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Laughing Cat Coffee Gets a New Life in Reno

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The Laughing Cat roastery and coffee shop in Reno, Nevada. All images courtesy of Laughing Cat Coffee.

The oldest roastery in the “Biggest Little City in the World” is also the newest. This riddle begins the story of Laughing Cat Coffee, which has been a coffee staple in Reno, Nevada, for decades and recently relaunched under new ownership.

Leading the change is Steven Horn, a former entertainment industry executive who previously roasted under the Horn Coffee name. Horn acquired the coffee business late last year before investing another $230,000 to renovate and redesign the single roastery and cafe location.

The new Laughing Cat officially relaunched earlier this month with a grand opening celebration, unveiling an entirely updated menu and coffee program.

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Laughing Cat Coffee Founder Steven Horn.

“Initially, I was going to keep using the Horn Coffee brand and expand using that as a foundation, but when the Laughing Cat opportunity developed, I decided it would be easier to rebrand and evolve that brand, which already has excellent name recognition here in the Sierras,” Horn recently told DCN. “It’s funny, due to the complete facility makeover, brand revamp, and equipment investments, it actually does feel like starting from the ground up.” 

The Laughing Cat brand dates back to 1990, when the original owner relocated to the area, set up shop and started roasting in the style of Alfred Peet.

“It was important to me to honor the heritage of roasting that has been occurring under this roof for nearly 30 years, but also to be seen as a progressive and inventive roastery,” said Horn, whose Laughing Cat brand now features an updated roster of blends and single-origin coffees. 

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Additional beverage types, such as concentrates and a canned functional beverage, may soon be on the way, while the cafe menu has been revamped to include traditional espresso-based drinks alongside more expressive drinks with ingredients such as ube, activated charcoal and coconut cream.

Coffees are now roasted on site in Laughing Cat’s existing San Franciscan SF-25 machine.

Horn, the co-founder of video game review site IGN Entertainment who previously led the relaunch of Rotten Tomatoes, initially started roasting at home as a way to decompress from the work day’s screen time. As Horn’s coffee connections and passions grew, he purchased a Bellwether machine and launched the Horn Coffee brand. 

“As I got more familiar with the rebuilt San Franciscan SF-25 here at the roastery, [former U.S Roasting Champion] Mark Michaelson came out to the facility and helped guide me on the finer points of roasting, introducing new concepts and technique including some specifics on the SF-25,” said Horn. 

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Greens come to the Reno roastery largely by way of Bay Area-based Royal Coffee and broker John Cossette, who supplied Laughing Cat’s previous owner, as well. Laughing Cat also recently started sourcing from Atlas Coffee Importers.

“I am looking out for people-pleasing coffees, with expressive chocolate and caramel dominance,” said Horn. “We have been having a lot of success blending Guatamalan, Ethiopian, and Mexican coffees, in addition to extracting those desirable qualities in [single-origin coffees]. Our house espresso is a Guat-forward, with Ethiopian balance, and people are going crazy for it.”

Laughing Cat Coffee is now open at 3545 Airway Drive in Reno, Nevada. Comments? Questions? News to share? Contact DCN’s editors here