Global Coffee Expo Recap

It’s the biggest event in coffee, sponsored by the biggest names in coffee, held in what is probably America’s most coffee-obsessed city. It’s every coffee nerd’s dream, and seven of our team from Thanksgiving Coffee Company had the opportunity to attend this year. The Global Coffee Expo is a three day event with all the players in the coffee industry, put on by the Specialty Coffee Association. Roasting, importing, producing, farming, equipment, ideas, publications – there is so much to see and do at this convention.

Specialty Coffee Association

Above: The SCA logo on cupping mugs at the Global Coffee Expo

Stepping into the launch party on night one was an experience all in itself. At the Paramount Theatre in downtown Seattle, thousands of coffee professionals from all over the world flooded the floors. There was a virtual reality farm tour, a video from the board of the SCA, cold brew samples from Starbucks, a latte art throwdown, and networking with some of the most prominent people in coffee. It was overwhelming and spectacular — and a great way to kick off an exciting weekend.

Paramount Theatre in Seattle

Above: The Paramount Theatre in downtown Seattle hosts the SCA Global Coffee Expo launch party

The Specialty Coffee Association turns 35 this year. The years that have gone by have changed the association in many ways, but it remains at its core, a place for people to come together and fight for the greater good of everyone involved in the coffee industry. Thanksgiving Coffee’s Co-Founder and CEO Paul Katzeff was part of the team that founded the SCAA back in 1982, and has been an integral part of the association (and its president twice) through the decades.

Paul Katzeff at the Global Coffee Expo

Above: Paul Katzeff at the Global Coffee Expo launch party

The weekend was of course a whirlwind, full of lectures, meetings, walking the Expo floor, and naturally, lots of coffee breaks! We tasted coffee from Kenya, Colombia, Ethiopia, Uganda, Nicaragua, India, and many more origins. We met old friends and new, listened to lectures from coffee professionals, and visited our Fairtrade certification.

We were also able to take a peek into the newest publications that have featured Thanksgiving Coffee recently: Fresh Cup Magazine’s article on coffee bag packaging, and Stir Magazine’s feature on our Congo Coffee, benefiting the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.

One of the main highlights of these conventions is the opportunity to meet with our producers – the human beings behind the coffee farms. Throughout the year, we speak with these folks over email and telephone, but at rare moments like these, we’re able to spend time with them face to face. We get to catch up on life and family and learn how their farms and co-ops are doing. We got some fun shots with a few of our friends:

Congo Coffee from Thanksgiving Coffee

Above: the SOPACDI co-op team from the Democratic Republic of Congo with the Thanksgiving Coffee team from Fort Bragg, California

Sara Corrales and Joan Katzeff

Above: Sara Corrales of the Los Pinos Farm in Nicaragua, and Joan Katzeff, co-founder of Thanksgiving Coffee

Jacob and Lucas at the Global Coffee Expo

Above: Jacob Long, Roastmaster and Director of Coffee at Thanksgiving Coffee, and Lucas Silvestre of the Guayab Co-op in Guatemala

Fatima, Joan, Nicholas

Above: Fatima Ismael of SOPPEXCCA in Nicaragua, Joan Katzeff of Thanksgiving Coffee and Nicholas Hoskyns of Etico in Nicaragua

We here at Thanksgiving Coffee want to give a HUGE thank you to the volunteer team that worked so hard at the Global Coffee Expo. Conventions like these simply cannot happen without the help of volunteers, and we are all indebted to you!

Take a peek below at some of the fun we had while in Seattle at the Specialty Coffee Association convention. After the Roasters Guild mixers, morning presentations, photo booth fun, and walking tens of thousands of steps across the show floor, we are going to need the rest of the week to rest and catch up.

The Thanksgiving Coffee team at Global Coffee Expo, with Nicholas of Nicaragua, and Isak of Rwanda

Joshua Long, Jacob Long, Paul Katzeff, Joan Katzeff and Jen Lewis outside the Washington State Convention Center

The Seattle skyline from our Airbnb in Queen Anne

Marchelo Bresciani at the Fairtrade America booth

Jacob, Josh and Nathan inspecting new roasting equipment

Joan and Paul Katzeff, co-founders of Thanksgiving Coffee Company

Jen Lewis with Jennifer Pawlik of Amavida Coffee Roasters, a fellow B Corporation

At the International Women in Coffee Association (IWCA) breakfast 

Thank you, volunteers

Jacob Long and Joshua Long with Kenyan dancers at the Global Coffee Expo launch party

Attending the Fairtrade America cupping 

We’ll see you in 2018, Seattle!

