By Joan Katzeff, Co-Founder & Director of Operations
I first visited Nicaragua in the early 1990’s. The terrible years of the Iran Contra Civil War were still dominant in the memory of the people, and its effects had taken a huge toll on coffee farmers already enduring a difficult way of life.
At one of the beneficios (where coffee is processed), I watched an assembly line of women sitting on a motley collection of chairs on either side of a moving conveyor belt. Their job was to separate defective beans from those that made the grade for sale and export. It was noisy, hot and dusty, so the women also wore masks that covered their noses and mouths while working.
I left knowing that as soon as I returned home, I would figure out a way to raise money to purchase new ergonomic chairs for those women, and I did, in a gesture of solidarity. But, I knew it was just a drop in the bucket.
Thanksgiving Coffee staff with the women of SOPPEXCCA, 2013
On another small group trip in 2012, we visited the beneficio of Soppexcca, a cooperative composed predominantly of women.
We spent some time “helping” the women transfer coffee beans from the drying patio into sacks that were in process for export. I’m not sure how helpful we were, but it was an enjoyable cultural exchange. These women performed hard physical work on a daily basis. Many of them walked miles to and from work each day if transportation wasn’t available, preparing meals for their families before and after work at the beneficio, as well as doing the rest of the work required in the home, and child rearing responsibilities, as well.
We were invited to sit in on a Board of Directors meeting composed of some of the women we’d worked with, and others from the cooperative who had founded and were operating a small store at the beneficio that sold food and sundries, and was a source of additional income for them.
Women coffee workers of SOPPEXCCA, 2013
While there has been progress made in the recognition and fair and equal compensation for women who work in coffee, there is still a long way to go.
Women we’ve met on buying trips to Central America and Africa live in remote towns and villages without running, potable water or electricity. Homes are rustic, often with a dozen or more family members living in one or two rooms with dirt floors. Many women don’t have access to health care, marry young, and have children soon after. During the “thin months” when coffee income is low, they and their children often go hungry. They perform much of the physical labor required to grow and harvest coffee, but have almost no influence on decisions about how family income is spent. They are typically uneducated, impoverished and disconnected from resources.
Thanksgiving Coffee & ETICO staff meeting with the women of SOPPEXCCA, 2013
Thanksgiving Coffee began to address these issues in two ways.
First, by purchasing only from cooperatives that show a willingness to eradicate this kind of gender inequity. They do this through their actions in support of remedies to eliminate food insecurity, and promoting, providing and ensuring access to training and education for women. These actions will enable women to participate as equal partners in the industry.
The second way we, as a company, have supported women in coffee is through “The Recognition of the Unpaid Work of Women.” We began this work in 2014, in Nicaragua by adding $0.10 per pound to all coffees we purchase from the Prodecoop and Soppexcca Coopperatives. They have committed to using these funds to improve the lives of women in coffee. The next post will go into detail about what has been accomplished to date.
– Joan Katzeff
Joan Katzeff, Co-Founder, Thanksgiving Coffee and Fatima Ismail, General Manager, SOPPEXCCA, 2013
Over the past several years, we’ve seen single-cup brewing machines like Keurig’s K-Cups become extremely popular.
They’re everywhere: in office buildings, hotels, gas stations, homes and restaurants. And we know why people love them: they’re convenient, easy to use, and brew a consistent cup of coffee.
But for years we’ve been struggling with the idea of packaging our coffees in K-Cup pods. Why?
Flavor quality is often compromised
Coffee is at its best within a few weeks of roasting. But most coffee pods packaged for single-cup brewers are pre-loaded with sub standard coffee, and in our experience, it’s usually stale. They also are loaded with a smaller amount of coffee than is necessary to brew a full-strength, flavorful cup. We love our coffee, and we refuse to provide weak, stale coffee to our customers.
Substantial waste is created
When you brew coffee using disposable coffee pods, you’re creating waste with every cup you brew. Imagine millions of people brewing multiple cups of coffee per day with their single cup brewers, and throwing away millions of plastic cups. That’s a lot of waste – and as a B-Corp Certified company with strong social & evironmental values, we don’t want to be a part of that.
Coffee pods are a “value added” product – roasters who package their coffee in disposable coffee pods are charging for the convenience they allow. That means your money doesn’t go nearly as far as when you buy whole bean or ground coffee in a bag. Spending a ton of extra money for a poor cup of coffee just doesn’t seem right to us.
There’s nothing better than grinding and enjoying a fresh cup from freshly-roasted whole beans – but we know that’s not always a reality in today’s fast-paced world. We know that many people have a single cup brewer in their home or office, and are forced to drink substandard coffee as a result.
