Archive for September, 2009

Nighthawks’ Coffee

Untitled-1There was a time in the history of America when a roadside café was the place to get a cup of coffee. It was a time when the taste of coffee was not judged good or bad. It was a time when coffee was just “a cup of Joe” to wash down that American breakfast of eggs scrambled, toast and home fries and three strips of bacon. Cream and sugar filled half the cup so what was there to complain about?

I plied the highway between Ft. Bragg and San Francisco every week from 1974 to 1985, first in a 1963 Chevy Panel Truck that could carry 15 sacks of coffee, and as the company grew, in a rented U Haul trucks of various sizes. I believe I made 400 round trips during that period of time. Often stopping at the Wheel Café in Cloverdale, just off Hwy 101.

It was your basic Truck Stop with local nighthawks and 18 wheel long haul truckers side by side talking about hunting, guns, government socialism, and all sorts of interesting but bizarre conspiracies. And this was in a pre 9/11 era.

One night I decided it was worth a photo. I had my tripod and Minolta camera with me so before I popped in for my 2AM “American Breakfast”, I set up my camera and took this 2 minute exposure. Nobody moved!

The photo reminds me of an Edward Hopper painting called Night Hawks and of the 70’s posters which used his painting as a concept to highlight Marlan Brando, James Dean and Maralyn Monroe. This photo reminds me of the many nights I spent on the foggy night roads with oversize loads of green coffee and a kind of fear that only overloaded night trips on country roads could bring.

The Wheel Café is no more, gone the way of the new highway that skirts the town to the east. I don’t stop there anymore!

Delicious Peace coffee gets a beautiful new look

When the 2008 harvest coffee arrived at our warehouse in July of this year we tasted the fruits of a four year partnership that was really working. The coffee was sweeter than ever before with a new found clarity and complexity that demonstrated the unique character of the beans. This beautiful new crop, coupled with the news that Peace Kawomera had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with USAID and leveraged a $250,000 grant for the construction of a central washing station, was proof that four years of hard work, trust, and transparency was paying off. The Coop is taking major strides forward. In honor of this progress we began giving the coffee line a bit of a makeover. First there were new brochures, with pictures and quotes from six farmers representing the different faiths. We want you to see not just one but many of the faces that are growing your delicious coffee. Narrowing the gap between grower and consumer is an important aspect of building a more just economy, it’s what makes the farmers’ market so wonderful and now we are applying it to the global market as well.

Over the last few years many of us have become very attached to the package label image of the little boy in front of a wall displaying etchings of the three symbols of interfaith cooperation that Peace Kawomera is best known for. This project has grown up with that little boy as the cooperative has grown from 250 to over 1,000 farmers. But now, in light of the progress we have seen, it’s time to introduce you to more faces in the community you support when you buy Mirembe Kawomera “Delicious Peace” Cofee. Each type of Mirembe Kawomera Coffee: light, dark, and decaf will now have a new unique label.

Mirembe Kawomera Light mirembe_light_for-facebook

This is a picture of Deena Shadrack. She is a leader in the Abayudaya (Jewish) community and has served on its board of directors. Deena is a strong advocate for womens’ rights, a coffee farmer, and a mother to many. She is pictured here holding a ripe jackfruit.

Mirembe Kawomera Dark mirembe_dark_for-facebook

The woman pictured here is Hadija Wankusi. She is a prominent singer in the Muslim community and a leader in the choir. The choir uses song to teach the community about issues such as health and fair trade. Hadija’s home is across the street from the Abayudaya synagogue on Nabogoye Hill. She’s been a long time friend to the Abayudaya and a bridge builder among the different faiths. Her daughter, Sanina, serves on the Peace Kawomera board of directors and represents the perspective of women and youth.

Mirembe Kawomera Decaf mirembe_decaf_for-facebook

The students pictured here attend the Nankusi Elementary School, the local public school. Most of these students are the children of farmers in the Peace Kawomera cooperative. Through a combination of the social premium, a payment that is built into the rules of Fair Trade, and the rebate system that we have set up directly with the Cooperative, Peace Kawomera paid for a renovation at this school that resulted in a new roof. The income received by farmers goes to pay for uniforms, books, and fees for the students.

