Los Angeles is experiencing a boom in new coffee shops, but Warbler Coffee Roasting has delivered something truly new to the city in the form of a decked-out coffee trike, bringing nitro coffee on wheels to neighborhoods all over town.
Kim Rodgers and Sarah Sypniewski are behind the Warbler operation. After becoming interested in specialty coffee, Rodgers went down the rabbit hole and eventually decided to take coffee roasting into her own hands. “One thing led to another, and before I knew it I was importing a roaster from China and consulting with Scott Rao, author of The Coffee Roaster's Companion,” says Rodgers. “I knew if I was serious about getting into coffee, I needed to learn from the best and soak up as much as humanly possible.” That was two years ago when she began thinking about leaving her career in marketing to make roasting her full-time job.
The coffee-trike idea arose when the two went to Coffee Con in LA in January. There they met with the nitro-coffee specialists at Bona Fide Craft Draft, who had built a trike for their coffee operation. This is when Rodgers realized she didn’t need a brick-and-mortar space to expand her coffee business. “The prospect of opening a shop in Los Angeles was daunting and, honestly, not something we had the capital for,” she explains. “When we crossed paths with Bona Fide and saw the trike they had built, a light bulb went off—maybe we don't need a whole shop after all!” The idea came to fruition after Sypniewski convinced Rodgers to start an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to build their own trike.
After raising enough money, the Warbler Coffee custom-trike build-out was set in motion, with Bona Fide's help. It was a long process to get the trike on the streets, due to various LA Health Department regulations. Rodgers says something like the trike had never been done before in LA, but luckily, the Bona Fide crew was able to customize the machine to meet all the health codes.
The trike debuted just this past August, and the Warbler duo have been busy keeping up with booking demands ever since. Their offerings are simple: Warbler's own roast—an Ethiopia-and-Guatemala blend—plus a nitro hibiscus tea. The coffee that pours from the nitro-keg system is incredibly smooth and creamy. Rodgers fell in love with Bona Fide’s “Craft Draft” method, telling me, “There's a hot step to the process, so it's definitely not a traditional cold brew, but the nitrogen has a similar effect as the cold-brew process. It smooths out the acidity, but doesn't completely flatten it.” It’s only the one coffee and one tea for now, but there are plans to experiment with different tea flavors. In the meantime, Warbler's trike is a regular at Venice’s popular Artists and Fleas flea market, while also popping up at festivals and even weddings.
Another trike is a possibility in the future given this first one's popularity, and Rodgers says they “hope to partner with a few more brick-and-mortar businesses soon so that the trike isn't the only place to enjoy Warbler Coffee by the cup. And we'll, of course, continue to sell our whole bean coffee online, so anyone can enjoy Warbler at home.” They’ve already begun working with a few places that offer Warbler's nitro coffee on tap—Santa Monica Brew Works is serving it next to their craft beer selection. Maybe this coffee is destined for more than one permanent home.