TJ's Roaster of Evansville
Better Beans Coffee Clubs
It takes a lot of passion and dedication to work full time jobs and in your off hours crank out some of the best coffee to come out of Indiana in years. Terry and Jody VanBibber do just that. He's been a big rig driver for three decades and she does house cleaning. After researching the coffee business for about 2 years they knew their course.
They started modestly; a storage shed on the rear of their property with a concrete floor. They completely renovated the shed to health code standards and bought a Dietrich IR7 roaster. Terry went to Idaho for weeks of roasting training and later that year TJ's Roaster was born.
TJ's is on the outskirts of Evansville and doing really well. Terry & Jody both do the roasting. Terry loves coffee beans - more than most people. Often when he's roasting and the beans dump he'll just pick a few up and eat them. He says the
taste like candy; nice and warm right out of the roaster. As they continue to grow Terry and Jody will keep their regular jobs. They both do what ever it takes to get consistently fresh and high quality coffee to their customers. The coffee that is not sold right away is given to the local homeless shelters. Here's a direct quote: “We never get tired of seeing those beans come out of that roaster hot, smoking, and smelling awesome!”
When it comes to Breakfast Blends, Terry knows what his customers like and expect. A lot of blends labeled as Breakfast lean toward the bitter end of the tasting spectrum. Not TJ's…Their blend is mild, but rich, with just the right kick to get you up and going. We've been using it at our house in the morning and for our regular 5 o'clock cup too, and loving it.
If you visit their website you will see that TJ's has quite a few blends as well as a lot of great information on the regions that their coffees hail from. They credit their bean supplier, Café Imports, with this content and it is worth checking out. It is so much fun to find an artisan roaster that is truly on the brink of building their business to the next level.
We feel like we've taken a little trip back in time, but forward in innovation, seeing a glimpse behind the curtain and getting to know someone special.
TJ's Roaster: So many reasons it's so mmm, mmm good
West Side Business brews up specialty flavors
Christi Atherton Correspondent
April 23, 2010
The small, unobtrusive former storage building that sits behind Terry and Jody Van Bibber's West Side home offers no indication of what takes place on the inside.
Well, except for the aroma emanating from the building's roof exhaust.
"The neighbors love the smell," Jody confirmed.
And who wouldn't? In that little storage building, the Van Bibbers roast coffee beans, sometimes hundreds of pounds a week.
A few years ago, Terry, who has worked at Mount Vernon's Air Liquide for 22 years, began searching for a small business venture he and Jody could operate while he worked and after his retirement.
The couple, who have been married for 14 years, explored a variety of options, including a coffee shop franchise.
Though they chose not to pursue that path, it did lead them to learn more about coffee.
"We visited a roasting company and saw how they roast coffee," Terry recalled.
"It just came to me one day: Why not do the roasting, and we can sell wholesale and retail?"
In 2007, they remodeled their yard barn to bring it up to health code standards and purchased the centerpiece of their roasting business, a Diedrich roaster.
They took classes to learn to use the roaster and also attended seminars through the Specialty Coffee Association to learn more about coffee itself.
"There are so many variables to coffee," Terry explained.
"We have coffee from nine different countries. We can take one of those and roast it and probably make it taste a hundred different ways."
The Van Bibbers can spend hours roasting one batch of coffee, pulling out samples, tasting, and pulling out more, just to get a flavor they are satisfied with.
Once that flavor is attained, the exact roasting information is noted and stored on paper and in the roaster's computerized components.
The next time they want that particular coffee flavor, they can pull up the profile and get the exact same roast.
"Coffee has around 150 flavor characteristics — compared to wine, which has 60 or 70," Terry said.
TJ's Roaster specializes in fresh-roasted coffee, whole-bean and ground.
Once the beans are roasted, they keep them for only two weeks before donating the coffee to homeless shelters in the area.
At local retail locations, such as Salad World West and Mayse Farm Market, the coffee can stay for up to two months because it will be unopened until the customer uses it.
TJ's also uses coffee bags with a one-way valve. This vents the carbon dioxide that coffee produces without letting oxygen in to make the coffee stale.
The Van Bibbers have given out free TJ's Roaster coffee samples at Christmas in New Harmony the past two years and they've participated in other area events, such as The Home Show.
They also do a small amount of Internet advertising, but that's the limit of their advertising so far.
The business has grown so steadily; their January 2010 sales doubled sales from January 2009.
Because of this, they haven't felt the need for a large marketing budget.
Their greatest sales come via their Web site, where they receive orders from local customers and those from around the country.
Their largest order to date came recently — and at a rather inopportune time.
While Jody was in Texas helping to relocate her elderly father, TJ's was awarded an order from French Lick Casino for 400 bags of coffee.
Terry had to have friends help with packaging for the large order, but the business normally is operated by just the two of them.
They hope to see orders continue to grow to the point where they need permanent help.
"We want to hire," Jody insisted. "Not right away, but I'd like to see this building extended.
"I see all this. He does too, but I speak it out more," she added with a smile toward her more reserved husband.
"Extend (the building), get a bigger roaster, and have to hire a couple of people."
The Van Bibbers are currently expanding their business in other ways.
They offer Bunn coffee equipment for homes and businesses and have recently added a portable espresso maker that requires nothing but hot water to use.
They also have created a hot cocoa blend which is now for sale.
In addition to all this, their coffee is available for school fundraisers, and they give coffee classes that teach an overview of coffee, including tastings, that takes coffee aficionados from planting to brewing.
If they are lucky, they hope for 55-year-old Terry to be able to retire early, but they are making no hasty moves.
"They say that it takes five years for a business to know if it's going to make it," Terry said cautiously.
For now, the Van Bibbers are happy roasting coffee for their ever-expanding customer base — and providing their neighbors with a little mmm, mmm good aromatic ambience.