Last month, the good folks at Operation Groundswell let us know about the fantastic trips they lead to Central America to reconnect people with where their food comes from. Their trips are inspiring, educational and adventurous, and often end up in coffee country…so we thought you’d like to hear about them. Enjoy!
-The team at Thanksgiving Coffee Co.
From Seed to Shelf, Ethical Consumerism From The Ground Up
Guest Post: by Lindsey Berk, Operation Groundswell
“Eating is an agricultural act.”
– Wendell Berry, American novelist, activist, cultural critic, and farmer
We seem to have forgotten that…
At least, I had forgotten that until I left my corporate job and my NYC apartment in 2011 to begin a three-year journey around Latin America and Australia. Working on a winery in Mendoza, Argentina during its harvest taught me the importance of a farmer’s vigilance and dedication – as well as how fickle a crop can be. WWOOFing on an organic farm in Byron Bay, Australia, brought out my inner child as I delighted in pulling carrots, radishes and peanuts out of the ground.
Volunteering at a coffee cooperative in Guatemala instilled in me the importance of fair wages and food justice. This was the same girl who had grown up with a plethora of food in the pantry, always answering the slightest hunger rumble with a more-than sufficient meal without giving a second thought to how that food got there.
But now I know how food gets to us. I know that a cup of coffee is never just a cup of coffee.
I know that every ingredient has its own journey, and that frankly, not all journeys are created equal. Local or industrial; organic or conventional; commodity crop or Fair Trade, slow food or fast food. These words were not just created by marketers; they have a real impact on the way we eat. That’s why I teamed up with Operation Groundswell to lead From Seed to Shelf: Ethical Consumerism from the Ground Up in Guatemala this fall.
From Seed to Shelf is a nine-day exploration of where our food, and coffee, comes from and what it goes through before hitting the shelves of our local grocery store.
We’ll go into the jungle to taste raw cacao straight out of the pod. We’ll farm alongside coffee farmers while hearing about their daily struggle to live off the world’s second-most traded commodity. We will peel back the curtain of industrial agriculture and see the challenges our food producers face every day. We will research issues such as food justice, land distribution, and malnutrition in real time and with real people who face these issues every day, every week, every year.
Guatemala’s unique political and economic landscape will serve as the setting for our adventure. We will get our hands dirty working on a community-initiated project, stretch our legs as we ascend an active volcano, and cleanse our minds in the beautiful hot springs of Fuentes Georginas.
We created this program knowing full well that “we don’t know what we don’t know.” But ignorance is not bliss; come to Guatemala this fall and take a step towards closing our food knowledge gap.
Operation Groundswell is a non-profit organization committed to providing authentic, ethical, and affordable travel opportunities to people all over the world. For seven years, OG has facilitated backpacking and service-learning programs to Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America carrying out small scale development projects and building a community of travelers that are socially, environmentally, and politically aware of their impact in the communities they travel to and live in.
For more information on the Seed to Shelf Program, click here.
Meet Burke Powers – one of the fine folks on our roasting team. Before working with Thanksgiving Coffee, Burke was in the US Army for 7 years, working on Bulldozers and other heavy equipment.
“I liked coffee a lot and drank a lot of it, but I didn’t know anything about roasting,” says Burke. “I knew Thanksgiving was here in Fort Bragg, and that it was a good local company, and when I applied, they decided to train me as a roaster.”
Burke started with us in August, 2013, and has been working closely with our roasting team, Jacob and Cody, to learn the art of roasting coffee. He had a knack for it.
“When you start roasting, your eyes pop open. You realize what you’re doing is important – and every roast is like taking a chance. You have to be aware of what’s going on around you at all times, the sound of the beans hitting the drum, the first crack – every sound means something. It was a little scary at first – we were doing 32 roasts a day, living our lives every 15 minutes. It was exciting.”
Every roast has to meet a pre-determined profile, which is developed by our roastmaster. Coffee from different countries brings its own unique flavors with it – the soil, the climate, the geography all brings something to the flavor. There’s a lot to learn when you train to become a coffee roaster.
“The most challenging coffees to roast are the dark roasts, because you’re right on the edge of burning the coffee. I prefer the medium roasts, they’re more well balanced. That’s what I look for in a coffee,” says Burke.
