By Mischa Hedges, Director of Communications
At Thanksgiving Coffee Company, we’re always talking about how to connect our coffee community. We strive to create a space for dialogue between coffee drinkers and coffee farmers – space that allows for gratitude, appreciation and knowledge about coffee to be shared. With social media and increased global connectivity, it’s becoming much easier than it used to be to do that. For instance, check out this new feature on our website:
If you’ve enjoyed one of our single origin coffees recently, you can visit our “Farmers” page and write a message to the coffee farmer or cooperative who grew it.
Traveling to your coffee’s country of origin and meeting your coffee farmer in person is the richest way to connect, but that’s not an option for most people. We’re hoping this new feature on our website will enable you to deepen your relationship with your coffee.
Some of the farmers and cooperatives we partner with are Facebook users, and can respond directly to your messages! In other cases, we’ll gather and send your messages to the farmers and cooperatives we work with so they can see your appreciation.
Let us know what you think of this new feature…
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.
Part 4 in a series on brewing excellent coffee.
– By Jacob Long, Roasting & Quality Control Manager at Thanksgiving Coffee
While pour-over/manual brewing methods continue to gain popularity, SoftBrew offers a simple alternative for making a stellar cup of coffee.
In my opinion, this high-tech but easy to use brewing method provides the purest expression of the coffee’s flavor. The mouth-feel is similar to that of a French Press, but with a better range of flavors and less sediment in your cup.
The porcelain pot is great for serving, but it does not retain heat for very long. To enjoy hot coffee throughout the day, transfer the brew to an insulated pot.
Here’s how it works:
and here’s the text version of how it works:
- Preheat the pot and filter with about 4oz of hot water.
- Empty the preheat water and add 65g of freshly ground beans into the filter.
- Add half of the total water (16oz), taking care to evenly soak the grounds. The ideal temperature is 196° for dark roasts, 200° for light roasts.
- Stir for an even mixture and allow the bloom to settle.
- Add the rest of the water (16oz) and give the grounds another good stir.
- Put the lid on the pot and let the coffee brew for 3-4 minutes.
- Remove the filter.
- Pour and enjoy!
Get your SoftBrew system at Sowden.
We made our first pot of SoftBrew with Miel de Cajamarca and the flavor was fantastic! Want to try it? Pick up a bag and see for yourself!
Great coffee is the result of incredible care taken at every step along the way. Finding, sampling, selecting, shipping, roasting, packaging and selling coffees from Africa, Indonesia, Central and South America is what we do – but there is so much more involved in an excellent cup of coffee. We created this poster to tell the story of the journey of our coffee from the farm to your cup.
Farmers grow coffee trees, which take about 5 years to fully mature. They nurture the trees, which flower and produce cherries, which are harvested by hand as they ripen over several months.
In the wet process, the sweet, red fruit is removed from the coffee bean and the beans are washed, dried in the sun and hand sorted for defects.
After aging, the outer “parchment” is removed, and the green beans are put into sacks for export and shipped from origin to the port of Oakland. A truck carries them to our warehouse in Fort Bragg where we roast and craft our many blends.
We cup our coffees a final time before filling 12 ounce bags for grocery stores and our online customers, and the 5 pound bags we send to cafes, restaurants and bulk bins at grocery stores. The last 2 steps are crucial. It’s up to you to let the magic out of your bag of coffee and enjoy it.
As you sip your coffee, think about all of the people and hard work it took to bring this precious drink from the farm to your cup. For tips on letting the magic out of a fresh bag of coffee, check out our Brewing Guide.
by Kim Moore, Director of Business Development
The new Exploratorium at Pier 15
My favorite sign at the new Exploratorium is posted above one of the main entrances. It reads:
“HERE IS BEING CREATED THE EXPLORATORIUM, A COMMUNITY MUSEUM DEDICATED TO AWARENESS”
If you’ve never visited the Exploratorium or know what it is…now is the time to visit. It is, in the words of the Exploratorium, “an eye-opening, always-changing, playful place….with thought-provoking exhibits, tools, programs, and experiences that ignite curiosity, encourage exploration, and lead to profound learning.”
