Early one morning in 1992, a local Mendocino sculptor by the name of Howard Wheatley Allen was shaking in his boots. He had just been informed that he would be presenting a gift to a world leader on behalf of the United States, and the recipient was none other than Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. With a steadying hand, he held his bronze sculpture before the President and said, “Mr. President, this is a snow goose that migrates between our two countries.”
“You mean a living link,” Gorbachev replied, understanding the significance.
Gorbachev later recalled that, “During the nuclear arms race, I was given a gift by an American, a little figure of a goose in flight. I still have it at my dacha. It is a goose that lives in the north of Russia in the summer and in the winter migrates to America. It does that every year regardless of what’s happening, on the ground, between you and us.”
It was one year later, in 1993, that International Migratory Bird Day was established. While IMBD is celebrated from Canada to South America to support the hundreds of Neotropical migratory bird species that travel across the continent, Gorbachev’s goose is a beautiful reminder that birds will always rise above our imaginary borders, transcending beyond the cultural or political boundaries of the time.
Here in the United States, we sometimes claim a cultural ownership of beautiful birds like the Baltimore Oriole, perhaps forgetting that the very same species could just as easily be named the ‘Panama Oriole’, or the ‘Nicaraguan Oriole’, as it spends half it’s life in Central and South America. IMBD is a reminder that the health and abundance of these birds that are so much a part of our heritage does not stop at our own backyard feeders. If we wish to enjoy their beauty and their songs for generations to come, we must care for them and their well being across all borders.
The growing demand for coffee, and the rise of the mono-cultured full sun coffee plantations, has demolished much of the wintering habitat for iconic birds like Orioles. In fact, many of these species are now referred to as ‘Coffee Birds’ because the only forest home left to them are the shade-grown coffee farms that preserve the jungle canopy.
For over 20 year, Song Bird Coffee has been a leader in supporting the farmers who protect their native forests by growing delicious coffees under the jungle canopy, preserving priceless habitat and biodiversity. This year, on International Migratory Bird Day, we hope you will join us in protecting our precious songbirds, just by enjoying a great cup of shade-grown coffee. Not Just a Cup, But a Just Cup.
For the Birds is a blog series from Thanksgiving Coffee Company, highlighting one of the 200 Neotropical migratory birds who rely on shade grown coffee during their winter migration. In January, we featured the Cedar Waxwing, in February, the Magnolia Warbler, this month we’re focusing on the Blackburnian Warbler – the bird featured on our dark roast Songbird coffee.
Songbird Coffee Dark Roast from Colombia
With their bright colors and trilling songs, it’s no surprise that a group or flock of vibrant warblers is often called a ‘bouquet’. However, one of the most striking members of the warbler family would rather not join the bunch.
Common along the eastern region of the United States during their migration, the Blackburnian warbler can be easily identified as the only orange-throated warbler in North America. Named after botanist Anna Blackburn, the Blackburnian warbler is territorial on its breeding grounds, solitary in the winter, and only forms flocks during migration. In fact, this little bird is such a loner that even though both parents feed and care for the chicks, the parents separate when the young are old enough to fledge and leave the nest, each taking part of the brood with them.
But even the most solitary parent needs the support of a group every once in a while. After going their separate ways, the parents will sometimes join foraging flocks of kinglets and nuthatches with their begging young, the cries of which have been known to also attract chickadees.
Of the over 50 species of New World warblers to be found in North America, perhaps it is the colorful Blackburnian that stands out as a lone bloom, refusing to join the colorful assemblage of other warblers.
Help protect the winter habitat of Blackburnian warblers by buying SMBC Song Bird Colombian dark roast shade-grown coffee.
Dark Roast Colombian Coffee
Toasted • Spicy • Dark Chocolate
A rich coffee with flavors of toasted nut and dark chocolate followed by a smooth lasting finish, making this a clear winner for dark roast coffee enthusiasts.