We decided to go in search of a reusable K-Cup filter that could be used to brew our coffee without compromising flavor quality or the environment.
During our research, we found that many 3rd party reusable filters are made cheaply, with flimsy plastic parts that broke easily. Others left a strange “plastic” taste in the cup after brewing (gross!). Others still were undersized and couldn’t be filled with enough coffee to create a cup that was strong enough. But some worked – quite well!
The Ekobrew Elite (pictured at left) performed the best of all the reusable cups we tested.
We like the solid build of the stainless steel construction, and that this reusable K-Cup does not require any disposable paper filter. Since it’s not made of plastic, there’s no plastic aftertaste, or worry about BPA residue.
And best of all – the Ekobrew Elite is a Zero Waste brewing solution for your Keurig brewer!
We’re now offering the Ekobrew Elite in our online store, along with brewing instructions to help you brew the best cup of coffee possible with a single cup brewer.
Buy an Ekobrew Elite for your single cup brewer. Then, follow these instructions to make the best cup of coffee possible with a single cup brewer, and you’ll save money and the environment while you’re at it! Download and print the brewing guide and post next to your single-cup coffeemaker for quick reference in your home or office.
High in the lush mountains of northern Peru, two thousand family farmers produce coffee under the dense shade of guavas, acacias, orange, and banana trees. These farmers are members of CENFROCAFE, an association of over 80 small cooperatives working together to produce one of the finest coffees in Peru, while stewarding the surrounding mountain ecosystem.
Members of CENFROCAFE
Delicate honey-toned sweetness, juicy citric acidity, subtle chocolate notes, and hints of ripe papaya.
The province of Cajamarca has long been the backbone of Peru’s economy due to its vast mineral wealth. Unfortunately, these days, modern mining techniques despoil the earth and surrounding rivers and forests. The cultivation of high quality organic coffee has become the key to Cajamarca’s economic and environmental sustainability, and the farmers of CENFROCAFE are leaders in this effort.
Photos from CENFROCAFE
The members of CENFROCAFE carefully pick ripe cherries, depulp, ferment, wash and dry their coffee on their small farms ranging in size from one to three acres. The result is a finely crafted coffee with hints of honey, papaya, and milk chocolate complimented by a soft citric acidity.
Roastmaster Jacob Long
Our roastmaster, Jacob Long, shared his thoughts about the 2015 crop:
“The Peruvian Coffee we received this year is nice and sweet. Right now the beans are fresh and vibrant. It’s one of our favorite single origins at the moment.
People who typically don’t appreciate light roasts might like this coffee more than others – the acidity is more smooth and juicy than bright. When I taste this coffee, the smooth milk chocolate notes really come through.”
Delicate honey-toned sweetness, juicy citric acidity, subtle chocolate notes, and hints of ripe papaya.
Carlos and his brother Fausto are both Members of the Solidaridad Cooperative in Aranjuez, Nicaragua. We have worked with them for over 20 years, and are proud to bring you their coffee in this special two-bag offering (only 100 available).
The Natural coffee Carlos has produced is richly fruity with an unforgettable finish. The washed process coffee Fausto has produced is delightful, with layers of honey and apricot that are followed by a soft, pleasant sparkle.
Enjoy these two coffees separately, but be sure to experiment with blends. We found that a ratio of 60% washed and 40% natural produced a cup that is somehow better then the sum of its already delicious parts.
Carlos Lanzas Gonzales
Carlos was born in Arenal, and his father built houses – he was a carpenter and wasn’t really involved in agriculture. “Like all children I played a lot, soccer, baseball. I studied up to 3rd grade then began to work. With my brothers we rented some land in Aranjuez and began to grow vegetables. Our main conditions were good soil, and accessibility to the city. We rented for a while then got land as a part of the agrarian reform- 120 manzanas (208 acres) between 12 of us, for about 10 manzanas (17.4 acres) per person. We formed a cooperative, at that time it was the only way to get loans or inputs.”
“I love to work in the countryside. I talk to the plants, ask them how they are. When the coffee trees have flowers they are happy, when the coffee is ripening they are gleeful, and when the coffee is ready to be harvested it’s in an even better mood.”
On changes in the community: “Now we have good roads, a school, a health post, electricity, we’ve been able to improve our homes, these changes are due to coffee. With vegetables you can’t get much income. Over 70 manzanas (121 acres) of land has been reforested, we’ve been conserving the soil. We’ve put trees on the land that is not planted in coffee, in order to protect the watershed. Most of the water that goes to the rest of Aranjues and to Matagalpa comes from our lands.”
