AFA opens coffee roastery in Tupelo

By Sarah Robinson/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The American Family Association has brought its coffee business to Tupelo.
In early April, the Tupelo-based religious organization opened Thomas Street Coffee Co. on the corner of Coley Road and Rob Street, near the Mississippi Complex of the Tupelo Furniture Market.
“It’s coffee with a mission, but it’s premium coffee,” said Greg Sanders, a manager at the location.
The facility will be the first coffee roaster opened by the AFA, which has been selling coffee to raise funds for its ministry for more than a year.
Until now, they have used contract roasters to make their premium blends. Sanders said bringing the roasting in house will save about 25 to 40 percent on production.
The coffee company is one of several revenue-generating enterprises owned by the nonprofit that helps raise funds to support its mission.
Sanders said Thomas Street Coffee Co. is the first roastery owned by the AFA. It will primarily fill coffee orders from the AFA store online, but hopes to attract walk-in retail business as well.
The roaster is run by Kyle Benson of Tupelo, who has been working with Mark McKee, coffee provider and roasting consultant from Passionate Harvest. Benson is working with McKee to learn to pull different flavors from a wide range of beans.
“It’s an art just knowing how to pull out different nuances,” McKee said. McKee works with the AFA’s international missions program to identify coffee growers around the world and brings in beans from Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia, Honduras and Sumatra.
The AFA purchases green coffee beans, mainly from faith-based growers at prices they say are above fair trade value. It also provides the farmers with financial advice and access to agronomists who work with them to improve the quality of the beans they grow.
Sanders said the roastery currently produces about 350 bags a week but has capacity to do much more.
The Coley Road location will have free coffee to sample daily and will sell whole and ground coffee by the bag. A 12-ounce bag retails for $12.
sarah.robinson@journalinc.com