Business Profile: A Cup of Freshness: Tonyan Coffee

Location: 13528 Nomwaket Road, Unit A, Apple Valley, CA

Website: http://holygroundscoffee.net/index.html
Owners: John and DeDe Tonyan
Phone: (760) 628-4462

Hours of Operation: Monday through Wednesday: 10am-4pm

John and DeDe Tonyan with their coffee roaster. Pictures By Nolan Patrick Smith

By Nolan Patrick Smith

(Victor Valley)–Coffee is our lifeblood, am I right? Whether it is the pick me up in the morning or the drink that helps you get through the night shift, a hot cup of coffee is vital to many of our daily rituals. But how fresh is that coffee on the store shelves? Is there really a difference between a vacuum-sealed can of coffee opposed to an organic cup?

“I don’t even drink black coffee, but this coffee is amazing!”

Those are the words I heard from a couple that stopped by the Tonyan Coffee Roastery in Apple Valley moments before my interview with Owner John Tonyan. Quite a complement when you think about it, in an age of coffees being riddled with sugars and creamers to “enhance” the flavor. John commented to me about the couple’s remark, stating that is one of the highest compliments their coffee receives. The coffee, which is 100% organic, certified fair trade and freshly roasted in Apple Valley, is definitely something one must taste to believe. But what made the Tonyans; John, his wife DeDe and their daughter Rachel, decide to get into the coffee business?

“I didn’t identify that I used to get stomach aches from coffee. I didn’t understand why, I thought it was tension, of course. It was years later that I had bad coffee somewhere, and it just smelled and tasted rancid. I immediately got the same kind of stomachache, and it was only then that I identified that flavor and smell is a part of our coffee tradition. I identified part of that in Folgers and in less expensive coffees because it has been on the shelf for so long, that its part of the experience: its bitter, rancid coffee. So when you go with quality beans that are expertly roasted by my daughter, and you have it fresh, it’s a difference of night and day in the coffee.”

Founded around 2006, the business is formerly known as Holy Grounds Coffee, but the Tonyan family decided to change the name to Tonyan Coffee in December 2011. Tonyan offered me a cup of a blend inspired by our desert community; Desert Sunset. I opted to try the coffee black as well, to experience what the couple before me had tried, and what I had was something amazing. Tonyan touched on the Desert Blend, saying, “There’s a natural sweetness to this coffee, for instance. Every coffee is different, and it is one of those finer characteristics of coffee that fades quickly over time. That is one of the reasons we arrived at a three week maximum for our coffee.”

That’s a three-week shelf life, which Tonyan said the coffee never makes it to due to sales growing at a rapid pace. In terms of business growth, an all smiles John Tonyan commented on the good and bad problem of increasing sales and obtaining the freshest coffee beans to meet the growing need. “It’s around 30 percent increase every month. It is hard to plan for. We buy coffee from 16 different origins, and harvest times come at different times of the year for all these places. So here were are, with this kind of growth, trying to plan our green coffee purchases,” So how does the coffee go from when it is harvested to when we drink it in the morning?

“Before the coffee gets here is what people don’t realize. It comes in as green, unroasted coffee.” Tonyan showed me the green, unroasted coffee, which looks nothing like you would imagine and is hard as a rock. “It’s from a small tree or a large shrub, and it grows inside a red cherry. The cherries are picked by hand, then they are de-pulped, and in some origins, they do that first. In some origins, they do a natural process, which is to dry the seed in the cherry, and then they clean it off after. That’s called a natural coffee, we have several naturals: it gives the coffee more of a fruity undertone. It goes through an incredible amount of work before a roaster ever sees it. Of course, it gets picked through for stones and defects, so we end up with very high quality coffee that we still pick through one more time before we roast it.”

Receiving the beans is only part of the process, as Tonyan’s daughter, Rachel, roasts the coffee with expertise and care. “We assign how much coffee we need for a week, then we weigh it out in 15 pound batches. Roasting is the thing that gives the coffee its defining characteristics beyond anything else. Yes, the quality of the bean is so important, but what the roaster does with it is the biggest thing that is going to make the person drinking it say, “Hey, this is bad or good”. Each roast is computer graphed, so we sample every single roast that we do. So we develop benchmarks to compare batches against. We have been doing this process for several years, so we already have highly developed roasts of each coffee, and so if we find out this batch is better, we go back to the roast graph and see why. “After the coffee is roasted, its poured into the cooling tray, and then its loaded into bins and divided into types, which varies between a single type of coffee to blends and flavored coffees.

The roastery in Apple Valley is only open three days out of the week, Mondays through Wednesday, for a reason; as the presence of Tonyan Coffee is seen at farmer’s markets across the Inland Empire. “DeDe and Rachel go to Farmers Markets in Victorville, Big Bear, Redlands, Rancho Cucamonga, Victoria Gardens, and we might be going back to St. Mary’s Hospital; they have a little farmers market for their staff. That was a very nice event. As well as possibly doing Wrightwood.”

In addition to the farmer’s markets and the Apple Valley location, the Tonyan have another presence, which is an annual event that is hosted in Apple Valley. “Once a year we have a fair trade market, and we have been doing that for about eight years now, it’s usually in mid to late November. We have these just beautiful products made by artisans and craftsman all over the world. Its brought to Apple Valley, and all of the sales proceeds go back to them. “

Tonyan Coffee has a wide variety of flavors to choose from, in regular and decaffeinated. When asked what the best seller is, Tonyan replied, “It’s Ethiopian Moon. Actually, there are two that switch places every month. Ethiopian Moon is a medium roast coffee that is rich with chocolate overtones. Its complex, but it also makes an amazing espresso. The other is Decadence, which is a dark roast of two coffees, that even though it’s a dark roast, it’s not bold. Both of those are really popular coffees.”

With a grand opening being planned for May, Tonyan Coffee hopes to share with the desert the taste of true, organic coffee. A list of flavors in available at their website, http://holygroundscoffee.net/index.html , and if you would like to try a cup for yourself, drop on by the roastery Monday through Wednesday.

A display in the roastery that features Colombian beans in their true, green, unroasted form.

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