Tonx, Craft, and the element of surprise

January 23, 2012

Last June I posted about how much I enjoy trying a wide variety of coffees from different roasters. Fast-forward 7 months, and that’s more true than ever. While there are still plenty of options here on ROASTe that I have yet to explore, I’m feeling the itch to branch out. In the past, this itch has been easy to scratch by swinging over to a local shop to pick up some fresh Counter Culture beans or to another to sample a cup brewed any which way from a rotating list of other quality roasters (e.g. Intelligentsia, MadCap, Barefoot, Stumptown, OQ). Lately, however, I don’t have access to the car much during the day, so I’ve decided to satisfy my curiosity more often by mail. One contributing factor re: timing is a sudden windfall in my PayPal account, aka my coffee slush fund. Hmm, what to do… [first-world problems, right?!]

I can think of at least two approaches to spending money on coffee online elsewhere. The first, probably the most common, is to surf around, find something that sounds tempting from roaster X, and add it to your cart. I’ll do some of that, for sure, so any recommendations from you all would be very helpful. The main advantage to this approach, of course, is that you have total control over the coffee you’re drinking. If it’s good, you can bask in the self-satisfied glow of having chosen well and/or not having been misled by the tasting notes. If it’s bad, not so much.

Which brings me to the second approach. What if you were to give up that control for the sake of convenience or, alternatively, for the simple joy of being [pleasantly] surprised? Would you come out ahead? Near as I can tell, this wager [apologies to Handsome] is what Tonx and Craft Coffee are encouraging people to make. Other coffee subscriptions work similarly, but these two in particular caught my attention the other day.

With Tonx, they source the beans, roast them, and send you a 12-oz. mystery bag every two weeks via USPS Priority for $38 total/month. Described as “a seat-of-the-pants operation with an opportunistic approach to the best coffees,” Tonx currently doesn’t even sell beans to non-subscribers. As for quality, I don’t hear anyone complaining!

In contrast, Craft Coffee is more of a bean curator, choosing three 4-oz. samples roasted by various specialty outfits and shipping them together to you once a month for $19.99. Now I love sample-size bags more than anyone, but it seems to me there are a few catches in this case. First, the free shipping included is ground shipping, so if you want your beans faster you’ll have to pay more. Second, your  coffee has to make it to Craft HQ in NY before it’s shipped to you, though apparently they do everything they can to ensure the smallest amount of extra post-roast delay possible.

So what do you think of these sorts of coffee-buying arrangements? Ever been gifted a coffee subscription? I’m not ready to pull the trigger yet on either, but as I said earlier I’m curious.

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Currently drinking: Reunion Island’s Green Dragon (Flores, Indonesia)
In the mail: Velton’s Yemen Mokha Harasi



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