The Exploratorium from above
Pier 15, which extends out into San Francisco Bay, has been converted from a legacy marine freight and passenger terminus into a world-class “learning lab” museum for tourists and local visitors.
If you’ve heard that the Exploratorium is for kids, well, it is – for kids of all ages! People who love to wonder will appreciate the Exploratorium experience.
Having said that, the majority of the Exploratorium’s visitors are adults with no young people in tow. Check it out during your next SF visit!
The Seaglass Restaurant
Clay Reynolds & Loretta Kellar of Coco500 are the culinary team behind the Seaglass Restaurant and the Seismic Joint Grill & Coffee Café at the Exploratorium, operated by Bon Appetit Management Co.
In addition to the stellar cuisine, both restaurants serve Exploratorium Blend Coffee and Espresso, developed in collaboration with Thanksgiving Coffee as their proprietary blend. Both eateries are accessible without paid entrance to the museum.
The New Exploratorium and the Seaglass Restaurant/Seismic Joint Grill and Café are now open at Pier 15 in San Francisco, exciting the minds and palates of new and returning visitors, with mind-expanding exhibits, sumptuous cuisine and smooth, delicious specially-roasted and blended coffee and espresso.
Learn more at: www.exploratorium.edu/visit/restaurant-cafe
by Paul Katzeff | CEO, Thanksgiving Coffee
“Rust” is a word with an ominous sound. It ruins older cars, renders tools useless, and is a major reason for the use of paint to preserve everything made from iron. In Central America there are two kinds of rust. The kind that corrodes iron and the kind that kills coffee trees. The latter rust, called “La Roya” is a Fungus that is pernicious. It lives on the leaves, sucking the life out of them. They fall off and do not return. Coffee cherries never ripen, and the tree eventually dies. This is not a good thing for a coffee farmer whose survival depends on coffee.
La Roya is worse than a 60 cent per pound market price, which is a monumental crisis, but there is always another season, and hope for higher prices for the farmer. La Roya is no crop, then three to five years of rehabilitation of the coffee farm. In other words, it is the end of family life on the farm. It is the end of a way of life, of culture, of living on the land. It means hunger, it means migration to the cities, it means over crowding and the deterioration of family life as country people are forced to work in urban factories making clothing for two dollars a day.
La Roya is here and unless a major battle is waged to beat it back, Central American coffee will be a thing of the past, and coffee prices will rise as the supply of quality coffee is diminished. This is not Chicken Little talking here. This is absolutely a disaster about to happen – this year.
This February, I was in the Nuevo Segovia Region of Nicaragua on a coffee buying trip. I visited the farm of a member of the PRODECOOP Cooperative. Alexa and her two teenage sons live two kilometers from the Honduras boarder. Many of their coffee trees are affected by La Roya, and are starting to lose their leaves. They got a crop this year, but next year they expect to get 50% less. I have no idea how they will be able to continue making a living. They produced 10 sacks (1500 lbs) this year, for which we paid $ 2.75 per pound. That was double the world price and the highest we could afford to pay.
Alexa’s coffee is fabulous and we want her coffee farm to thrive. We want her to be able to refresh her trees and beat the Rust. Next year, she will need to get $ 5.50/lb. to survive on her farm. Will you support our effort by paying $2.75 more per pound for her coffee next year? Would you pay more than $15.00 for a bag of her coffee?
Well, first you have to taste it. We will present her coffee to our public in July when it arrives. It is going to cost her about $8,000 to rehabilitate her farm. We are going to try to raise that money between now and December.
That’s the way Direct Trade works – we are all in this coffee thing together.
Paul Katzeff, CEO
Thanksgiving Coffee Company
Part 3 in a series on brewing excellent coffee.