“There’s always a risk that the seeds will be bad, the inputs too expensive, or that the sale price won’t cover the costs. We win and lose, it’s the rhythm of our lives. But we’ve been able to improve our lives with the buyer that we’ve found. The small producer usually doesn’t have access to the market- we’er always in the hands of the intermediaries and they get most of our earnings.”
On the meaning of well-being: “All the best things you desire. When the work we do is compensated, we can educate our children, have good food, live a just life. With a good price we have a better life, we have the right to that, don’t we? My favorite time of year is when I sell my coffee, in April or May.
On the meaning of coffee: “It’s our source of life. The most marvelous thing about her is that she gives progress to our family. She helped us to get what we have. Agriculture in general is not very profitable. 12 years ago we got help from Norway through UNAG, they helped us to get started in coffee. It was a good program because it helped us a lot, gave us the techniques. We didn’t know anything about coffee at the time. When the prices went up to $1.70 because of the frosts in Brazil, we thought of nothing but coffee. I have 25 manzanas (43.5 acres) of land in another place for growing beans and corn, and 2 manzanas (3.5 acres) in transition to organic. I have Caturra and Catimor that I’m planning to change for maracaturra.”
On the meaning of the cooperative: “The only way to have strength is through being united. The co-op gives us lots of advantages, helps us get credit, if we did;t have its it would be difficult to sell our coffee. Our successes have been building the cupping laboratory, getting credit, selling our coffee for a good price.”
Carlos’ hope for the future: “Maintain a good relationship with Paul, sell more coffee, give more work to nearby families. Have a coffee take us as far as it can. Continue to protect the environment around us. Unite and ask for more help, for housing, schools, a better life for poor people.”
“We put a lot of effort into sending the best coffee that we produce so that we can get a fair price. The harvest takes a lot of sacrifices and effort. Maybe someday the drinkers of our coffee will come and meet us to learn where coffee comes from.”
— — — — — —
Fausto Lanzas Gonzales
Family: 5 children; Karla Patricia 24 (teacher at El Quetzal, a hacienda down the road), Frank 23 (producer and member of the cooperative), Fabio 22 (producer, not a member of the cooperative), Wilmer 20 (7th grade), Sadia 17 (11th grade).
Fausto was born in Matagalpa and raised in El Arenal. 30 years ago he came to Aranjuez because the area was known for having good soil and they had to move because of all the agricultural burning where they used to live. There were very few small farmers here at the time. In 1990 he started to grow coffee.
“When I got here, there were no schools, people were poorer, life was more difficult. Now my five children have studied, they are professionals. Before, people grew vegetables on naked land, now with the coffee we have reforested and there are lots of birds. We don’t slash and burn and chemicals are used much less intensively. Agricultural chemicals used to be very risky and dangerous. The whole region has improved; the culture, the education.”
On the meaning of coffee: “It’s what I live in, the way I survive, my work. We were growing vegetables, they weren’t worth anything for a while. When the project from Norway came and gave us credit for coffee, we were looking for a different product. I like harvest time, knowing that I’m working for the good of the whole family, so we can get ahead…”
Fausto’s “I have 10.5 manzanas (18.2 acres) of land in total, 5 manzanas (8.7 acres) are planted in coffee, 2.5 (4.3 acres) of them are organic, and 4 manzanas (7 acres) are natural forest. The coffee varieties I have are Caturra, Maracaturra, and a little bit of Catimor.”
Meaning of quality: “If I have quality, I’ll get a good price and I will not have trouble selling my coffee.”
“Thinking that you have to live here and do this, that it’s an obligation. Thinking that if you don’t do it you won’t have any way to make a living. Also, the possibility of losing a harvest because of a natural disaster; the “El Nino” phenomenon, drought, or hurricane, A couple years ago I lost 30% of my coffee in a drought and I lost my wet mill during hurricane Mitch.”
On the meaning of the cooperative: “It’s very important, one of the necessities here in the in the countryside. We help each other, when we have problems we work it out between all of us. It helps us get credit, sales, we’ve learned a lot through the co-op. We’ve had good sales, made good friends, and received financing.”
On the future of the community: “The cooperative needs to support the community leaders to get the basic necessities here. We should petition the government. The cooperative should help with the school and health post when we have the resources, but we’re still small and just starting out.”
Fausto’s hopes for the future: “I want to improve my life and that of my children, help my kids build homes. By caring for the land, she will give us more.”
