by Scott Menzies,
My biggest fear, driving down the highway before dawn in a large delivery truck, is deer. The concept of roadkill – that wildlife should senselessly suffer and die because of automobiles – is abhorrent to me, not to mention dangerous. And, of course, dawn is one of the worst times for wildlife on the roads. Fortunately, what I have encountered has been safely on the side of the road, or crossed well before my arrival. Other drivers and wildlife haven’t been so fortunate.
That said, dawn on Highway 1 along the Mendocino Coast is beautiful. I’ve been to a lot of places in my life – Nepal, Taiwan, Southeast Asia – and the Mendocino Coast is high on the list of the most stunning places I’ve been. Seeing the sun break on the Coast is a gift I get every time I do this run, which, as a cover driver is not always, helps keep me from taking it for granted. The days may be long and hard (especially for someone who is subbing), but the “office” is unreal. I feel very fortunate to have the chance to deliver along such a beautiful region.
As the sun rises, I’m always assured of seeing the ridiculous view at Cuffy’s Cove, greeting me just around the bend from the Catholic cemetery before I reach the little town of Elk (also called Greenwood). Its full splendor is only really visible when you’re coming from the north. Unfortunately, cruising south to get to my first delivery on time makes it hard to feel I can justify stopping on the tiny pull-off to snap a shot to share with you, though I would certainly have the view to myself if I did so.
Later in the day there are often a few cars pulled off, folks gawking at something that’s just hard to describe. One of my colleagues told me it often catches people off guard, causing them to come to a screeching halt on the side of the road to take it in. It really is that beautiful.
The South Coast deliveries span from The Sea Ranch on the northern Sonoma County coast to Albion, a few miles south of Mendocino Village. The first deliveries are to the two, interestingly-facing, supermarkets in Gualala (virtually across the street from each other): Gualala Super and Surf Super. I’ll let you guess which is on the ocean side of Highway 1. Gualala, derived from the original Pomo Native American descriptor for the area, and pronounced “Walala” or “Gwalala” depending on who you talk to, sits at the southernmost part of the Mendocino Coast. After stocking the fixtures at the two supermarkets and bouncing down to The Sea Ranch in Sonoma County, the deliveries are all on the northbound trip back toward our Noyo Harbor plant in Fort Bragg.
Driving north, by far the most interesting building I deliver to on this route is St. Orre’s, with its “unique structures that honor the romantic Russian heritage of the area,” according to their website. If you go up on the little hill just off the parking lot, you will see the grave of Charles the cat, “The King of the Meadow”, who passed away at the ripe old age of 23 a few months back. I was bummed that I never got the chance to meet a feline who was born in 1989, as when I first started delivering there, Charles was still around. Alas, I waited too long ask to ask how I could visit him, and Charles decided that he was done with this plane. By the time I delivered again, I could only meet him at his memorial. I love cats.
The rest of the day takes me through Anchor Bay and up through Point Arena, where we recently installed a new coffee fixture in their local member-owned co-op, Point Arena Market & Café. A trip down to Pier Chowderhouse and the Wharfmaster’s Inn affords me the opportunity to see up close Point Arena’s impressive cliffs. It’s hard to imagine the old wooden chutes that use to exist at each and every one of these ports to load logs onto ships during the period of timber extraction that originally brought these places into existence. I understand that the job of receiving the logs on the ship-end was particularly dangerous, and many a worker was killed for being unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of an errant old-growth redwood log.
Of course, nowadays, most of these places rely on tourism to function, and, well, there’s certainly good reason for it. In places like The Sea Ranch or Irish Beach you can find vacation rental houses, for those who need a getaway from their everyday lives. I remember, well before moving to Fort Bragg in late 2011, spending time with my parents at a house in Irish Beach, visiting the shops in Elk and stopping at S&B Market in Manchester for supplies, which, nowadays, is notable as my last market fixture delivery for the day.
To think back to the wonder I felt being on the Coast with my parents as a visitor to now, being a resident (but still full of wonder), makes each delivery down there a trip partially of nostalgia. My Dad’s not around anymore, and as I wind along the hills, coves, and cliffs – in a Ford van not unlike one my father had when I was younger – I think about how happy he’d be about the new life I have living in Fort Bragg and being a TCC employee who periodically gets to deliver the Mendocino South Coast.
In Early February, 12 Thanksgiving Coffee staff, partners and friends traveled to Nicaragua to meet farmers and cooperatives, start new sustainability projects and select the best coffees for 2013.
We visited the cooperatives and farmers that we buy coffee from, picked coffee on a small farm, tried our hands at turning coffee on the drying patios, learned about many exciting sustainability projects and cupped some excellent coffees. In every encounter with our partners in Nicaragua, we participated in heartening conversations about coffee and sustainability, built and strengthened relationships, learned a tremendous amount about coffee and ourselves, and saw a glimpse of the future of coffee.