Stay tuned for some individual posts from our team that attended the show!

Bird Friendly Coffee Certification

Bird Friendly CoffeeSmithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC) certification is another step we are taking at Thanksgiving Coffee to verify that the coffees we purchase and co-brand with them are truly coming from farmers who support and maintain “Bird Friendly” habitat on their farms .

The SMBC certification is “the undisputed “Gold Standard” when assessing forest habitat for the quality of its ability to support not just birds, but all the species that live and make their home in a particular indigenous forest . The standards that the Smithsonian scientists have set are based on rigorous research into the nature of the forest itself, its remaining over-story size and density, its type of remaining trees, the numbers of levels of “over-story” and how our coffee agriculture has been integrated into the original Habitat.

At the heart of the certification is the absolute of no use of oil based Fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. The coffee farm must first be Certified Organic before it can begin the SMBC certification assessment process.

Thanksgiving Coffee is a certified organic Roastery. We follow strict rules set by USDA . About 85 % of our coffees we purchase are Certified organic, but as of this writing only our coffees from Guatemala (Guaya’b Cooperative) and from Nicaragua (Byron Corrales’ Family Farm) are SMBC Certified. These coffees represent only 15% of our Roastings at this time.

After meeting with SMBC scientists in May of this year in Washington DC (Their offices are located at the National Zoo) we set up a plan to have each cooperative we buy from in Nicaragua, Mexico, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Peru, Uganda, and Rwanda, assessed for the “Bird Friendly” certification. Where farms are organic but lack the shade standards needed for the SMBC certification, we will work with the cooperative’s Board leadership to put forest restoration practices in place to enable certification. One by one these farm habitats will be certified.

Our goal is to have 85 % of our coffees SMBC Certified by 2020.

With collaboration and help from The Smithsonian Outreach program for coffee farms we hope to bring a wide range of coffee farms into this Gold Standard certification. Our relationship with the leadership of the SMBC is a close one. We see this as strong support for The American Birding Association Songbird Coffee we sell under a licensing agreement we have had since 1996. Their members, who focus on their love of and protection of migratory songbirds, depend upon the science of the SMBC for their assurance that the money they spend on coffee is being spent in the name of protecting them, and we at Thanksgiving Coffee mean to assure our Songbird followers that the highest level of awareness goes into the coffee they drink each morning, and that the birds out there are able to feed their young, build their homes and fatten up enough to make their amazing migrations each year.

Paul Katzeff, Co-FounderSincerely,
Paul KatzeffCo-Founder & CEO
Roastmaster Emeritus




Shop Song Bird CoffeeTry Song Bird Coffee

These coffees benefit the American Birding Association, which works to inspire people to enjoy and protect wild birds through publications, conferences, workshops, tours, partnerships, & networks.

Shop Song Bird Coffee

Guaya’b—Sustainable Development

Sustainable Development

The farmers of the Guaya’b Cooperative grow coffee under a dense forest canopy that doubles as the winter home for dozens of species of migratory birds as well as local flora and fauna. It wasn’t always this way. When coffee was introduced to this remote region 40 years ago, it was promoted as an alternative to subsistence agriculture, and farmers were taught to clear forests to make way for this new cash crop. Fortunately, these farmers are closely connected to the health of their land, and have re-established their once logged forests providing much needed shade and diverse ecosystems in which coffee thrives.

Guaya’b—The Story

“Since we began selling at the Fair Trade price we have seen a big improvement in our quality of life. Co-op members can now afford to buy clothes and medicine for their families, and they benefit from the new programs the co-op has implemented with revenue from Fair Trade sales.”

The Guaya’b Cooperative

Tucked deep in the rainforest of northwest Guatemala, the Guaya’b Cooperative represents over 300 indigenous Maya-Quiche farming families. Cool wet winds from the Pacific Ocean far below sustain a lush ecosystem, mountainside villages, and an ideal setting for the cultivation of great coffee.

A Visit to Guaya’b, Guatemala

A few weeks ago we got an email from a man who introduced himself as Kieran, a guy from Vancouver BC who was riding his bike through Central America and wanted to know if we could help him connect with our partners at the Guaya’b Cooperative, in Guatemala. Last week Kieran visited Guaya’b, and by his account, had a great time. Here’s a bit from his blog, which you should visit to read the story in its entirety, as well as see some of his photos.