“My favorite coffee right now is the new Bolivian crop that just came in – it’s a really clean cup with full body. The beans are very uniform and the coffee has a nice sweetness to it. I try to keep up with what’s new crop as Jacob brings it in – but the light roasts have more caffeine so I need to be careful. I usually reserve those for drinking in the mornings!”
As many of our staff have, in his first year working with Thanksgiving Coffee, Burke has developed a strong appreciation for coffee.
“Our job is easier than the farmers’ jobs – by far. I really appreciate the work that goes in at origin, it all starts there. You have to value that and take it seriously. In fact, I can’t bring myself to throw a drop of coffee out anymore, it’s just too precious.”
In February of 2013, Thanksgiving Coffee staff visited the farm of Alexa Marín Colindres, a member of the PRODECOOP Cooperative in Nicaragua. We toured her farm, listened to her heartbreaking story, and wondered how we could help. Later that day, we did a blind cupping of 20 of the cooperative’s coffees, and asked that her coffee be included.
We sipped and slurped for two hours to get through them all, scoring each coffee on Fragrance, Aroma, Body, Acidity, Flavor Notes and Balance. One coffee was, hands down, the best on the table – and it turned out to be Alexa’s. We bought 10 sacks (all that was available), and are proud to offer you this special coffee, and invite you to help.
Meet Alexa. She lives with her two teenage sons in the mountains of Northern Nicaragua, where they focus on growing the best coffee possible. She has been a coffee farmer for many years and has worked with the cooperative PRODECOOP since 1992.
In 2013, Alexa noticed that the leaves on her coffee trees were affected by La Roya, a fungal disease which attacks the leaves and prevents them from converting sunlight into energy. The coffee cherries turn brown and fall off before ripening, and the tree eventually dies.
La Roya is thought by many in the coffee industry to be one of the many challenges brought on by Climate Change. This disease is sweeping across coffee country, devastating the coffee trees of many small, family farmers – and threatening their way of life.
For some, this will mean starting over – even on a new piece of unaffected land. For others, it may mean removing or pruning affected trees and replanting where necessary.
Want to Help? Support Project: La Roya
Alexa’s coffee is fabulous and we want her coffee farm to thrive – so we decided to rally our customers to support her and other farmers battling La Roya. In March 2014, we launched Project: La Roya with our partners at The Social Business Network (SBN) in Nicaragua.
The project will raise $10,000 to help the farmers of PRODECOOP stop the spread of this disease and re-plant 5,000 coffee trees that have been affected. $2 from every bag of Finca de Alexa coffee sold will be invested in Project: La Roya.
We’re proud to announce that we now offer Numi Organic Tea in our online store!
Numi is dedicated to sustainable values, to quality and to their communities – local and global. All of Numi’s teas and blends contain organic teas and/or herbs, as well as 100% real botanicals, including fruits, flowers and spices – no additional flavorings, oils or fragrances are ever added. They are at the forefront of the introduction of PuŸerh (pu-err), an ancient healing tea, picked from 500-year old wild, organic tea trees, in Yunnan, China. We carry 11 varieties of Black, Green, Herbal and Decaf teas from Numi. Add some tea to your next coffee order!
Numi’s packaging materials are biodegradable and/or recyclable, and over 95% incorporate post-consumer waste or bamboo. Packages are produced in a solar-powered facility and printed with soy-based ink. They use natural, biodegradable filter-paper tea bags, rather than “silky” tea sachets made from plastic or genetically-modified corn.
Numi is committed to ethical sourcing that supports the rights and the livelihoods of farmers and of farm workers. They are the largest importer of Fair Trade Certified Teas in to the U.S. We are proud to partner with Numi and offer their teas to you.
–> Try some Numi Organic Tea
Each year, we like to put together a special blend for the harvest and holiday season – to accompany cold weather, holiday meals and family gatherings.
Our 2013 Holiday Blend brings together coffees from Nicaragua and Indonesia, roasted individually to articulate their sweetness and develop a complex, full-bodied cup. The result is a big, bold blend with notes of plum and cashew and a smooth, savory finish.
In a big, 1.5 pound bag (twice our normal bag size), the Holiday Blend is a great way to stock up on coffee for the holiday season, and makes a great gift. We hope you enjoy it. Happy Thanksgiving!