We are thrilled to introduce you to more members of the Cooperative and anticipate that our labels will be revolving so that you will continue to see new faces of the beautiful people growing your Delicious Peace.

Moments in Time: Nicaragua 2006

DVC00059We were on our way to Matagalpa. it had just stopped raining and the street vendors were out in force trying to recapture the lost time spent underneath a canopy somewhere . There is allot to see in this photo although the reason I took the photo was the oddity of mattresses with a U.S. flag as bedcovers. I wonder if Rush Limbaugh or Glen Beck would disapprove . Sleeping on an American Flag might be considered un-American, causing new laws to be placed in the Patriot Act .

The vendors are standing on a roadway made of six sided bricks known as Samosa Stones , named so because in the Revolution, these stones were ripped up to make barricades to block streets and thwart the tanks.  Both vendors are wearing baseball caps, the preferred hat in a baseball loving Nicaragua.

Delicious Peace coffee gets a beautiful new look

When the 2008 harvest coffee arrived at our warehouse in July of this year we tasted the fruits of a four year partnership that was really working. The coffee was sweeter than ever before with a new found clarity and complexity that demonstrated the unique character of the beans. This beautiful new crop, coupled with the news that Peace Kawomera had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with USAID and leveraged a $250,000 grant for the construction of a central washing station, was proof that four years of hard work, trust, and transparency was paying off. The Coop is taking major strides forward. In honor of this progress we began giving the coffee line a bit of a makeover. First there were new brochures, with pictures and quotes from six farmers representing the different faiths. We want you to see not just one but many of the faces that are growing your delicious coffee. Narrowing the gap between grower and consumer is an important aspect of building a more just economy, it’s what makes the farmers’ market so wonderful and now we are applying it to the global market as well.

Over the last few years many of us have become very attached to the package label image of the little boy in front of a wall displaying etchings of the three symbols of interfaith cooperation that Peace Kawomera is best known for. This project has grown up with that little boy as the cooperative has grown from 250 to over 1,000 farmers. But now, in light of the progress we have seen, it’s time to introduce you to more faces in the community you support when you buy Mirembe Kawomera “Delicious Peace” Cofee. Each type of Mirembe Kawomera Coffee: light, dark, and decaf will now have a new unique label.

Mirembe Kawomera Light mirembe_light_for-facebook

This is a picture of Deena Shadrack. She is a leader in the Abayudaya (Jewish) community and has served on its board of directors. Deena is a strong advocate for womens’ rights, a coffee farmer, and a mother to many. She is pictured here holding a ripe jackfruit.

Mirembe Kawomera Dark mirembe_dark_for-facebook

The woman pictured here is Hadija Wankusi. She is a prominent singer in the Muslim community and a leader in the choir. The choir uses song to teach the community about issues such as health and fair trade. Hadija’s home is is across the street from the Abayudaya synagogue on Nabogoye Hill. She’s been a long time friend to the Abayudaya and a bridge builder among the different faiths. Her daughter, Sanina, serves on the Peace Kawomera board of directors and represents the perspective of women and youth.

Mirembe Kawomera Decaf mirembe_decaf_for-facebook

The students pictured here attend the Nankusi Elementary School, the local public school. Most of these students are the children of farmers in the Peace Kawomera cooperative. Through a combination of the social premium, a payment that is built into the rules of Fair Trade, and the rebate system that we have set up directly with the Cooperative, Peace Kawomera paid for a renovation at this school that resulted in a new roof. The income received by farmers goes to pay for uniforms, books, and fees for the students.

We are thrilled to introduce you to more members of the Cooperative and anticipate that our labels will be revolving so that you will continue to see new faces of the beautiful people growing your Delicious Peace.

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Moment in time: Rwanda 2005

STC_0555Rwanda, 2004

One of my favorite ways to photograph a group is to catch the group posing for a photo being taken by someone else. Here, Alan Odom poses with a group of coffee farmers after a successful first meeting with their cooperative members. Alan works for a coffee importing company, InterAmerican Commodities that we use to help us bring the coffee from there to here. In the coffee industry these importing companies provide services in areas such as contracts, financing, customs, insurance, and storage once the coffee lands in the USA. Alan was with me on this trip because it an opportunity he could not miss for his company.

