Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

A Snobbish Canadian’s Review of Tonx

As regular readers will be well-aware, I have something of an affinity for well-prepared coffee. I chase a wide variety of great beans which have been roasted with care, at reasonable prices.1

I first heard about Tonx last May, but I waited until early this year to give it a try. I signed up for the free sample offer in January but, unfortunately, I was told that it was only available in the US. I figured that it couldn’t hurt to ask if I could get a bag anyway. Delightfully, they emailed back in the same day and said that due to the cost of shipping, they don’t usually offer it; however, they’d make an exception in my case. Fantastic.

The bag arrived a couple of weeks later and I tried it almost immediately. The beans were evenely roasted to somewhere between an American roast and a City — an ideal roast for my taste — and were moderately fragrant. I used a fairly standard inverted AeroPress method to brew a cup.

The resulting cup was, frankly, underwhelming. Individual flavours were subtle and muted, like the beans were hitting the end of their shelf life. But I had heard nothing but great things about Tonx’s coffee, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to subscribe to their $24 per month half-sack offer.2 There aren’t any contracts and I could cancel at any time, so I figured it was worth a shot.

I received a shipment notification the day after I signed up, advising me that my coffee would be at my house in a week. I’ve had a few things shipped by USPS, and I can tell you with some certainty that it would not be at my Canadian house in a week.

Sure enough, two weeks later, my first half-pound bag arrived. I can’t remember exactly what country the beans were from — I think it might have been Indonesian. Not a good start; I’m not typically a fan of Indonesian coffee. Then, a few weeks later, another bag arrived from a different country. Rinse and repeat, for several shipments.

Until I cancelled my subscription last month, that is.

All of the coffee I received from Tonx — whether it was from Ecuador, or Rwanda, or Bolivia, or wherever — was merely okay, and that’s a big problem when you’re charging $24 per pound. Granted, it’s automatic, carefree, and shipping is included in the price. It’s certainly better than most mass-roasted coffee, too. But it simply doesn’t approach the best coffee you can drink for that price. I tried a bunch of brewing techniques, times, and grinds, but the beans tasted generically of coffee. They didn’t have much acidity, nor did they have decent body, both of which are necessary for intriguing flavours.

Based on the rave reviews I hear from people living within California, this may simply be a function of the shipping time from Los Angeles to Calgary. If it is, that’s disappointing — I wanted desperately to like Tonx because I enjoy having a variety of different beans to try. But I’m very lucky to live in a city with a few world-class roasteries. For the price of $14, plus a brief walk, I can buy twelve ounces of vibrant, freshly-roasted coffee. It simply doesn’t make sense for me to subscribe to Tonx.


  1. Though, like any addict, I will pay for quality. I dare you to ask me how enamoured I am with the Panama geisha varietal. ↩︎

  2. If you want, you can sign up using my affiliate link, but I’d keep reading. ↩︎