Fausto’s message to coffee buyers: “We try to produce the best quality for you, we’d like to be recognized for this work. We struggle a lot to achieve this quality and we’d like to be paid for it.”
In a world getting short on water, coffee lovers should begin to get their palates ready to recognize “Dry Processed” or “Naturals” when they buy coffee.
Naturals are processed from cherry to green bean without the customary water de-pulping and subsequent water bath. In the dry process, coffee cherries are dried with their skins and pulp intact.
The cherries are placed in the sun on concrete patios or raised drying beds. The skins tighten as they dry and the pulp juices move inward into the two seed in the cherry’s interior. When the mass is totally dry and crisp, and hard as a rock, they are milled like rice, cleaned and sorted and sacked.
This process produces quite a different flavor profile from wet processed “washed coffee.” The coffees take on the hints of the fruit and at their best, notes of blueberry and strawberry prevail. There is a jammy sensitivity to the brew, lots of body and fruit aromas.
Of course, these great flavors disappear in the darker roasts. We roast naturals, both light and medium, depending on the initial intensity of the fruit flavors.
This month we are featuring two “naturals.” One is from Ethiopia and received a 91 rating from Coffee Review. The other is from one of our favorite coffee farmers in Nicaragua, Byron Corrales, and received a 94 rating.
Byron began experimenting with naturals about 6 years ago. He was the first to master the art in Nicaragua and his naturals are a tad more balanced and a bit less fruity than the Ethiopians, but the jam is there as are the sweet berry flavors.
One of my favorite blending concepts is to blend naturals with washed coffees. In fact, Paul’s Blend is just that.
– Paul Katzeff Roastmaster Emeritus Thanksgiving Coffee
Announcing the Expansionof the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International Partnership.
Lone silverback Mizero
Thanksgiving Coffee Company has just renewed our commitment to help protect the last remaining 880 mountain gorillas, support the people of Rwanda, as well as offer a great coffee.
For more than 10 years Thanksgiving Coffee Co. has supported the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund by raising over $58,000 for their gorilla conservation work, and now, we have just pledged to continue this support with a new contract dedicated to this inspiring partnership.
In 2004, Thanksgiving Coffee began to work with the Dukunde Kawa Coffee Cooperative in Rwanda, and the Fossey Fund, as a way to help strengthen community development in a post genocide country.
Together with the Fossey Fund, we offered support to the Rwandan farmers as they developed sustainable alternatives to logging and poaching, which are two of the largest threats facing mountain gorillas today.
The Fossey Fund has almost 50 years of gorilla protection and conservation history in Rwanda. They are committed to promoting continued research on the gorillas and their threatened ecosystems and to providing education about their relevance to the world. We are honored to work with them and greatly look forward to this continued work. Learn more
“The Fossey Fund believes in protecting gorillas and their habitat by creating better choices for people and supporting the development of a sustainable economy in Rwanda.” Tara Stoinski, Ph.D.-Fossey Fund President/CEO and Chief Scientific Officer
A sustainable economy is essential to the success of this program. We want the next generation to thrive. It has only been 21 years since the fabric of the Rwandan society was torn apart by civil war. The destruction of infrastructure and the severe depopulation of the country crippled the economy. One way that we have been able to offer help to the people of Rwanda is with our ongoing support of the Dukunde Kawa Cooperative.
This Cooperative was formed in 2003 with help from the Rwandan government and the USAID-funded PEARL Project (Partnership to Enhance Agriculture in Rwanda through Linkages). Since then, Thanksgiving Coffee has worked with Dukunde Kawa on a variety of social, economic, and environmental projects aimed at improving the quality of the farmers’ coffee and strengthening the Cooperative, and the benefits it offers to its members. Thanksgiving gives a $.20 per pound Fair Trade premium directly to the Coop for development of community benefit projects, with no strings attached. Read more here
The Dukunde Kawa Cooperative is where the Gorilla Fund Coffee comes from, and they produce one of the most elegant coffees in the world. The cooperatives coffee has won the Rwanda Cup of Excellence 6 years running.) This community of farmers, collectively known as Musasa, has an average of 1 acre each. Their average yield per farm is 500 pounds of coffee, and the average family size per farm is 9 people. Each one of these two thousand small farms produces coffee, and that coffee is the economic lifeblood for their community.
With the purchase of this coffee from The Coop, Thanksgiving is able to help the farmers feed their families, offer shelter from harsh elements, and give them a livelihood that grows year after year. With every package of Gorilla Fund Coffee that is purchased online, Thanksgiving Coffee donates to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International to help their vital work. If you would like to help the mountain gorillas, help the people of Rwanda, and drink delicious coffee, you can, right here.
