The Intricate Flavor of the Simple Life: Twin Valley Coffee

Lynn Burkholder is used to improvising.  Until he was fourteen, he lived as a missionary kid on an Indian Reservation in Northwest Ontario.  His wife, Lynne, paints a picture of a Little House on the Prairie kind of childhood: the family hunted for food and heated their water with wood fires.  The spot was so remote that there was no access by road and an airplane delivered their mail.

This proved to be a promising start for a small business owner.  If you want to do what you love, you have to keep a low overhead, and sometimes necessity must be the mother of invention.


Image ©2011 Ryan Estes Photography

Lynn, who owns Twin Valley Coffee in Elverson, roasts coffee with the best coffee roasting techniques available. The coffee roasting adventure began eight years ago when a friend came over for dinner.  This friend— who worked for the same mission organization Lynn’s parents had worked for—brought coffee beans he had roasted himself.  The Burkholders, eager to enjoy this whole bean coffee, realized they didn’t have a coffee grinder. Undaunted, they pulled out their blender, ground the beans in that, and enjoyed excellent mugs of coffee all around.

A year later, the memory of that freshly roasted coffee still lingered, and the idea of roasting and selling their own coffee took shape. Lynn bought fresh green coffee beans and roasted them to a rich brown using an everyday kitchen appliance—a hot air popcorn popper.

Soon, he built a fluid bed roaster.  He preferred the characteristics of fluid bed roasted coffee much more than the more traditional roasting drum, and this is how Twin Valley Coffee still roasts its beans today.  In a fluid bed, or air roaster, coffee beans circulate fluidly as a stream of hot air lifts each bean in the air and rolls it over as it roasts.  In contrast, a drum roaster, the more traditional equipment for roasting coffee, heats beans as they touch the hot drum.

Air roasting also expels the chaff and smoke that are produced during the roasting process, Lynn explains. Fluid bed roasting and drum roasting produce characteristics so different, says Lynn, that they can actually taste like completely different kinds of coffee.  Indeed, Twin Valley Coffee has a smooth, creamy texture and full-flavored but gentle taste.

As the Burkholders’ coffee roasting began, the response of its first tasters was crucial. It turned out people loved the coffee, so they decided to develop the business further.  Weaver’s Orchard was one of their first big customers, and it is currently among their top buyers, selling Twin Valley Coffee by the bag and by the cup.


Image ©2011 Ryan Estes Photography

“Everybody kept praying for the coffee business,” remembers Lynne about the early months.  She thought to herself, “Can you pray for something else?”  She knew that launching another business would require them to live on the edge.  When they launched the business, it was not only a matter of whether people would like and buy the coffee, but whether they would be able to thrive in the simple lifestyle entrepreneurship often requires.

Talking to the Burkholders now, though, it’s clear that they not only understand what it’s like to live a simpler lifestyle, but that this is the very life they crave. Lynne says there is a lot that their family goes without, and they are happier for it.  They tell their kids “More is less and less is more.”

They seek a version of the good life that is drastically different from mainstream American culture.  Rather than having more things, or even having traditional two-week vacations, they value time spent with their friends and family. They love seeing their kids develop a creative, entrepreneurial spirit and an interest in coffee.  They also appreciate acquiring the hands-on knowledge of the world that comes from being in charge of their own business.

Over the past two years, Twin Valley Coffee has taken the Burkholders in new directions.  The family participated in the Farmers’ Market at Elverson last year, and this year they are working with the Gable family, owners of Conebella Farm, to manage the market.  Last year, when market customers wanted to know where they would get their cup of Twin Valley coffee in Elverson on weekdays, Lynn decided to open a stand.  From 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., Lynn sells Twin Valley Coffee in front of his studio on Route 23.

Beans from Twin Valley Coffee not only come from a business that pursues valuable simplicity, but these beans also offer a chance to enjoy one of life’s simple pleasures—a piping hot, aromatic cup of rich, creamy coffee.


How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Coffee

Coffee connoisseurs talk about the “rule of 15.”  Unroasted beans can be stored for a long time…up to 15 months. However, when they are roasted, optimal flavor lasts for about 15 days, and the best flavor is to be had for 15 minutes after grinding. Most grocery store coffee sits for much longer than 15 days.  Freshness is a significant part of optimum flavor.  Twin Valley Coffee always comes fresh, and when Weaver’s sells Twin Valley Coffee by the cup, the coffee has been freshly ground in the store.

If you’re making a cup of Twin Valley Coffee at home, it’s best to heat the water to about 200 – 204? F.  Most home coffee makers can only reach 180? F, though, so Lynn recommends an Aeropress or a Technivorm professional quality Dutch coffee maker, both of which they sell.

Making coffee that follows the rule of 15 and reaches the perfect temperature can have astonishingly delicious results.  Lynn says there is “so much more flavor than I knew existed in coffee.”