Blue Bottle Buys Tonx


Two of my favorite coffee institutions, Blue Bottle in San Francisco and Tonx, a subscription coffee service living on the Internet, are joining forces.

According to both Blue Bottle and Tonx, much of the deal is to get Tonx’s people and tech capabilities and use them to build a better online and store front experience. For Tonx subscribers, nothing is going to change immediately, but within a matter of months it will be subsumed completely subsumed into Blue Bottle.

“From a service perspective everything will stay the same–the Tonx product will persist but we’ll be maintaining one brand,” says Tonx cofounder Nik Bauman. “So eventually [Tonx] will become Blue Bottle, and we’ll become the ecommerce arm of Blue Bottle.”

The San Francisco Bay Area-based Blue Bottle, along with other formerly roasters like Portland’s Stumptown, Chicago’s Intelligentsia, and North Carolina’s Counter Culture helped kick off a brewed coffee movement in the United States. And while all have grown beyond their original city limits, none have really threatened to become the next Starbucks, or even Chipotle. Given its recent investment round, however, along with its purchase of Handsome Roasters in Los Angeles, Blue Bottle is clearly looking to get big. Tonx immediately gives Blue Bottle a much better online and app experience than now has.

It’s also a good deal for Tonx, which was attempting to raise more money to purchase its own coffee roaster (it currently has a contract deal where it rents one on the weekends) and open a store front. While neither announced a price, Tonx did abandon a $4 million fundraising round it had been pursuing recently. Presumably, the deal would be on par with that.

Blue Bottle’s funding really makes it the lead horse to become the boutique Starbucks, if you will. This deal goes a long way to helping Blue Bottle create a store presence that lives beyond the confines of brick and mortar. Tonx is fantastic if you have the disposable income and genuine love for coffee to spend on the subscription service. Otherwise, the economics just don’t work out.

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