The Genocide in 1994 had wiped out the coffee production in Rwanda. To help rebuild it, USAID funded a development project (2002) led by Michigan State University and Texas A & M. Tim Schilling; an Agronomist professor at A&M was hired to lead the rebuilding. In 2004 Thanksgiving Coffee Company was asked to send a representative to Rwanda to help develop a market plan for Rwanda’s reentry into the coffee trade, this time, not as a commodity with no identity, but as a Specialty Coffee with a real story to tell. Joan Katzeff volunteered to be part of the all expenses paid trip (Paid for by U.S. Taxpayers).  Thanksgiving Coffee was one of just four companies singled out to help this ravaged but resurgent coffee Rwandan coffee industry.

Joan’s first trip to Africa connected Thanksgiving Coffee with The Dian Fosse Gorilla Fund, which was headquartered in Rwanda where the last remaining Mountain Gorillas (380) live on the edge of extinction. Within six months our GORILLA FUND coffee was the first Rwanda Coffee to be sold in the United States and Thanksgiving Coffee received the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s first Sustainability Award in 2004 for our creative efforts to introduce the Rwanda Coffee Story to American coffee lovers.

When Alan Odom and I returned to Rwanda the following year to cement the relationships Joan had forged the year before and to introduce the idea of cupping labs to the USAID development project as a further way to improve quality and increase the value of the crop, we met with many cooperatives and tasted coffees from all over the country’s coffee growing region. Being among the first coffee roasters to visit Rwanda, we were able to find the best coffee and sign a three-year purchase agreement with the cooperative. I negotiated the price with the farmers ($2.04/lb for one container of 37,500 lbs.) and InterAmerican did the importing for us. This photo, taken after the deal was signed, conveys everyone’s mood at the time. You can purchase this coffee and taste one of Africa’s great coffees at on our webstore. It was a fine coffee in 2004 but today our Gorilla Fund Coffee is one of the best tasting coffees in the world.

Moments in Time: Rwanda 2005 “I saw your face in Yankee Stadium”

blog photo for paul

These five woman are selling salt in an open air market.

I rounded a bend along a quiet stretch of road and there
it was, a meadow with a thousand sellers and half as many buyers.
These five woman were having a hell of a good time just sitting there
telling each other who knows what. But they looked familiar. Each face
reminded me of someone I know now or knew in my life. It reminded me
of when, after having left New York City a decade earlier, I returned
to my native city for a brief visit and, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I
went to a baseball game at the fabled Yankee Stadium. I am a Boston
Red Sox fan but I love Yankee Stadium as an icon of my youth, growing
up less then a mile from center field. But I digress.

That lazy Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium I noticed something
I could not have noticed before. I had been gone from The City for
about ten years, having participated in the Great Hippie Migration of
the early ’70’s. I landed in Northern California where I met Joan
(President of Thanksgiving Coffee Company) and began a “life after New
York City”.  So I had a good ten years of meeting people and
establishing new relationships. Back at Yankee Stadium that afternoon
I noticed so many familiar faces, faces that reminded me of my
California friends. It was as if I had discovered a secret. There are
only so many types of faces, individual all, but somehow falling
into types that could remind you of people you know elsewhere. When I
got back to Northern California I wrote a piece for Mendocino
Grapevine, our weekly Alternative newspaper at the time. I called it,
“I Saw Your Face at Yankee Stadium”. Look at these Rwandan woman
closely. Beautiful and oh so familiar looking. I did not purchase
any salt, but I did stop to take a deep look …at five woman I knew
I never wanted to forget.