Not far across the border in Guatemala is the remote town of Jacaltenango. I hoped I’d be able to visit two co-operatives there, and as it was ‘only’ 50 km off my main route I gambled on getting lucky when I arrived. Yes it was only 50 km, but the uphill climbs more than made up for the short distance.

I had a little time in the town at the weekend to track down the Guaya’b office and then I dropped by on Monday morning to see what I could find. I ended up spending six days in the town as I felt I got very lucky with both co-operatives.Jacaltenango is a small, remote town up in the highlands. It is perched high above the Rio Azul with a number of smaller communities dotted around the surrounding hillsides at various degrees of precariousness.

Guaya’b is a coffee and honey co-operative comprising more than 400 members. It produces 100% Fair Trade products though its coffee is both conventional and organic. They have organic (US & European), Fair Trade (FLO-Cert) and “bird-friendly” (Smithsonian) certifications. Mayacert are a national organic certification body but Guaya’b export all their coffee. Most of the members are indigenous Popti’ with the rest mestizos. Guaya’b exports all its products to Europe and North America. In organic coffee, the European and North American coffee are kept separate. All coffee exported is ‘oro’ (green) beans. Conventional coffee predominantly finds its way to Spain. The honey is produced primarily for markets in Austria, Germany and Belgium.

Lucas Silvestre is the President/Manager and he was very happy to let me get an insight into the Guaya’b operations. Manuel, who oversees quality control, took me to the bodega (warehouse) where I was able to see coffee and honey processing operations and one of the Guaya’b coffee nurseries.

Click here for the full story. 



Moment’s in time: Guatemala, 1990 Somewhere in the countryside between Guatemala City and Lake Atitlan

Yesterday I posted a photo of two woman . They were walking to somewhere. They looked relaxed as they chatted . They were beautiful people, ancient in an obvious way. They reminded me of the woman who used to walk down the street in the Bronx where I grew up. On their way to the bakery or dry cleaners, or some friends front stoop to chat some more. I thought (last night) how “the universal” was represented in that moment. Friendship, camaraderie, familiarity, and peace.
When these kids saw this gringo , this American they gave me the Peace sign of the Summer of Love .There was good will in that bus. American foreign policy not withstanding. The children are dressed up for some event and although in the countryside, I think they are from privileged families but we will never know. They are in their mid twenties now. I wonder what they are doing .

kids on a bus

Moments in Time: San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala 1990

atitlan ladies San Juan La Laguna is a Mayan village on the shores of Lake Atitlan. It was a peaceful place when I was there in 1990 but it had been a place of oppression by Guatemalan military for over a decade and you could still feel the tension. I was there looking for organic coffee, traveling with Karen Cebreros, one of the first lady green coffee importers in what was, until then, a man’s world. We visited the coffee cooperative La Voz que Calma de Desierto, meaning, the voice that cries out from the desert. Odd name for a tropics based community but later I found out that the Patron Saint of the village was Saint Juan, who came from the desert.

These two woman were just walking down the road in their special clothing woven on hand looms for thousands of years. The patterns indicate status and family identities. I returned with a contract to purchase their coffee and it was the beginning of a decade long relationship with the cooperative. We sold their coffee under the title, Mayan Harvest Coffee and rebated to them .25 cents for each pound sold. Over the decade the coop received rebates well in excess of $50,000 which was used to build their first coffee drying patio. Today La Voz is one of the sought after Guatemalan Organic Coffees and Karen Cebreros is still a green coffee buyer and importer. I took this picture after we had passed each other on the path and I realized that I had a camera and they didn’t. On my next trip to La Voz I found them and gave them each this picture.

Going Down That Old Dusty Road in Guatemala

I took this photo on my first trip to Guatemala in 1990. I was in search of certified organic coffee. Wandering around the countryside one afternoon near the city of Antigua a man with his sack of stuff came walking toward me on the dusty path we both shared for the moment.

Dusty Road

I pulled out my camera to catch the man as he approached but I discovered that I had run out of film. I hurried to reload the camera as the man passed by. We greeted each other with smiles and then he was past me. I think he was Don Juan but I didn’t ask him if he would be my  Shaman  because I was afraid he would say , “yes son, come with me. We will talk to the Jaguars tonight and you will disappear into the stars”, or something like that. I felt I was not ready  so a smile sufficed as he passed.

I loaded my camera and shot the photo. It has become one of my favorites.

Paul Katzeff

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