“When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate on the preservation of the future.”
On Tuesday February 2nd, 2016 Thanksgiving Coffee Company hosted the first Bee Bold Mendocino Advisory Committee meeting.
The goal is to make Mendocino the first “Bee Friendly” County in California.
The meeting began with introductions all around.
Top row left to right – Paul Katzeff – CEO and Co-Founder of Thanksgiving Coffee Company, Tanya Wyldflower – Coastal Bee Keeper, Lavender Cinnamon – Community Development for Thanksgiving Coffee Company, Joan Katzeff – President and Co-Founder of Thanksgiving Coffee Company, Elmer Whaley – Community Environmental Activist, Betty Lou Whaley – Coastal Bee Keeper, Erin Arnsteen – Pollinator Friendly Gardening, Parducci Vineyards, Jess Arnsteen – Manager of Edible Ecosystem for Parducci Vineyards.
Bottom row from left to right, Tim Ward- Farmer and Director of Fundraising and Programming at the Grange Farm School, Sakina Bush – Mendocino Farmers Market Manager, Miles Gordon – Mendocino Food Policy Council, CA Food Policy Council, David Martinez – Winnemen Wintu Community Activist, Anna Marie Stenberg – Mendocino Community Activist, Cornelia Reynolds – Noyo Food Forest Executive Director,
(Not Pictured: Kate Frey – Sustainable Gardens, Co – Author of “Bee Friendly Gardens”, John Schaeffer – President and Founder Real Goods, and Michael Thiele – Gaia Bees.
After our introductions, which included a delicious local honey tasting, 3 main areas of focus were identified.
Policy on pesticide use in Mendocino County. Address the use of Round Up and neonics.
Education/Public Awareness of the plight of bees in Mendocino County.
Planting and providing forage for pollinators and bees in Mendocino County.
At our next meeting we will be defining what we want to accomplish, how to do it, and the desired outcome.
John Schaffer from Real Goods will host the next Bee Bold Advisory Committee Meeting in March.
We are extremely grateful to everyone who came and is willing to work towards a better future for the bees in Mendocino County!
“Evolution isn’t random. We all work together. The act of working together IS the evolution. Cooperation between us accelerates development of each species. The way we hold and support ourselves and each other advances our shared evolution” The Song of Increase
Back in 1978 (that’s thirty eight years ago) I was just beginning to learn about coffee. I spent the first six years getting comfortable with the fire and heat it took to convert it from a tasteless seed into a toasted reddish brown carrier of comforting flavor.
Then I turned my focus to understanding the botany and chemistry of this magical “bean.” One of the first things I wanted to know was what made my coffee so much better then every canned coffee on the shelf.
Back then, a one pound can of Folgers or Martinson’s cost one dollar. My coffee, packed in a clear bag, closed with a twist tie at the top, was $3.50 per pound. I wondered, how could those big coffee companies turn out coffee at such a low price?
Back then there was not a lot of intellectual conversation about coffee in print or on the web. (There was no web, the closest thing to it was The Encyclopedia Britannica.) Coffee was an unsophisticated cup of Joe and not much more. There were no “to go” cups. You didn’t see people walking in the streets, or driving cars with cups of coffee in there hand. Cars didn’t have cup holders yet. Cane sugar found its greatest use in coffee and there was no such thing as corn syrup in packaged foods. It was a simpler time, a time before craft beer, and when people smoked in restaurants.
My investigation led me to Robusta coffee vs. Arabica Coffee.
Back then Every coffee company said their coffee was “Mountain Grown,” an indication that it was High Quality with “Deep, Rich” flavor. But it was pretty much a lie. The canned coffee was basically the lowest grades of coffee they could put into the mouths of unsuspecting and gullible American consumers. The truth was that the major portion of the canned coffee blends was coffee from a variety called Robusta, and Robusta was really cheap coffee with a rough, leathery flavor with wood notes and an ashy dry finish. But it had a heavy body and packed a punch that my coffee did not come close to.
So what was going on here? I was roasting Arabicas, and they were blending in Robustas with their Arabica’s to lower their cost. Robusta was all about volume and price. Arabica was all about flavor. The difference between Specialty Coffee and the 300 year history of coffee leading up to 1978 was the focus on Arabica varieties and the disdain for the Robusta variety.
The botany of these two varieties was very different. Although a raw coffee bean is known to have over 1600 chemical compounds, we tend to define coffee by its caffeine content. (Did you know coffee is 20% coffee oil by weight?) I learned that Robusta varieties have 2.5 -3 times the caffeine as Arabica varieties. I learned that caffeine is a waste product of photosynthesis and is stored in the plant only because the plant, unlike the animal kingdom, can not get rid of its waste. So there it is. And being water soluble, it is not destroyed by the high heat of roasting, and comes out into the cup when coffee is brewed.
