In Tahoe, ‘Drink Coffee Do Stuff’ is a way of life

The name of the coffee roasting company Drink Coffee Do Stuff, which has two shops, in Incline Village and Truckee, comes from a motto that founder and owner Nick Visconti has lived by since the days he traveled the globe to snowboard. 

Some of the best coffee Visconti has ever had was at a cafe high up in the Alps, only accessed by the lift infrastructure of Saas-Fee, a ski resort in Switzerland. In between runs, he’d head inside for a cappuccino. The caffeine gave him the fuel he needed to keep snowboarding. 

“Our days on the glacier were literally snowboard, espresso, snowboard, cappuccino,” Visconti said. “Just so caffeinated all the time. I got really obsessed with how European coffee culture used coffee as a fuel source for the outdoor active lifestyle.”

Today, Drink Coffee Do Stuff is a thriving specialty coffee hub in North Lake Tahoe, and the company sells its beans far beyond the Tahoe Basin. But before Visconti became an entrepreneur in the world of coffee, he says he was a product of the ’90s, obsessed with skateboarding and mountains. His family roots are in Tahoe. Naturally, he was drawn to snowboarding. 

Visconti started snowboarding professionally as a teenager and kept at it through his late 20s. During the last five years of his snowboarding career, he was traveling so much to shoot film parts for movies and photos for magazines that he basically lived out of his snowboard bag for nine months of the year. He went to Lesotho, Chile, the Alps, even Antarctica. As a snowboarder, travel came with a purpose. Visconti embedded in the culture, met like-minded people, explored mountains the world over. Yet, as his love for coffee developed, he came to realize that coffee held a similar purpose. Throughout his travels all over the world, coffee was the genesis for connection, camaraderie and community, no matter what language people spoke. 

In the later days of his professional snowboarding career, Visconti moved to Seattle, where he started apprenticing with some master coffee roasters to learn more about the trade. One week, he’d be competing in the X Games, the next week, he’d be sweeping trash off the floors of a coffee shop. He learned as much about the craft as he could from people who spent their lives devoted to coffee. And he soon realized that the same things that made him excited about snowboarding translated to coffee. Both were creative pursuits. 

“I think that I really loved the creation aspect,” Visconti said. “My snowboarding career was really creative, and so the creating a product side, and that process, is something that I really found fascinating. Coffee is a process. From how you’re sourcing the coffee to how you’re importing the coffee, roasting it, brewing it and then obviously branding it.”

The pivot from snowboarding to pursuing coffee full-time was a decision Visconti made intentionally. Professional snowboarding oftentimes is a short-lived career with an end game dictated by injury or big, corporate sponsors who decide you’re out. Visconti said he knew he wanted to create his own destiny and determine his own ending to his snowboarding career. Coffee gave him that next step.  

“For me, personally, my faith has a lot to do with that,” he said. Visconti is a devout Christian. “Then I got married, so my family had a lot to do with that. But it was neither faith nor family that made the final decision. That was me. I think I just recognized that there was a life beyond snowboarding. And that in order to protect my love for snowboarding, at some point, I had to stop doing it as a job.”

Visconti launched Drink Coffee Do Stuff as a roasting company in 2017 with his wife, Laura, and a friend from the snowboarding industry, Brad Farmer, as business partners. He wanted to become an outdoor lifestyle brand in the coffee space. He’d seen great outdoor brands in food, and he knew of excellent coffee shops, but he hadn’t seen anyone combine the two.

“I wanted to complete that consumer journey,” Visconti said, “Because it seemed to me that you would get your fuel, have your coffee, go do whatever it was for the day and then drink beer after, or at least that’s what I did.”

Throughout North Tahoe, the news of Drink Coffee Do Stuff caught on quickly, spreading through a grassroots word-of-mouth kind of way. Visconti sometimes hand-delivered orders for his beans or sold them out of his roasting space in a warehouse at the Truckee airport. The concept caught on. Not only were Tahoe skiers and snowboarders drinking his coffee, but he soon heard from surfers in Los Angeles and mountain bikers in San Francisco. 

In 2019, Drink Coffee Do Stuff won a Good Food Award. Its roasts have scored 90-plus points at Coffee Review. The idea was working, and that’s when Visconti decided to keep the momentum growing, first opening a shop in Incline in 2019 and then a second location in downtown Truckee in 2020. Today, Drink Coffee Do Stuff sells through four channels: grocery stores, wholesale to corporate businesses, direct-to-consumer at their establishments and e-commerce.

Snowboarding continues to influence Visconti’s coffee journey. Drink Coffee Do Stuff is known for what it call “high altitude roasts” with a preference for caramelly, sweet, rich, medium-bodied coffee. It’s a taste profile that Visconti realized he had an affinity for while he was riding a chairlift on a stormy day at Palisades Tahoe ski resort. 

Temperatures were below freezing, wind was gusting and snow was falling down hard. He had shown up to the chairlift with a thermos full of coffee he had brewed that morning. The coffee was a very light roast from a trendy brand, with notes of lime and grapefruit. He took one sip and realized that, actually, grapefruit tastes terrible on a frigid day, in the middle of the mountains, during a winter storm, he said.

“Like you want chocolate and s’mores and caramel and candied nuttiness,” Visconti said. “So, immediately I knew that I desired sweetness and a little bit more roast in our coffees.”

Visconti started dialing in on medium-roasted coffees. He tends to source beans from growers above 6,000 feet in elevation, doubling down on the mountain connection. 

“The mountain-grown coffees, or the higher elevation coffees, have more extreme environmental conditions,” he said. “So the roots of the plant would dig in deeper, extracting more minerality, more vitamins, organic material, thus making higher quality fruit.”

He also says that roasting at high altitude has an advantage. 

“We have all these atmospheric conditions up here. We have less oxygen, we have less atmospheric pressure, and so our water up here boils at 202 degrees, where at sea level, it boils at 212 degrees. So we were starting to realize, hey, we can enter into the sugar caramelization phase of coffee roasting and stay there longer because of the moisture loss without going into darker roasted coffees.”

His method is theoretical, but it seems to resonate. The company’s tag line is “more sweet, less bitter,” and their tasting notes include butterscotch, chocolate and maple syrup. 

Looking forward, Visconti said he hopes to keep fueling great days in the outdoors, but also to support causes and nonprofit groups that protect the environment. Among other nonprofits, Drink Coffee Do Stuff supported Clean Up the Lake when scuba divers were collecting trash from below the surface of Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake. 

When he’s not roasting coffee and managing the company, Visconti still gets out to the mountains to snowboard. The father of a newborn daughter, his life is continuing to evolve. “So we’ll see,” Visconti said. “A lot more tricks to land, proverbially.” 

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