You probably have a Starbucks gift card stashed somewhere, or, given that some $1.3 billion was loaded onto the cards during the last three months of 2013, there's a good chance you amassed quite a few over the holidays. You could certainly use the money on the card to buy yourself an enormous Caramel Flan Frappuccino, but maybe, rather than spending all that green on all that sugar, take your cards and head over to Tonx instead.

There, as part of its ongoing Better Coffee Exchange, the local micro-roaster is accepting Starbucks money as currency, meaning you can take the balance across all those gift cards  and apply it to one of Tonx's coffee subscription plans. The credit is dollar-for dollar; the coffee is terrific, high-quality, freshly roasted and delivered to your door every two weeks. Not a bad trade. 

The idea isn't so much to “denigrate” Starbucks, as Tonx co-founder Tony Konecny puts it, but to “take some value you're already sitting on, do something different and fun and give us a shot.”

“Starbucks has made a certain level of specialty coffee easy, ubiquitous and unintimidating,” Konecny says. “And that's something we appreciate. We are out to accomplish that same thing, but with the very best coffee.” 

According to Tonx's math, if you have $38 in Starbucks money, you can buy 17 cups of drip coffee at Starbucks, or you can subscribe to Tonx for a month and make 48 cups of coffee at home. And while brewing your own cup of coffee is not the same as waiting in line and putting in your order and waiting for someone to make your drink, it is, like making ricotta or creme fraiche, a lot easier, faster and less scary to do than you might initially think. Contrary to what you may have been told.

“Some of my colleagues in the industry have this notion, sometimes unconsciously I think, that really great coffee is some sort of acquired taste – that you have to somehow be initiated before you can really 'get' the nuances or something,” Konecny says. “It's kind of an insult to customers. … I think the trend in the overall high-end coffee bar experience, with all its theater, waiting, exactitude and attitude, is probably an acquired taste. But what lands in the cup, assuming it is on point, should not be.

“We want to dispel this idea that making coffee at home requires lots of fuss or needs to be treated like a hobby,” he says. “Many people don't realize just how easy it is to make a good cup of coffee and how central the quality and freshness of the beans are to that.”

Thus: Starbucks dollars for Tonx beans and a chance to discover how you could go about making this really good cup of coffee in your kitchen, at your leisure. Considering that you don't have a whole lot to lose other than that Caramel Flan Frappuccino and potentially a whole lot to gain, you may as well start cashing in those cards now.

Konecny, meanwhile, already has big plans for the Starbucks credit they'll receive on their side of the Exchange.

“Banana walnut bread, CDs,” he says. “And Naked Juice's Green Machine.”

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