Owner, Master Roaster
Tacoma native A.J. Anderson has been roasting coffee for over 20 years, perfecting his craft with love, care, and passion. He began Valhalla Coffee Co. in Tacoma in 2004 with a talent for roasting coffee of uncompromised quality and a vision for keeping it local to the community. From the sensory-based roasting process to the training of the baristas, to the roaster/vendor relationship, Valhalla Coffee believes deeply in the human element and personal touch. “I never wanted [the business] to become huge, because then it becomes more about quantity than quality.” And quality is, always has been, and always will be the highest priority at Valhalla Coffee Co.
It’s immediately evident, even from the first sip, how much experience and care goes into their coffee. “Each and every cup of coffee is made to order – nothing sits.”
A.J. began his love affair with coffee while working at Starbucks, before the company began its quest for global expansion. He left around the time they were transitioning to fully automated roasting systems in order to work at Queen Anne Coffee (later Metropolitan Markets) learning a more hands-on approach, which he always felt yielded the best quality coffee. He wanted to learn from someone that shared his enthusiasm for quality; someone to whom proven techniques and traditions had been passed down through the years with love and respect for the craft. He found that education from the master roaster at Queen Anne. There, he was able to work his way up from barista to apprentice and, after a two year apprenticeship, take on the position of head roaster. With the experience he’d gained from his six and a half years as head roaster, he felt he was ready to start his own roasting company. All he needed was the equipment.
“There’s almost nothing in the world that makes me happier than a good cup of coffee.”
— AJ ANDERSON
“I’ve always played with cars,” says A.J. fondly. “I bought this 1969 Karmann Ghia convertible really cheap with the idea that I could restore it and sell it, then use that money to start my business.” And that he did. After an extensive restoration job, he sold the car and then promptly used every cent of that money to buy his coffee roaster. “I knew I was going to sell it to start my business, but even as I watched it drive away with its new owner, I couldn’t help but cry a little. I loved that car.”
Since he set up shop in 2004, A.J. has had a single-focus mentality for absolute quality. “We are intentionally small and traditional, and we don’t follow many trends. Our passion is not for impressing our peers in the industry, but rather impressing our customers. I’m all for new technology, information, new methods of doing things, but if it doesn’t add to the quality of the coffee, then what’s the point?”