the Island of Kaua’i, he grew up learning from craftsman and working with his hands in construction. He went from Kaua’i to Santa Barbara for college and then to Nashville to work in the music biz. His interest in coffee stirred when working in Seattle doing promotional work for local bands with local coffee shops. He saw what the coffee business was all about from friends on the inside and his many collaborations, which also took him as far as the Bay Area.
When the lack of sun in Seattle had him itching to get back to it, he also started feeling another itch… his love affair with the music industry was waning while his love for good coffee and coffee roasting was blossoming along with the possibility of making it a go as a business owner. It was time to do something new. He and his brother moved to Ocean Beach and he eventually realized that he wanted to open a coffee shop using all the knowledge and market research he’d absorbed through his many coffee connections and friendships. He drew up a business plan, found a place and headed back home to Hawaii for a short stint to get seed capital by building a pool.
Pool built, funds in hand, he began a labor of love remodeling the inside of the little shop space located in Normal Heights right next to the post office. Drawing on his background in graphic design and his early acquired construction skills, he built everything inside from the warm wood paneling to the wooden register complete with an easy swivel for his iPad to sit on. He uses SQUARE, which sends a receipt to your email and tracks your in-house drink card electronically, so you don’t have to wonder which wallet or purse you left it in each time you go. So convenient.
I’ve talked about a lot of things so far, but I know you want to know about the coffee. Dark Horse is friendly to coffee newbies, purists and milk and sugar junkies alike. They don’t judge and I for one like that. Daniel himself admits he’s learning something valuable everyday and credits his resources at Bodhi Leaf in Orange County.
Dark Horse offers french press, pour over and cold brew coffee. While not espresso, the taste of the organic and sustainable coffee Daniel sources through Bodhi Leaf will knock your socks off…with or without adding one of his yummy home made syrups and milk or cream.
Whether you believe it is what the Roaster adds or is able to preserve in the roasting process (in other words not ruin, but enhance), Dark Horse is off to a great start. I had their El Salvador pour over and later the french pressed Guatamala. Both rocked my world. I settle on the Guatamala to take home because of the consensually attractive chocolate notes. While I liked the berry in the El Salvador, my husband doesn’t really go for it, but one thing is for sure, I’ll be back.
Not just for great coffee, but to talk story with Daniel from time to time. He is quite the gem not only taking the time to talk about coffee, but life and where he’s been with just about each person who walks through the door. He’s definitely bringing the aloha spirit to San Diego. When you go and I suggest you do, tell Daniel San Diego Joe sent you and give him a warm Aloha for me. Until next time, “Shaka brah!”