Frank Van Curen, Art Explorer and Paul Katzeff, CEO of Thanksgiving Coffee
“I love doing art because until recently I had never done it before. It makes me feel really good. It makes me happy because I love learning new things.”
“Doing art calms me down. I feel happy while I’m planning a design and working on my pictures.”
“Art makes me feel calm…art makes life better.”
“When I do my art I feel calm and like I’m experiencing what I think in my mind and throwing it onto the paper. The colors came from my brain and from nature. God gave me my talent and a giant heart that can love and do art and do other things.”
“Art is both relaxing and exciting. It makes me feel good about myself.”
“I like to spend a long time working on my portraits, often for weeks, even months. Sometimes I wake up in the night and plan what I’m going to do when I get to Art Explorers.”
If you haven’t taken the time to stop by and meet the artists at the Art Explorers Studio and Gallery, then you are missing out on one of the great hidden treasures of downtown Fort Bragg.
Art Explorers has been supporting artists with mental disabilities since 1996, providing a safe space for them to express themselves and find peace of mind with the stoke of a paint brush.
Last weekend, the Art Explorers celebrated a new ceramics show in Town Hall in collaboration with their artist in residence, Sabine Brunner of the Little Cup ceramics studio. A departure from their usual work, the artists got to enjoy expressing themselves in ceramics with hand made sculptures and painted mugs. And what goes perfectly with a new, one of a kind hand painted mug? Why, a fresh cup of coffee of course! Which is why the event also debuted a new fundraiser for the Art Explorers program: Thanksgiving Coffee.
Showcasing the artwork of 5 current Art Explorers, each bag label shares the story of the artist who created it. As the program grows, the work of more artists will have the opportunity to grace the front labels, highlighting the incredible talent of our local artists.
Packages of Art Explorers Coffee, dark roast and decaf, are currently available for purchase at the studio, online, or at special events. Each bag sold supports the artists and staff members of the Art Explorers program, and with 5 different labels to choose from, you’ll want to collect them all!
So take the time to stop on by the studio at 305 E. Redwood Ave (Tues. Thurs. + Fri. 9:00am – 3:00pm, Saturday 12:00pm – 3:00pm) and meet the artists, maybe buy a painting or some greeting cards, and pick up a bag of truly beautiful and one of a kind Art Explorers Coffee.
The Incredible Story of a War-Torn Region Redeemed by the Coffee Bean
The Democratic Republic of Congo is in the heart of central Africa and considered to be the most bio-diverse country in the entire continent, which is quite a distinction. Iconic African wildlife such as jungle elephants and white rhino roam throughout the four national parks, and it is one of the few places on Earth that many great ape species, such as gorilla, chimpanzee and bonobo, call home. Its lush forests and equatorial climate means that the DRC is also an excellent region for growing some of the best sweet Bourbon varietals of coffee trees in the world.
But despite the country’s wealth of natural resources, decades of war, genocide, and political unrest has condemned many of the 68 million civilians to lives of poverty, disease and violence.
The lack of businesses and income-generating activity pushed the DRC into deeper turmoil and left the once=productive coffee sector neglected or abandoned. Most of the coffee farmers could no longer bring their harvest to market and fled the region, while others resorted to smuggling their beans into Rwanda in hopes to barter for food and supplies. So near, and yet so far: smuggling coffee is very dangerous and many people have lost their lives in the attempt.
Due to these circumstances, the small amount of coffee still produced in DRC was coming from small farms with old or rudimentary equipment and no access to international markets. All of that changed when Joachim Munganga founded the now-famous SOPACDI co-op.
Congo Coffee Farm
SOPACDI (Solidarité Paysanne pour la Promotion des Actions Café et Développement Intégral) was created by Joachim Munganga in 2002, as a means to bridge the ethnic strife of the region in order to tap into the international specialty coffee market. The co-op is located on the shores of Lake Kivu, which straddles the border between the DRC on the west bank and Rwanda to the east. Joachim started with his own farm and worked to rehabilitate an old, rundown estate with a central washing station for the co-op to process coffee. It wasn’t until 2008, when SOPACDI joined forces with the UK’s Twin Trading Company, that the doors to the international coffee market were opened wide. Together, they designed and obtained funding for a program to assist them with business skills and to begin rehabilitating the farms and improving the infrastructure, which included spearheading the construction of the first new central coffee washing station to be built in the country in over 40 years.