Each of us is looking forward to the next opportunity we have to connect with our friends in Nicaragua, and to sharing our stories here at home over an excellent cup of Nicaraguan coffee. As our partners at Six Degrees Coffee say, “Coffee Connects Us.” After this year’s trip to Nicaragua, we feel even more deeply connected to the people and places where our coffees are sourced from.
—> See more photos from our trip.
Many of our blends include beans from Nicaragua…here are a few that feature 90% or more Nicaraguan coffee:
– By Paul Katzeff, Co-Founder of Thanksgiving Coffee
The year was 1994, the place was Washington DC, the event was the first Coffee Sustainability Conference; the host was The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. The issue that brought 150 environmental activists and coffee business owners together was the fact that the new practice of growing coffee in the sun, which was begun in the early 70’s, had been discovered to be the cause of the disappearance of 60% of North America’s migratory songbirds. When you cut down forests to expose the land to sun, you remove the homes and habitat of birds that spend their winters in the southern hemisphere, vacationing in the warm climate, in wait for the Northern Spring to begin their migration back home.
I had come to D.C. “armed” with a Keynote Address that was more of a challenge then a speech. It was titled “Beyond Organic.” I had been frustrated with the way the industry was developing and promoting organic coffee. We at TCC had been importing and selling Certified Organic coffee since 1990 but demand was slow to develop because “organic” was a health issue in America, and who wants to think about health issues when you begin your day with a cup of Joe. I saw “organic “ as a much bigger issue and so did the people at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC). They saw sun grown coffee as the way toward an environmental disaster being created by the removal of habitat needed for birds, monkeys and all sorts of forest canopy dwellers. The Conference was called to expose this problem and to stop the practice of cutting down forests to grow coffee in the sun.
Why coffee, a shade-loving evergreen tree, which was shade grown for 500 years was now being grown in the sun is a conspiracy story that involves The World Bank, national governments, chemical companies, the oil industry, international timber companies, the greed of Plantation owners and the hope of getting out of poverty by small scale coffee farmers. It is an interesting story about the early use of oil based chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides on coffee farms, and the US furniture and housing industry’s need for the hardwoods coming out of the virgin forests of Central and South America. (A story for another time).
IMAGE: Coffee Buyers Value Chart – 1994
This Sustainable Coffee Conference became a turning point for the industry. I introduced a TCC brochure that included our “Coffee Buyers Value Chart” which created a point system for buying and identifying sustainable coffee.
I challenged the attendees to think about Sustainability as more then “organic” and this set in motion the next evolution in coffee cultivation, and subsequently, the marketing of “shade grown” coffee as an essential to saving migratory songbirds.
Attending the conference was the Executive Director of The American Birding Association who, like me, was an Alumnus of Cornell University School of Agriculture. He approached me with the idea of creating a shade grown coffee package to both educate bird lovers about buying only shade grown coffee (yet to be found on the shelves), and also, to raise funds for his organization, The American Birding Association. After a handshake and three months of graphic design by Chris Blum, Songbird Coffee was launched.
In the fall of 1994 the world of coffee changed with the Songbird Coffee introduction. Coffee became a focus for America’s 73 million backyard bird lovers, the 1,000 Bird Business’ like Wild Birds Unlimited, and the 2 billion dollar bird food industry. Thanksgiving Coffee Company had used birds and shade to move organic coffee away from a health discussion and into an environmental discussion with Habitat preservation as the mission for buyers of shade grown coffee.
We have been selling Songbird Coffees for 19 years. By 2010 Songbird sales had raised $142,000 for ABA’s Birders Exchange, which purchases and donates scientific equipment to ornithologists in poor countries so they can study and preserve bird habitat in their countries to the south.
After 20 years, it is time to reintroduce Songbird Coffees to this generation of bird lovers. Lets make our 40th year the year we put bird friendly coffee and the forest canopy it comes from into the climate change discussion.
Each year, we like to put together a blend for the holiday season – to accompany cold weather, holiday meals and family gatherings.
Our blend for the 2012 holiday season brings together shade grown and organic coffees from Costa Rica and Nicaragua – which are roasted individually to articulate their sweetness and develop a complex full-bodied cup. The result is a rich, heavy-bodied blend with notes of milk chocolate and a hint of cinnamon.
It’s perfect the perfect blend to usher in the holiday season and warm up your morning. We hope you enjoy it – Happy Holidays!
Last Friday, Scott Menzies kicked off a sale at Eureka Natural Foods with a pour-over tasting.
He spent four hours brewing up five fresh coffees with Bee House pour-over drippers and a variable temperature Bonavita gooseneck kettle (with a built-in timer) into some nice glass Hario Range Servers.
Can you get more geeky?…..Probably.
Here’s what Scott was serving up:
We love doing coffee tastings – it’s a great opportunity to hear from people who enjoy our coffee, and answer questions about how we source and roast our beans. It’s also a great chance to introduce new roasts and blends – and share the unique story of each of our coffees.