-PK

Moments in Time: Nicaragua, 1992

8481790-R1-E002Aranjuez, Nicaragua 1992

There were five of us under the forest canopy and each of us knew our search was over. Let me explain. Jan Eno (blue shirt on left), and I (behind the camera), were looking for the fabled great Nicaraguan coffee that had been denied U.S. coffee roasters due to the Reagan Embargo (1985-1991). Jan was Thanksgiving Coffee’s Roastmaster at the time. On the far right in the black T shirt was Roberto Vargas, a Nicaraguan who had fought in the Sandinista Revolution, came to the United States and lived in the Mission District of San Francisco, and was the creative force behind the creation of The Mission Cultural Center. I don’t exactly remember how we met, but it was he who brought me and Jan face to face with Byron Corrales and his father Arnolfo. This photo was taken on their farm. We had just completed an agreement. Byron and family would sell Thanksgiving Coffee 37,500 lbs of their family’s certified organic coffee and a similar amount of the Cooperative’s non-organic coffee.  Thanksgiving Coffee would pay 50 cents over the then current world price. It was a historic moment. It would be the first Nicaraguan coffee directly imported into the United States since 1979 when the Sandinistas gained control from the Dictator Somoza. This was the picture I wanted to mark the moment.

The picture has many details that I would like to point out; we are kneeling in filtered sunlight, under coffee trees shaded by an over story of banana trees (the broad, bright green leaves behind Byron). The coffee cherries are full size but still green. It is still two months to harvest so this is September. Some of the coffee tree leaves have white spots on them, an indication of a kind of rust or mold that will need attention. Byron’s hat clearly shows the icon of the cooperative movement and in fact, at the time this photo was taken, Byron was Vice President of his cooperative, Solidaridad.

Where are these people now? Jan works as Roastmaster for the  Urth Cafes of Southern California of which there are four. They are our largest “account”. Jan still lives on the Mendocino Coast and operates out of our cupping lab here in Ft Bragg. We see him every day and he is an integral part of our quality mission. Byron is a full time coffee farmer on his family farm but has become Nicaragua’s premier biodynamic and organic coffee farmer and now also heads up the Nicaraguan Government’s Organic Farming Extension Service for small and medium size farms. His father Arnolfo is still on the family farm, working as he has done for 8 decades.  Roberto Vargas lives in San Antonio, Texas and is The Director of Venezuela President Hugo Chaves’ ” Heating Oil for the Poor” project. He is also one of Nicaragua’s honored poets, and I? , Well, I’m a historian waiting for the next great moment in coffee to be a part of.

-PK

 

(Side note: Byron grows one of the best coffees in the world. Try his exceptional Maracaturra varietal for yourself)

Self reflection and your place in the global community

in-front-of-mosque1Last Sunday evening, around the world, people broke the month-long fast of Ramadan. Throughout this past month, observing Muslims have fasted daily from sunrise until sundown. This is a time of great personal reflection, a time to ask for forgiveness, and pray for guidance. By abstaining from excesses and focusing inward toward self and to achieving closeness to God, a process of personal purification occurs.

praying1This coming Friday at sundown marks the beginning of the High Holidays, the ten day period at the start of the Jewish New Year. The days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are a culmination of a period of self-examination and repentance. On Yom Kippur a fast from sundown to sundown ushers in the New Year and the fast is broken with family or community at day’s end.

In spite of differences in aspects of observance, these traditions share common goals: self-reflection, closeness to God, a time to ask for forgiveness for human transgressions, and a desire for clarity moving forward. It is one more reminder of commonalities we have across our global community. Many of us, through religious observance or simply in consciousness in our daily lives, try to make time for self examination and strive to achieve a renewed clarity moving forward. For some this may be in the act of a New Year’s resolution, for others the contemplation of life on a birthday. No matter what, as humans we have a shared goal: to be better people in a world that we care for and that cares for us.

In Uganda, some of the Peace Kawomera Cooperative’s members have finished observing Ramadan, others are preparing for the Jewish New Year, others are thinking about how they can take better care of their families in the coming year. This year’s coffee harvest is just a few months away, now is the time to unite with the global community and think about changes you can make as a consumer, as a person of faith, as someone committed to making this world better for all of us.

Moments in time: a life lived through coffee

Antigua, Guatemala 1990 ;  I awoke early that morning, anxious to get out into the city before the bustle of the marketplace made me have to use my meagre Spanish vocabulary. I wanted to see the city wake up. You know, cities do have a way of waking up that is all their own. It is a time when the smells are fresh and the aromas fragrant. Sound has not yet become noise. Light is stark,  light shadows dance the soundless sound of shadows flicking light. Here, a mother, her child with his school books under arm, walk together. What are they talking about?
Paul Katzeff

Mother and Son, Guatemala 1990

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