Since then, SOPACDI has grown to include over 5,200 farmers, 20% of whom are women. In a region infamous for rampant sexual violence, SOPACDI has been a leader in promoting gender equality and supporting the widows of those farmers who died trying to smuggle their beans into Rwanda. In addition to the revitalizing their lost coffee economy, SOPACDI has earned the distinction of being the first certified fair-trade co-op in the DRC and was also named 2014 Sustainability Award Recipient from the Specialty Coffee Association of America. They even hosted the DRC’s first internationally recognized coffee cupping competition, Saveur du Kivu, in 2015.
Economic stability saves lives, and not just human ones. Poor economic conditions result in the rise of eating and selling bushmeat, further endangering the sensitive wildlife of the DRC. As the animals are hunted, their numbers drop and they retreat deeper into the dense jungle. As logging companies and farmers clear away the forests at an alarming rate, they provide poachers an even greater access to hunt. That is, of course, unless the forest and the animals who live there can become a better economic resource to the people of DRC as a sustainable living ecosystem. Such is the hope of shade-grown coffee.
Coffee trees love the shade and they naturally thrive under a jungle canopy. Many coffee farmers additionally supplement their resources by growing shade-loving food crops, such as banana and avocado, along side their coffee trees, all within the natural infrastructure of the forest. By weaving the livelihood of the farmers into the success of a thriving jungle ecosystem, we are simultaneously supporting sustainable commercial goods and conservation.
Grauer’s gorillas are the world’s largest ape and only found in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Over the last two decades their population has plummeted by an estimated 80 percent, which is why the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International has set up a program to help save them based on their success working with mountain gorilla populations in Rwanda. These efforts include daily protection and monitoring, tracking the gorilla groups, scientific research, data collection, local education programs, and community engagement.
By employing the local Congolese people to protect the gorillas, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International is helping to foster a love for these creatures within the community while also creating an economic benefit. They now operate a permanent research and conservation field station in the core of Grauer’s gorilla range, working closely with traditional landowners and other local partners to help ensure the future of the species and countless others at risk in DRC.
Thanksgiving Coffee is proud to support the economic renewal of the DRC by partnering with SOPACDI to bring you Grauer’s Gorilla Congo Coffee. Not only does the purchase of this coffee promote the livelihoods of the SOPACDI farmers, but a percentage of all online sales benefit the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International and their continuing efforts to conserve and study the great apes of the DRC.
Coffee changes the world, but it is quite possible that there is nowhere on Earth more profoundly impacted by the humble coffee bean than the Democratic Republic of Congo is right now. Together, we can all do our part to help stabilize this unique ecological treasure for future generations to enjoy by simply enjoying a good cup of coffee.
For the Birds is a blog series from Thanksgiving Coffee Company, highlighting one of the 200 Neotropical migratory birds who rely on shade grown coffee during their winter migration. In January, we featured the Cedar Waxwing; this month we’re focusing on the Magnolia Warbler – the bird featured on our medium roast Songbird coffee.
Songbird Coffee medium roast from Nicaragua
If you live east of the Mississippi river, you might be familiar with the Magnolia Warbler. This brightly-colored little songbird can be seen in the spring and fall as it passes through on its annual migration. Despite the name, these bird is rarely seen in magnolia trees. In 1810, ornithologist Alexander Wilson collected a specimen from a magnolia in Mississippi. At the time, he gave it the species the more accurate name of “Black-and-yellow Warbler”, but he used “magnolia” for the Latin name, and it stuck.
