Tonx Coffee Review
Tonx Coffee has joined Blue Bottle Coffee to continue offering their coffee subscription. To learn more, follow this link:Blue Bottle Coffee Review
Tonx is an independent operation based out of California that sends the best coffee from their roasters to your door for a low price. After hearing about the service for months, I decided to try it out. Everything being said about Tonx is true: they truly are the best damn coffee out there.
I live in southern British Columbia in Canada, which besides a lot of wineries and orchards, has several coffee roasters here. I have tried almost all of the various blends, on top of the national chains (Starbucks, Blenz, Second Cup, etc.) and have been unable to find something that really appealed to me day in, day out. I may find one blend I enjoy, but then end up sticking to it all the time. There was no variety.
Until I subscribed to Tonx.
Tonx gave me the variety I craved. A new blend of beans every two weeks, roasted fresh, and they all taste excellent. The coffee is sent direct to your address, no need to wait for a FedEx/UPS delivery man or visit a post office to pick up a package. Check your mail every two weeks and find a little treasure.
Everyone talks about how great Tonx is, but no one has been specific about what you are likely to get week in, week out. I thought it would be useful to share a short description of each blend I have received to date to give you a better idea why Tonx is the absolute best for fresh roasted coffee.
Who Tonx Is
Tonx is a small company based in Los Angeles, California. There are only five people listed on the main company page:
Tony Konecny @tonx
Nik Bauman @nbauman
Nick Griffith @nickgriffla
Ryan Brown @ry3bee
Scott Rocher @rochers. They come from a variety of backgrounds from longterm baristas to independent roasters to web startup executives. Together, they have upwards of over 40 years experience with coffee and operating a business. They are an insightful and interesting group (from following them on Twitter, haven’t met any of them.)
Also check them out on Vine, the video service from Twitter. They’re putting up some neat short videos of the coffee bean harvest procedure: Tonx - Vine
####Tonx on The New Disruptors
Tony Konecny and Nik Bauman joined Glen Fleishmann to talk about Tonx coffee on his podcast, The New Disruptors in the episode: Good From the First Drop.
It is an excellent episode, and I encourage everyone to listen to it if they are at all interested in learning more about what makes their coffee good, how the company started, and where they think it will head.
####How Tonx Works
Tonx is a coffee roaster, that bags and ships out coffee to households throughout Canada and the United States. What makes Tonx different (apart from their coffee) is that it is a subscription service. There isn’t an option to order larger quantities of coffee or buy a bag to try for a month and then buy more at a later date. Instead, you pre-order coffee by subscription, with a new roast showing up at your doorstep every two weeks.
You can cancel the shipments at any time, and you will still receive the coffee you had paid for. You can also pause the shipments, so if you are going out on holidays, you can delay the shipments up to a year (I can’t imagine a year without coffee, myself.)
With the subscriptions, you have two choices to make: regular or decaf, 6 oz or 12 oz bags. The prices for regular and decaf are the same. Here are the prices you are paying:
6 oz = $24 every 28 days (two shipments)
12 oz = $38 every 28 days (two shipments)
The best part is those prices are the same for Canadians as well as Americans.
People in the United States can actually ask for a free sample, as well. It is a 2 oz bag, which is enough for two people to enjoy coffee each morning for a few days. You can also purchase gift subscriptions for people, a great idea for birthdays and Christmas.
As mentioned previously, with a subscription to Tonx, you receive a different roast every two weeks. The shipments arrive in a small box that can fit inside a post office box, which eliminates the hassle of going to a post office to pick up a package. You won’t be receiving duplicate roasts either. Once you have a received a roast you enjoy, you will have to wait and see if they will send it out again in the future. This may be discouraging to some, but to others this will be a welcome treat.
The roasts themselves are contained within a resealable bag, keep the taste fresh after you have opened them. A better design than the classic coffee roast bags you find at the larger chains or grocery store.
The roasts also come as whole beans. Tonx believes that coffee tastes best if it is freshly ground and then brewed. There are a wide variety of coffee grinders out there, which can handle small amounts to larger amounts of coffee. I am happy with a simpler one since I am only grinding coffee for one person. I have listed a few of the more popular options below.
Also in the box is a short letter from the company. It is a nice touch and always brings a smile to my face. Much, much better than opening it up and seeing a receipt for your purchase.
Down below, I have included the postcard description Tonx provides in each shipment with my own thoughts about the roast.