– By Jacob Long, Roasting & Quality Control Manager at Thanksgiving Coffee
Interested in brewing a great cup of coffee – quickly, and without much cleanup?
The Aerobie Aeropress may be for you. Aerobie is known for creating sports toys such as the Aerobie Flying ring, which when thrown, can fly farther than any other thrown object! The company is based in California and was founded by inventor and Stanford University Professor Alan Adler in 1984.
The Aeropress is hugely popular amongst specialty coffeehouses and Baristas, and there is even an Aeropress brewing competion held at the national and international level.
In the realm of hand brewing with so many methods to choose from, I believe the Aeropress is superior in the following ways:
1) Ease of use, allowing for a consistently great cup of coffee without having to pay a great deal of attention to detail as with the Hario or similar pour over methods.
2) Flavor; the Aeropress creates a really nice tasting, full bodied cup of coffee without the sediment of a French Press.
3) Portability; the Aeropress is great for travel as it is lightweight, durable and fits into an easy to transport carrying case.
4) Clean up is simple and fast.
Want your own Aeropress?
We sell them in our online store for $25.95
Time to brew!
Here is a simple recipe which will produce a beautiful cup of coffee in about 2 minutes.
1. Start with a medium-fine grind somewhere between the texture of granulated sugar and couscous.
2. Place filter in black filter cap and lock onto brew chamber, place over cup.
3. Bring water to boil and pour a few ounces through the filter-lined and capped brew chamber to rinse the paper filter and warm the sever below.
4. Let the water drop to 200°(about 2 minutes off boil). Empty water used to rinse filter and warm the server.
5. Fill the brew chamber to just below the “1” mark with coffee.
6. Pour approximately 2 ounces of water onto the ground coffee in the brew chamber and start timer. This allows for de-gassing of the coffee which will result in a more ideal extraction.
7. Wait 30 seconds for the “bloom” to settle.
8. Fill the brew chamber with water to just above the “4” mark, stir gently, place plunger and wait one minute.
9. Slowly plunge brew into cup.
10. Serve and enjoy!
by Paul Katzeff, Co-founder of Thanksgiving Coffee
Back in 1980 I read in the coffee literature that a certain coffee variety known as Robusta had three times the Caffeine as Arabica varieties. Of course, I set my mind to thinking about putting them inside the chocolate covered coffee beans we were selling to people who preferred soda pop and candy to stay awake rather then drinking a cup of coffee. Students and Truckers were mostly the consumers who were buying them at the time. High caffeine was not my personal need and I was getting up there in age, ( in 1980 I was 42 ) and too much caffeine kept me up all night. But that was me. What about “them?”
I researched the issue of caffeine content in various varieties of the coffee plant. I discovered the high grown Arabica Variety had about 1 % caffeine by weight, and the low grown Robusta variety had about 3 %.. Hmm. I had an idea. A natural high caffeine coffee. There was nothing like that on the market other then “No Doze”, a high caffeine white little pill you could purchase over the counter for about $41,500 per pound. Granted, you got seven million little pills for the money invested, but in the short run, a high caffeine coffee that was naturally created by G_d, and tasted like coffee seemed a better choice.
At the time, the rap on Robusta was that it had a bad flavor profile. In 1980, I had been roasting coffee for 11 years, since 1969, and had never tasted a cup of Robusta. It lived up to its reputation: Leathery, woody, baggy, tobacco notes, and if you were lucky, some dark chocolate. But if you accepted the fact that it was like comparing Navel Oranges with Indian River Oranges (they are used for different purposes which evolved because of their different taste profiles), then you can start thinking about Robusta Coffees in a different way. And that is what I began to do.
I began by roasting Robusta dark, so that the flavor was primarily the roast color. A deep, rich, smoky and carbony flavor. I called our graphics guy, Chris Blum, and together we mapped out the idea for the label. I wanted it to be orange because I thought that was a “caution” color, like Cal Trans vests. Chris named it Pony Express and created the simple image that has stood the test of time for 33 years. During that time, Espresso entered the American consciousness and discussions turned to the use of Robusta in Espresso blends. Recently, a movement to include Robustas in the discussion of Specialty Coffee has created some real live polarization in the Trade. However, the quality of Robusta coffee has improved in giant steps since 1980.