So why do these two varieties produce such different levels of Caffeine?
To get to the answer you need to know that the two varieties do best in different environments. The Robusta variety likes the lowlands where the sun is hot, the air is heavy and moist, and the ground is rich in alluvial soils. The Arabica variety loves the cool dryer climates of the high country between 3,000-6,000 ft above sea level. Here the soils are young, with a very thin layer of topsoil, the ground is cool and the forest shade trees are essential for the light sensitive leaves of the Arabica tree.
Photosynthesis is the process by which the plant takes in sunlight (energy) and along with the soils nutrients and water, converts these assets into food. In this case, into coffee berries which contain two seeds and a whole lot of sweet juicy pulp that surrounds them. The seeds are the way the plants reproduces itself, and in the two different environments that these varieties call home, the seeds wind up with different amounts of Carbohydrates (food) and Caffeine (waste). Why?
Germination risk is the reason. The tree evolved to maximize its chances for survival.
When a coffee tree drops its berries at the end of a growing season, it wants the seeds to have a high success rate, meaning it wants its seeds to germinate. In the case of the Arabica variety, high up the mountainside, the conditions for germination and young seedling survival are slim. The soil is dry and cool , and the rainy season is six months after the seeds are ripe and fall from the tree to the ground. The tree knows that it might be a while for the conditions to become perfect. So it prepares the seed by being very efficient with its photosynthesis.
It produces more food and less waste for each seed. High carbs for the long wait and for energy for sprouting under difficult conditions. The Robusta tree does not waste its energy on producing a lot of carbs for the seed’s germination energy because it knows that the soil is warm and moist, and that the nutrients are there in the soil to feed the plant in its sprouting stage. Why waste energy on producing long chain, complex carbohydrates? So the energy goes into the production of Caffeine.
I like to think of the Robusta as a Buick that will operate without being highly tuned and the Arabica tree as a Ferrari that will not run unless it is highly tuned.
Hardy Robusta – Fragile Arabica. Arabicas taste better because they have the need to put food in the seed. That food is a complex starch that under high heat, breaks down into simple sugars which caramelize and produce the flavor of coffee. Robusta has starch to convert to sugar in the roasting process and thus, it is less sweet. Now, caffeine being one of nature’s most bitter substances, adds a distinguishing bitterness to coffee- and 3 times more in Robusta. Arabica coffees have less caffeine, and more carbohydrates so it is sweeter and less bitter. The major negative in Robusta, Caffeine, becomes a positive when you forget the flavor and use it for the speedy pick-up that its caffeine gives the drinker.
In 1978 Thanksgiving Coffee Company introduced Pony Express, “The Jackhammer of Coffee,” the start your day with a “Blastoff” drink.
It is natures natural five-hour power shot. It will make your heart race, it will keep you on your toes, and if you want to stay awake, you will stay awake!
Today, Robusta coffees are quite a bit more flavorful, mostly because the way coffee has evolved over the past 35 years. Flavor counts for value, and value means higher price. When I first created Pony Express, the flavor was metallic with a petroleum aftertaste. It was rough and not to satisfying. Today, our Robusta comes from places like Cambodia, Thailand, and the Philippines. It is clean and has a flavor that will take you back to a time when coffee was “Just a cup of Joe”, but this time, you might just develop a taste for it and never look back.
In 2015, Thanksgiving Coffee became a B Corporation, joining a global community of socially and environmentally progressive businesses.
What’s a B Corp?
B Corps are leading a global movement of people using business as force for good. They use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. B Corps are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
Today, there is a growing community of more than 1,550 B Corporations 42 Countries 130 Industries 1 Unifying Goal: to redefine success in business.
Why did we become a B Corp?
Thanksgiving Coffee has been a longtime advocate of sustainable business practices. We pride ourselves on our long standing work with farmers at origin, investing in social justice and environmental projects, Fair Trade and Organic and biodynamic coffee growing methods. We constantly evaluate our decisions based on their social and environmental impact. B Corp certification seemed like a logical step for us, to join others who operate under these same principles .
We first looked into B Corp Certification because we felt the community reflected our company values, and because we wanted to formalize our membership in the socially and environmentally progressive business community. It’s a simple way of expressing our values to our staff, customers, partners and suppliers. We’re proud to be a part of this movement.