Los Eucaliptos - Huila, Colombia
Subscription Coffee #34
Los Eucaliptos is described as having flavours of “green apple, molasses, and vanilla.”
It has been my favourite blend to date (mind you, I am only three roasts into this service.) The coffee tasted rather sweet to me, went down smoothly, and there was no need for anything extra like sugar or cream. The roast smelled so good, even my three year old daughter wanted to try it. Normally she stays away from the coffee beans, but with this blend, she tried to eat the beans raw.
This is also the roast I used to introduce my parents to the world of Tonx. Ground up some coffee for them and they absolutely loved it. It was a great way to start the day, but also a nice choice for a little pick-me-up in the afternoon.
If this roast shows up on my doorstep again, I will definitely not be complaining.
Musasa - Gakenke, Rwanda
Subscription Coffee #35
Described as “a bouquet of florals atop some sweet red fruits - pomegranate and raspberry - balanced with bittersweet chocolate.”
This roast definitely had a chocolate taste to it, slightly bitter but not overly so. The fruity tastes helped sweeten it up a great deal to offset the bitterness. This is one of those tastes that grow on you. The first cup I had, I was a bit hesitant about whether I really would enjoy it or not. After a week of tasting it, I am growing fond of it. A better way for me to start the day than the other varieties in the chain coffee shops.
Not a favourite right now, but perhaps by the end of the week and I have used up the beans, it will be.
Tana Toraja - Sulawest, Indonesia
Subscription Coffee #36
Tana Toraja is Tonx’s first roast of beans from Indonesia. If this is the case, then I can’t wait for the next shipment that includes beans from that region. According to the post card, these beans are processed in a different way than most of the varieties there. The process they use is giling basah which literally means “wet grinding.” I encourage you to click the link to read about it on Wikipedia as it is rather interesting.
This coffee is described to make “a delightful cup, with bartlett pear serving as the flavour backbone for a brew that opens up to reveal a bit of raspberry and cane sugar.” It’s delicious and full of flavour.
Caranavi - Bolivia
Subscription Coffee #37
Coming from a single grower in rural Bolivia, this roast is a combination of caturra and typica coffee beans. After one cup, I knew it was going to be one of my favourite blends from Tonx. The taste of almond and vanilla always go well in a cup of coffee. It wasn’t incredibly sweet, just enough to go down smoothly without needing anything extra to be added to the cup.
I really hope this roast shows up again in a future coffee shipment.
A quick mention that the quality of the beans being brewed is only as good as how the beans are being brewed.
The beans from Tonx are full of rich flavours that need to be brought out slowly. Using a traditional drip coffee machine is unlikely to do the trick for you. You generally need a lot more beans ground up to get the most flavour through a method like that.
French press or its cousin, the Aeropress, are probably the best ways to get the most flavour for your buck. Tonx will be selling special packages starting in March 2013, that will include a grinder, Aeropress/french press, and travel bag. I am also including the links to Amazon to give you an idea of pricing.
The Aeropress is the method I use. It is quick and easy: pour the grinds in, pour hot water in, wait, press down. Clean up couldn’t be any easier. You won’t have to worry about running a cleaning mixture through a coffee machine each month either. Check them out and read the reviews across the web. I can guarantee you that most coffee aficionados will be using an Aeropress.
Sandia de Puno - Peru
Subscription Coffee #39
Bordering Bolivia and far from any bustling city centers, Sandia de Puno in the Peruvian Andes is home to the Cecovasa Cooperative, the source of this delicious offering. Excellent shading, extreme elevations, and mostly heirloom typica variety trees make for some great coffee. Like many producers in South America, these growers have modest 1-2 hectare farms with simple homestead milling - handcrank pulpers, small tanks for fermentation and communal patios for drying.
A very balanced and buttery coffee, this Sandia de Puno selection offers flavours of chocolate cake, mixed berries and plum.
It was simply delicious.
Nyamasheke - Rwanda
Subscription Coffee #40
On the northern shores of beautiful Lake Kivu in Nyamasheke, Rwanda, Kayjuka Alphonce began building Kanzu Washing Station in 2004. The mill was winning awards within its first year of processing. Seated in a lush valley, the contributing farms of Kanzu populate the three surrounding mountain peaks and also grow potatoes, peas, cabbage, wheat and tea. Across the valley is the Nyungwe Forest, a mountainous rainforest long ago established as a national reserve.