Today, March 13, 2013, I tasted a Laos Robusta that was sent to me by the good people at Snake Bomb Coffee Company in Orlando, Florida. They sell coffee to raise funds for Land mine elimination and snake bite prevention in Laos. The coffee was roasted almost to a Vienna Roast. It was clean, the coffee flavors were balanced between cedar and oak. There was little acidity and no sweetness. This allowed a good amount of dark chocolate flavor to emerge. Ten percent added to our Upsetter Espresso Blend made a nice new espresso blend that was nothing like what we now offer.
Our Pony Express today is made from much higher quality beans than the ones we started with 33 years ago. With this increase in quality – perhaps it is time to begin roasting them a little lighter. Just remember to judge their taste differently than you would Arabica coffees. Look for the chocolate notes and do add cream and sugar if you choose – this coffee can stand up to adulteration better then any Arabica!
Smoky + carbony with notes of chocolate. High caffeine + a real kick in the pants.
Part 2 in a series on brewing excellent coffee.
– By Jacob Long, Roasting & Quality Control Manager at Thanksgiving Coffee
How coffee is brewed is just as important as how it’s grown and roasted. Each step matters.
As it says on the bottom of our bags: “There is magic inside this package – only you can let it out!”
Since its introduction, the Japanese-made Hario v60 dripper has taken a strong foothold in specialty coffeehouses and cafes in the U.S. and around the globe. Hario, which translates to “the king of glass”, is a heat-resistant glassware company which was founded in 1921. In addition to drippers, Hario also produces high quality kettles, servers, and hand crank grinders.
While aesthetically pleasing, the Hario v60 dripper is a manual pour-over method, which requires attention to detail in order to produce a high quality cup of coffee. Finding the right grind and perfecting the pour are key to mastering the Hario dripper. We recommend using the Hario Buono Kettle, as it has a very narrow spout which aids in controlling the pour.
Our brewing guide outlines basic preparation, which I will expand upon in this post. If followed, it will produce a flavorful, clean cup of coffee with a medium body.
»»» Grind your coffee
Start with a medium-fine grind, coarser than espresso yet finer than a standard drip grind. Somewhere between the texture of granulated sugar and couscous.
1. Measure out 1.5 grams of ground coffee for every ounce of water.
If a scale isn’t available, use 2 level tablespoons of ground coffee for every 8 ounces of water. Brewing coffee using this ratio will ensure a good extraction, and allow the flavor profile of the coffee to be fully appreciated.
2. Place paper filter in dripper over cup or server.
3. Bring water to boil and pour a small amount through the filter-lined dripper.
Make sure to wet the entire filter – this rinses the filter so there’s no “paper taste” in your coffee and warms your cup or server.
4. Let the boiling water cool to 200 degrees.
Use a thermometer or wait about 2 minutes. Before starting to brew, empty the water that was used to rinse the filter.
5. Place ground coffee in the rinsed and filter-lined dripper.
Dispense just enough water to saturate the grounds and create a “bloom”. This allows the coffee to off-gas, enabling a more even extraction. Wait 30-45 seconds or until the coffee settles before continuing your pour.
6. As the bloom settles, begin to dispense water.
Pour as slowly as possible directly in the center of the brew cone.
Stop pouring as necessary so that the water never reaches above the original level of the bloom. This will require stopping the pour every 15-30 seconds, with the goal of dispensing the total amount of water used to brew in about 3 minutes.
7. Remove the used filter and coffee.
Swirl the brewed coffee for 10 seconds. This mixes and aerates your coffee and ensures an even, consistent body and taste.
8. Serve and enjoy immediately.
If you’ll be serving the coffee later, transfer to a thermos or carafe to keep it hot.