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Today is Sunday October 26, 2014

The Coffee Not the Corner

Toomer — certainly not an uncommon name in the Auburn community. As a matter of fact, Toomer is a quite popular name around town. One that brings a sense of pride or a feeling of comfort. It is a name that equates a cornerstone in a community. While Sandy and Trish Toomer aren’t the Toomer’s of the corner, they are the Toomer’s of the coffee — Toomer’s Coffee Company, that is…a place that provides a very similar delight. Toomer’s Coffee offers an atmosphere of neighborly chatter, a venue of cultivation and forward thinking, and a variety of custom roasted coffees.

Toomer’s Coffee Company, established in 2004 by Sandy and Trish, is a full-service coffee bar and wholesale coffee company. The Toomers are no strangers to the coffee business. In the early 90s, Sandy flew as a commercial pilot for Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) where he served missionaries and indigenous tribes of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador, while Trish worked as hospitality coordinator to visitors of the MAF Shell Ecuador base. One of the tribes they served in the northern Ecuadorian jungle was the Quichuas; a tribe that grew and processed Arabica coffee. After 14 years of flying coffee and visiting this and many other coffee plantations, Sandy had a large knowledge of the coffee business, from the “ground up,” thus enhancing the Toomer’s passion for quality coffee.

“My friends on the base would laugh,” shares Trish. “Every time someone walked in the door, I was offering them a cup of coffee, and I still do that to this day.”

Upon leaving Ecuador, Sandy and Trish transitioned to the Southeast United States in order to help the MAF in a recruiting role. When recruiting in Tennessee, the couple visited some friends who owned a coffee shop and were roasting their own coffee. They encouraged the Toomers to do the same. Their friends planted the seed, and within six months, the Toomers opened their own shop.

“When we were there, it was nothing like I had experienced before locally,” explains Trish. “The coffee was the best ever — best aroma, best taste, no bitterness — and the atmosphere was great. They were in a turn-of-the-century building in a historic area at the base of the Appalachian Trail. It was cozy and inviting, somewhere you wanted to go and sit down with friends, not cold and sterile.”

So in 2004, Trish and Sandy opened their first store in Historic Downtown Opelika before being encouraged by much of their coffee-bean-buying clientele to move to Auburn in their current location at University Village on South College Street. The shop has an eclectic style with exposed brick walls, warm colors flanked by cozy couches, and tables and chairs that can be easily rearranged for groups or gathering. An art gallery in the rear of the shop displays work from local and surrounding area artists, and large canvas prints of the South American coffee industry intrigue guests in the front of the shop. On any given day one may find a table of studying students, a women’s bible study, or a group of professionals carrying on business meetings while being served by cheerful baristas. The location and atmosphere is cozy, comfortable and versatile, but the quality of their coffee is what keeps bringing people back for more.

For the Toomers, the business is all about the coffee, and they have committed to not steer from that concept. Their goal is to provide the community with a higher-grade, freshly roasted coffee that is a better quality and better flavor than can be found elsewhere.

“We seek to offer coffees from as many sections of the world as possible,” shares Sandy. “The flavor profiles of coffee are different in different areas of the world. The fruit is grown the same, but varying locations affect the beans. Everyone has a different coffee palette, and we want to offer a good variety to the community.”

The Toomers buy their coffee via direct trade (supporting the farmer and offering higher quality) when available, through a broker who makes recommendations on their selection. They purchase Arabica beans from countries such as Brazil, Ethiopia, Tanzania or Malawi. The Toomers roast their own coffee and create their own blends for the consumer. Sandy roasts approximately 1,000 pounds of coffee a week in a Diedrich Infrared Roaster handmade specifically for Toomer’s Coffee Company, a beautiful, one-of-a-kind, brass machine. The coffee is roasted in small batches, pampering the beans in the roasting process, while developing flavors and reducing acids that cause stomach sensitivity found in large industrious roasting. It is the only local coffee company that roasts beans locally, providing the freshest coffee and selling it across the country.

The wholesale business is thriving with Toomer’s Coffee being shipped to several states, while the local retail business and catering business along with personal sales are growing, just as the Toomers seek to grow personal relationships with their clientele.

“Through our custom roasting, we are glad to offer the best we can to the community,” says Trish. “We have four coffees on our bar every day, and we encourage clients to always try something new and discover what they enjoy.”

Named for Sandy’s father, Captain F.S. Toomer, distantly related to the Toomers of the Auburn corner, the Toomer’s Coffee Company isn’t about a location or a name. “We’re working for the entire experience that’s important,” agree Sandy and Trish. “We want Toomer’s Coffee Company to be the best and most enjoyable experience we can offer…by the cup, by the pound or by the hour.”

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