Tom Lialios drives a hearse and when he takes it around Connecticut or even Hell, Michigan for Hellfest he gets quite a reaction. That’s because it’s a souped-up model with the logo for his coffee company on the back door. Along with the Deadly Grounds logo is his company’s name and the slogan, Coffee to Die For. We wondered if it was really to die for, so we ordered up some small batch brews from their site: Pumpkin Spice, Hell’s Fury, and the Dark & Deadly Roast. We were happy to see that the shipment was fast and got to our door within two days of ordering. If we weren’t so lazy, we could have just gone to The Dock Shop in Darien, The Market Basket in Norwalk, or even visited Vanchetta food truck to try out some Deadly Grounds. The list of places to buy grows often, so check back to see if your favorite place has these hellish beans.
So, we were excited to see that we had a few sample packs thrown in with our order, and we immediately brewed a batch of the Pumpkin Spice. We poured the grounds in our french press and after a few minutes we had one of the best seasonal coffees ever. There was a beautiful richness mixed in with hints of spices. Over the next few days we tried the smooth yet bold Hell’s Fury, the official coffee of Hell, Michigan and the rich, smooth, and bold (yet not burnt-tasting) Dark & Deadly Roast. We enjoyed each coffee so much that we decided to reach out to Tom and find out more about what people think about his hearse, how and why he began Deadly Grounds in Norwalk, which flavors his fans like the most, and his plans for the future Deadly Groundification of the world.
What’s the strangest reaction you ever got when you rolled up in your hearse?
You always get SOME reaction. It’s a huge car so it’s hard not to notice. One of the most memorable reactions was when I used the hearse to buy our Christmas tree. When I pulled up the guy there was a bit taken aback. He said, “THIS is your car?” I usually respond with “Yeah, I always wanted a Cadillac,” but I told him not to bother to put it on the roof, just throw it in the back as there was plenty of room inside.
There are some other advantages to having a 23-foot long hearse, too. On the way back from Hellfest in Hell, Michigan, I mistakenly took the route back home that brought me through Canada. BIG MISTAKE trying to drive a hearse full of coffee through the Canadian border. Coffee grounds are sometimes used to disguise the scent of narcotics so I got their attention. However, the guards that had to search the vehicle appreciated the humor of a hearse with “Deadly Grounds” and “Coffee to Die For” logos on it. It was a lovely 90 minutes spent with our neighbors to the north.
I found there are some times when I should have opted to leave it home…usually when you’re visiting someone at a hospital or nursing home it’s not nearly as humorous or appreciated.
There are some practical advantages to having a hearse, though. Traffic tends to get out of our way. It’s easier to find it in a mall parking lot or after a concert as everyone tries to park away from it. If you can withstand the bad gas mileage, you can have some fun with it.
Why did you want to start Brewing coffee and where did the idea for Deadly Grounds come from?
I was frustrated with what passed for “gourmet coffee.” It seemed that people drank whatever was in front of them for the caffeine fix and perhaps didn’t consider that it could taste incredible at the same time. Too often over roasted or burnt tasting coffee is mistaken for “strong.” Also, it was such a big part of our social culture. Almost every important conversation I’ve ever had was always over a cup of coffee. We all have a coffee buddy we confide in.
The whole idea behind Deadly Grounds Coffee itself is kind of what happens when you have a twisted idea and no one stops you in time. I have been in media production for well over 20 years and I’m often called on for creative ideas for other businesses. Most of the time clients are looking for out of the box ideas, but often are reluctant to do anything different when it’s time to commit. I started to toy with the idea of what a coffee company would be like if I could build one from scratch with no creative limits. When the phrase “coffee to die for” popped in my head, everything else followed in a bright flash. My love of Halloween and horror movies guided me through the rest. The idea grew like a character in a film, rather than the traditional way a company is conceived.
I didn’t know a lot of specifics so I had to educate myself on how to get there. I just knew that if I were able to produce coffee that was truly “to die for,” that things would work out. It had to be very high quality beans, roasted properly and in small batches to keep our supply always moving and fresh. It’s also roasted with a very unique method that keeps the beans from ever burning or turning bitter. Once everything lined up, I thought I had a winning product. At the very least I felt I would have really good coffee and I knew I would make new friends along the way. Just maybe others would be having those heart to heart conversations over a cup of Deadly Grounds and enjoying it.
So far, so good…I think the humor and imagery attracts attention, but in the end the coffee itself has made for lots of repeat business. I know it’s a business, but it really doesn’t feel like we have customers – it feels like we have friends. Through Facebook and Twitter we stay in touch. It’s such a good feeling to hear from our coffee friends especially when we are far from home with the hearse and they want us to stop by!
What flavor is the customer’s favorite?
One of my favorites is our Dark Mountain Roast that we made for Frozen Dead Guy Days festival in Colorado. It’s a rich, dark roast with sweet undertones. It’s great hot or over ice and that works really well when you’re in Colorado in March. By the way – its an incredible festival and its theme is right up our alley!
Any exciting plans for future coffees or ideas that you want to share?
We’re considering single origin coffees and some organic roasts in the near future as long as we can ensure the same quality. Most of the time our friends will send us ideas for what they would like – so we take it from there. Many have asked about k-cups. I know that many like the convenience and they’re very popular, but it’s hard to get the same level of quality brew from them. We’re looking into it further and hope we can find something that is Deadly Groundable.
We have had such a great time visiting our friends in Hell (I never tire of saying that) and other places we’ve visited with the hearse – that we want to do a coast to coast run – visiting friends, making new ones, and properly caffeinating them. As more retailers start to sell DG, how could we not stop by with the hearse for a Deadly Grounds Coffee tasting?
Seeing America from a coffee hearse sounds like it should be a bucket list goal…