Want us to ship gifts to your friends and family? Choose “Ship To: someone else” when you add coffee to your shopping cart – you can ship to multiple locations in a single order!
(offer ends 12/1/13)
by Paul Katzeff, CEO & Co-Founder
I have been drinking coffee since I was 17 years old. I will be 76 in February. That’s been 59 years of coffee drinking. I have averaged approximately 2.5 cups per day for 21,535 days. That comes to 53,837 eight ounce cups of coffee (plus or minus), in my lifetime so far. This is about 61 fifty-gallon drums of coffee. Considering ten minutes per cup on average, I have spent 373 full 24 hour days behind a cup of coffee. Granted, I was not just sipping coffee during those moments, I was taking a time out for, I am convinced, a health break.
I’m currently in Phoenix, Arizona playing in the “Over 75” Senior Baseball World Series. I am a catcher, playing the best baseball of my life at 75, and I owe it all to 3,364 gallons of coffee. I’ll let you know how I did when I get back in November. Until then, as my mother never said, “Don’t forget to drink your coffee.”
Learn more about the benefit coffee can have on your workout – “How Coffee Can Galvanize Your Workout” – NY TIMES
PHOTO: Paul Katzeff, batting strong in the 2012 over 70 senior baseball world series.
In the Summer of 2010, our roasting facility and office building burned down. Thanks to many of our customers and partners, we were able to get back on our feet quickly, but for the past 3 years, our staff has been split between two temporary buildings about 2 miles away from each other – an office where sales and marketing staff work, and the warehouse-turned-production facility where we currently roast and package our coffees.
Our new roastery has been under construction for almost a year now, and we’re getting closer and closer to moving into it! It will include an improved production floor, a large cupping lab and additional space where we will be able to host public tastings, meetings and events. We can’t wait to have you over for a visit once it’s finished!
Stay up to date: Like us on Facebook and Follow Our Blog
A guest post by Mandy Johnston, Six Degrees Coffee Distribution & Service
Six Degrees Coffee was thrilled to sponsor Chico’s Erica Koenig for the 2013 Western Regional Barista Competition this April. She had the opportunity to work closely with Thanksgiving Coffee Company roaster Jacob Long to develop “The Contender,” an espresso blend featuring coffees from Ethiopia, Sumatra, Guatemala and Peru.
“Being able to blend an espresso to what my ideal shot should taste like while getting the opinion of key players like Amy Louis, Jacob Long & Paul Katzeff was incredible.”
Before the competition, Erica perfected her espresso shots & cappuccinos and developed her signature drink, featuring The Contender, whipped coconut cream, cardamom and her grandmother’s apricot jam made with fruit grown on her family’s farm. Erica’s presentation drew from her farming background to showcase the connection between the land, the coffee, the farmers and the baristas. While she didn’t place, Erica’s presentation scored in the hearts of the judges, audience members and fellow competitors.
“Since the competition, I feel like I have a better sense of what makes the world go ’round, and how we can improve the whole industry. Even being in the same room with Paul gave me a deeper appreciation for everyone who is involved in making that cup of coffee come to fruition. Now I see how the chain needs every one of us to do our best in order to do right by the coffee.” –Erica Koenig
by Kim Moore, Director of Business Development
Since 1997, fans of comfort food have flocked to one of Chow’s four locations to experience San Francisco cuisine, reflective of the City’s Italian and Asian heritages. Whenever possible, Chow uses fresh and organic ingredients, from community, local and regional farms. Wild-caught seafood, along with free-range organic poultry and natural pork, center a cuisine that, for 11 years in a row has been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants.
Chow’s wine selection features small-lot producers, offering choices that are varied, unusual and fun. Beers are on tap, and desserts are made for all four Chow locations in the Danville location’s Bakery. Fresh-squeezed/pressed juices and coolers are memorable.
And –surprise– Chow features its own proprietary blend of rich and smooth Thanksgiving Coffee and Espresso. Chow serves Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner during the week, and Brunch, Lunch and Dinner on the weekends. Menus change frequently and seasonally. Get thee to Chow, where friends (old and new) and neighbors gather, and are graced by warm and cordial service.
Visit one of Chow’s four locations in San Francisco, Danville or Lafayette. Learn more at ChowFoodBar.com