B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification or USDA Organic certification is to coffee. Inc Magazine calls B Corp “the highest standard in socially responsible business.”
To become certified, we underwent the B Impact Assessment. This is conducted by B Lab, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that serves a global movement, “People using Business as a Force for Good.” The assessment shows how a company performs against dozens of best practices on employee, community, and environmental impact.
Once our score was reached, we can then compare and learn how to improve the way we conduct our business for the future. This was a great opportunity to see how we stand and where to set our goals on where we want to be.
The second component to this is our company’s legal status, ensuring that we can justifiably incorporate social and environmental values into our business decisions without risking legal action from our shareholders. This is done by becoming a Benefit Corporation and changing the articles of incorporation.
Finally, we made it official by signing the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence:
We envision a global economy that uses business as a force for good.
This economy is comprised of a new type of corporation – the B Corporation – Which is purpose-driven and creates benefit for all stakeholders, not just shareholders.
As B Corporations and leaders of this emerging economy, we believe:
– That we must be the change we seek in the world.
– That all business ought to be conducted as if people & place mattered.
– That, through their products, practices, and profits, businesses should aspire to do no harm & benefit all.
– To do so requires that we act with the understanding that we are each dependent upon another & thus responsible for each other & future generations.
We won’t stop here. We’ll continue to make strides to improve scores where they’re less than the median, and maintain our practices that are already high. After 2 years, we’ll need to re-certify and prove that we’re still worthy of B Corp status.
Thanksgiving Coffee Company has created Bee Bold Coffee, made a commitment to our bees, and is ready to share it with Mendocino.
In October, Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op (UNF) had their grand re-opening. After 39 years they remodeled their store, and we thought it a perfect time to introduce Bee Bold Mendocino, a local movement to save the bees. So Paul Katzeff, Co-Founder & CEO (pictured in the middle), Jonah Katzeff Vice President (below right) , and myself, Lavender Cinnamon, Community Development (below left), all went to UNF to represent Thanksgiving Coffee and share our commitment to the bees.
Bee Bold Mendocino came about when Friends Of the Earth (FOE) asked Paul for a donation. He offered instead to create a source of ongoing support for their environmental work. As the partnership began to take shape they said, “help us fund our Bee Bold project “. Paul did just that and created #Bee Bold Coffee. The project went straight to his heart, and so did the bees. (link)
When I joined Thanksgiving Coffee Company this past year, this partnership with FOE was just taking flight, and it took hold of my heart as well. It has instilled in me a deeper understanding for this delicate balance of life that we all share, and inspired me to become a steward of the bees. “Everything the bees do is about relationship with one another. The story of colony collapse is a story of how the relationships have been broken, contaminated, or subverted. It is a story of ignorance, thoughtlessness and selfishness- qualities we humans bring to far too many of our relationships, from the most personal and intimate, to the most global and insitutional” Jacqueline Freeman – The Song of Increase(link)
There are many factors at play regarding the health of the bees, however the three main reasons for the decline in the bee populations are; systemic pesticides – neonicotinoids, malnutrition, and disease/mites. The latter being a result of the first two; if your system is poisoned and not properly nourished, your susceptibility to disease is drastically increased. (link) This is what modern farming practices are doing to the health of the pollinators. If we do not learn from this now and change the way we relate to our food, we will not have healthy food left to eat. The simple truth is, do not poison the land, do not poison the water, use the plants as medicine, and grow healthy nourishing food.
As an advocate for Mendocino’s bees, Thanksgiving Coffee Company is committed to educate, gather support from our community, and create an advisory committee to pass a local ordinance that will ban these neonicotinoids (bee killing pesticides) within Mendocino County. This is why we said “yes” to be a part of Ukiah Natural’s event. This is why Thanksgiving Coffee joined the movement to help save the bee population, and this is how Bee Bold Mendocino was created. (link)
There is no way to do this alone. We need to work with the knowledge of those who are already engaged with bees and pollinators. So, we reached out to the community to join us, and we had a wonderful response that included; 2 local bee keepers, 2 farmers, and a table set up to create your own pollinator seed balls.
Our beekeepers came from inland and the coast. Jonathan Hunt (on left) is part of the 4-H bee keeping program in Ukiah. He contacted me and said he would love to come participate. He brought with him his delightful enthusiasm and knowledge of bee keeping, as well as some wild crafted seeds he had collected for people to take and plant.
Elliot Brooks (on right) came with a top bar hive, he had built himself, and his entire bee keeping gear. He also brought some of the honeycomb from his hive that the bees had made for people to see, and touch the magic of bees wax. It was an absolute delight to spend the day with them.