A beautiful bourbon varietal coffee expressing flavours found flourishing in the best east African beans - ruby red grapefruit, apricot and caramel.
Subscription Coffee #41
From the Nevado de Huila region of the Colombian Andes comes a delicious coffee from the Asorcafe Producer’s Association. The group is made up of farmers with 2-4 hectare plots, growing primarily a mix of the heralded bourbon and caturra coffee varieties and processing their coffees on site.
The coffee berries are manually depulped of their skin and washed of their mucilage after undergoing fermentation in small tanks, then laid to dry under cover of simple but effective solar dryers that work like small greenhouses. The group brings their coffees together for export in the town of Pedegral de Inza de Cauca.
A sweet cup with lots of body, Pedegral de Cauca brings dark fruit flavours like currant and plum with brown sugar and a lingering, creamy finish.
Ciwidey - Java, Indonesia
Subscription Coffee #42
It’s all too rare that we taste a coffee from Indonesia that really catches our attention and meets all the quality criteria we have for what we share with you. This coffee from Ciwidey in West Java is one of those. While most of the java you’ll encounter comes from big estates in east Java, it is in the west where many of the older, original farms are located. These farms are still growing a good deal of one of the oldest, prized cultivars, typical, known for producing a floral and flavourful cup. Farms here grow coffee in smaller plots alongside crops of rice, cabbage, carrots, and onions for the local markets.
Enjoy the big body with flavours of buttery caramel, hazelnut, and semi-sweet chocolate with a long blackberry jam finish.
Rioblanco de Tolima - Colombia
Subscription Coffee #43 In Rioblanco de Tolima, in western Colombia, a handful of producers grow mostly caturra and typica variety coffee on their small, four hectare farms. With plenty of shade from their guamo, nogal and plantain trees, they harvest and process the coffee using hand-crank pulpers and simple washing tanks stationed near their houses. The coffee is laid to dry under the protective cover of translucent roofs to help keep the frequent equatorial rains at bay. The care they take shows in this lovely cup.
Sweet and fruited, rioblanco performs well across many brew methods to reveal cherry, date, hints of mint leaf and a lingering vanilla.
Santa Clara - Antigua, Guatemala
Subscription Coffee #44 </a> Ricardo Zelaya, a fourth generation coffee farmer, grows coffee on the southern slopes of the Antigua Valley, just off beautiful Volcan de Agua. As a well-studied agronomist, Ricardo was able to deliver us a stunning coffee despite looming threats from coffee leaf rust that affected yields in much of Central America. Ricardo relies on heirloom varieties (bourbon and caturra), an abundance of shade, and careful processing techniques, washing the coffee and laying it to dry on traditional patios. It’s no surprise that his coffees have won numerous awards over the years.
Santa Clara is a crowd pleaser exemplary of top Antigua coffees - smooth and juicy, with flavours of raspberry, lovely cocoa, and lavender.
Chelba - Yirgacheffe, Ethopia
Subscription Coffee #45 </a>
Chelba, a small village in the famed Yirgacheffe growing region of Ethiopia, is also the namesake washing station of the 700 small farmers who contributed to this Tonx offering. Under the shade of acacia, podocarpus, and cordia trees, these farmers raise cattle, grow a variety of subsistence crops, as well as this heralded heirloom coffee. After hand-sorting the coffee fruit to ensure only the ripest are processed, it’s pulped, fermented (for up to two days to loosen any remaining fruit), and laid to dry for about ten days.
A vibrant and sweet coffee, chelba has something for everyone with flavours of limeade, floral honey and peach.
Bella Vista - Antigua, Guatemala
Subscription Coffee #46
Luis Pedro Zelaya is a fourth generation coffee farmer working in the heart of the gamed Antigua region. He is also our good friend. Managing the renowned Beneficio Bella Vista and many other well-known farms in the area, Luis Pedro has produced some truly exceptional coffees over the years we’ve known him. His progressive approach to every aspect of his operation is an inspiration. This past year, he built an incredible greenhouse to dry the coffee, an improvement over the typical patios. This lovely selection is made up of bourbon and caturra from the farms surrounding the mill, nestled between the volcanos Fuego, Agua, and Acatenango.
Bella Vista is creamy and sweet with flavours of dried apricot, milk chocolate, raisin and vanilla.