Like many warbler species, it can be hard to imagine how such a tiny bird, weighing little more than a quarter, can make a 3,000 mile journey, but they do it every year; from their summer breeding range in the Canadian Boral forests all the way down to Central America.
When the “Maggies” head south for the winter, they can often be found on shade grown coffee farms along with other migratory birds such as Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Western Tanager.
Although the population of Magnolia Warblers is thought to be stable, the birds are often victims of collisions with towers and other man-made structures, especially during migration. Habitat loss on their nesting and wintering grounds is also a threat. Supporting Bird Friendly coffee is an important way to keep Magnolia Warblers and other “coffee birds” common.
Medium Roast Nicaraguan Coffee
Nutty • Smooth • Milk Chocolate
Sweet without sugar, mellow without cream. This Smithsonian Bird Friendly Coffee is fruity, nutty and chocolaty with hints of dried mango. Sweet without sugar, mellow without cream, it is a great breakfast coffee. This coffee is roasted to a light milk chocolate color where its bright and complex flavors explode into life.
“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power!”
~ Thomas Edison
Solar energy is the way of the future and an important step toward sustainability, which is why we are proud that one of our Cause Coffee partners is the Solar Living Institute of Hopland California. Not only are they helping thousands of Mendocino County homes harness the awesome energy of the sun, they are also improving the economy by educating the next generation of utility professionals.
Founded in 1998, the Solar Living Institute has been providing professional solar training and a wide array of sustainability courses in Northern California for over 15 years. Their courses are taught by experienced practitioners who bring years of real world knowledge to the classroom with a focus on helping students prepare for job opportunities, start businesses, and live more sustainably.
Over the years, the Solar Living Center has welcomed thousands of visitors to the 12-acre demonstration site where they can find hands on displays of solar power generation, biodynamic farming, permaculture and pollinator gardens, a bee observatory, building with natural resources, and even creek restoration.
Coffee for a Cause: Solar Living
Thanksgiving Coffee is proud to partner with an organization that has taught countless people the skills they need for a renewable energy future- skills that make a huge difference in mitigating the impact we have on the environment. Join us! Order your Solar Select Coffee today and 25% of the sale will help support the energetic efforts of the Solar Living Institute.
January 5 is National Bird Day and to celebrate we are going to kick off a new monthly blog post – For the Birds – highlighting one of the 200 Neotropical migratory birds who rely on shade grown coffee during their winter migration. We will start off by getting to know the birds representing our Songbird Coffee lineup:
Songbird Coffee light roast from Guatemala
The Cedar Waxwing is the perfect representative for our light roast Guatemalan coffee because the ripe cherry sweetness of the coffee reflects the fruity diet of these strikingly beautiful backyard favorites. As social birds, you can usually see them in large flocks around fruit trees such as juniper, cedar, and mulberry, passing berries from one bird to another before swallowing them whole. In fact, the Cedar Waxwing is the only bird in North American whose diet is comprised primarily of fruits and berries.
Unfortunately for the birds, their fruit based diet means that eating overripe or fermented berries can leave them visibly tipsy. For those Waxwings who have had ‘a few too many’, some rescue groups have made ‘holding tanks’ to keep them safe while they sober up before flying home.
All of Thanksgiving’s organically certified coffees are shade grown, and a select few carry the Bird Friendly gold seal of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. This certification ensures that tropical “agroforests” are preserved and migratory birds can find a healthy haven to eat and rest as they travel the hundreds of miles from your backyard to the coffee farms producing the beans you so enjoy every morning.
You don’t need binoculars to find a coffee that protects forests, helps wildlife and supports the efforts of the American Birding Association; just look for the Songbird Coffee with the Cedar Waxwing on the front.
Who hasn’t spent a few happy moments distracted by animal videos on the Internet? Feline antics, dog fails, and even a chicken riding a Roomba: viral videos are shared far and wide. While they usually do little more than make us smile and delay us from writing that important email, sometimes they show us a glimpse into a world far beyond our own.