With the help of UNF a table was set up for people to come, get their hands dirty, and help create pollinator seed balls. These pollinator balls included: clay, fertilizer and native wild seeds. They are a way to help provide the necessary diversity of food sources the bees need for optimum health. Once you made the seed balls, you could to take them home for your own yard, or throw them into an open field or empty yard.
This idea for the pollinator seed ball table came from Tiffany at FOE when asked for suggestions on how to engage children into the wonderful world of bees. We all thought this was a great way to offer a hands on experience .
These seed bombs originate as a fun and friendly tactic for “guerrilla gardeners” to throw balls of seeds and fertilizer into fenced-off spaces that are otherwise neglected, or land in zoning limbo. We wanted to offer something for people to take home that can make an immediate difference. It was wonderful to see the hands of so many people making the seed balls, knowing that they will offer a great food source to our bees.
Speaking of dirt and seeds, Tim Ward joined us. He works as Director of Fundraising and Programming at the Grange Farm School. I came across their website when I was doing research on different organizations in Mendocino County we would like to help and to promote their work. It was very exciting to discover this school right here in Willits dedicated to “improve agricultural literacy, food security, and ecological stewardship in our community and beyond.” I love how they teach someone to be a complete farmer, taking into consideration all of the skills one needs to be a sustainable food producer. (link)
The School began in 2014 and operates on 12 acres of the Ridgewood Ranch, and is supported by a wide network across the region, state, nation, and world!
The Farm School recognizes the immediate need to train the next generation of farmers to support themselves, with a focus on production and distribution methods that emphasize long-term environmental responsibility.
The School builds on the rich agricultural heritage of Mendocino County and the Grange in its diverse and holistic educational programming for farmers, aspiring farmers, and youth. The Grange has been dedicated to serving the cooperative farming movement since 1867! And yes, the Grange Farm School cares for our bees, and cooperation, which is an amazing skill the bees teach.
We would be remiss if we did not have representation from the wineries. Mendocino County has over 17,000 acres of vineyards. It is essential that we help educate the vineyards and those who buy wine to the importance of the bees, even if grapes themselves are wind pollinated. Today 25% of Mendocino vineyards are growing certified organic grapes, with the Frey family’s winery being the first Organic winery in Mendocino County, and the Nation, back in 1980. If your wine is not organic, please ask if the winery uses neonicotinoids on the grapes. Help educate the wine industry on how to help keep our pollinators alive.
We had the pleasure of Mendocino County’s oldest winery joining us,
Parducci Wine Cellars (Certified organic). They understand the value and benefit of the bees. Jess Arnsteen came with Erin Ravin to share their organic, pollinator friendly practices. Parducci was the first carbon neutral winery in the country (2007) and in recognition of their continuing dedication to social responsibility and environmentally sound practices, they received California’s highest environmental award, the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award. They are also leaders in water reclamation and water-conservation program.
Jess works as Manager of Edible Ecosystems where he tends his flock of sheep, and a 15-acre garden that feeds over 60 employees from Parducci . Jess is very involved with the chain of pollinator to food, he understands the importance of our pollinators and came with arms full of pollinator food/flowers to share with us. (link)
The entire event was a true pleasure, from the collaboration with Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op, who have been one of our loyal customers for over 38 years. It just felt like home.
Pictured here is Mary Anne Cox, Ukiah Natural’s Marketing Manager (on right) she was a real treasure to work with, and Lori Rosenburg (on left) Ukiah Natural’s General Manager was a wonderful host. We were graciously welcomed by the entire crew from UNF.
“Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op was incorporated in 1976. By serving the needs of our diverse membership, we have grown through the years. Our current store has more than 6,800 square feet of space, and we serve over a thousand shoppers each day.”
It seemed only natural to introduce our #Bee Bold Coffee at their re-opening event, as we work together towards the health of our community and our bees in Mendocino. If you are in Ukiah go on in, say hi, and pick up some of the #Bee Bold Coffee in their store.
Our most recent and exciting news since this event, is that Noyo Food Forest has joined us as the fiscal sponsor for Bee Bold Mendocino.
The Noyo Food Forest is a non-profit that grows community, as they say “one garden at a time”. They teach the value, and satisfaction of growing one’s own food, while giving support to local food sovereignty and independence. We are extremely grateful to Noyo Food Forest for all of their wonderful work. (link).
I leave you with one more quote from The Song of Increase.
“Evolution isn’t random. We all work together. The act of working together IS the evolution. Cooperation between us accelerates development of each species. The way we hold and support ourselves and each other advances our shared evolution”