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 cod 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 Arabica’s and they were blending in Robusta’s 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, and is not destroyed by the high heat of roasting, 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 3,000-6000 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 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 it 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, knowing that the conditions for seed sprouting are good, and that risk of failure low, does not waste its energy on producing allot of carbs for the seeds 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. – Paul Katzeff
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 natures 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 is not Death Wish coffee, but 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”
Deep and immaculately sweet, with notes of ripe cherry and golden raisin.
Ethiopia is known as the birthplace of Arabica coffee. Centuries of production and perfecting methods of preparation have produced brilliant results. This fine Ethiopia Yirgacheffe coffee is sourced from family-owned farms organized around the Worka Cooperative located in the southern district of Gedeb, Ethiopia. The Worka zone encompasses the highest altitude coffee cultivation area in the entire country of Ethiopia, resulting in a stunningly unique flavor profile.
The Worka Cooperative was established in 2005 and currently has approximately 300 members. In 2005, the cooperative joined the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (YCFCU) to support a sustainable coffee supply from cooperatives in the Gedeo ethnic region of Ethiopia.
A few disclaimers: This discount cannot be combined with any other discounts, or applied to our Cause Coffee line (because these coffees are fundraisers), and cannot be used on gift certificates, hard goods or chocolate covered espresso beans. Offer expires December 31st.
Heavy, earthy body, with layers of cedar and butterscotch.
Small family farms blanket the mountains of Sumatra, Indonesia’s largest island. Under the dense tropical forests of the island’s northern Gayo Mountains, the 1,329 members of Koperasi Permata Gayo produce one of Indonesia’s finest and most sought after coffees.
The cooperative formed in 2005, following a peace accord that ended a decade-long civil war and a devastating earthquake that heavily damaged the farmers’ homes and warehouses. Growing in membership year by year, Koperasi Permata Gayo represents the farmers’ hope for a peaceful future, prosperity, and careful stewardship of the natural environment.
Like all the finest Indonesian coffees, Permata Gayo is produced using the distinct wet-hulled process that yields a pungent earthy flavor enlivened by sweet notes of butterscotch, cinnamon, and clove.
Thanksgiving Coffee Company has created Bee Bold coffee as a pioneering product designed to fund a vital movement to save our bees. You can support our work and the bees with your morning cup of coffee.
Bee Bold Coffee is born out of our partnership with Friends of the Earth and their National campaign called Bee Bold. This movement has come to us with a mighty force and we want to share this with you as we introduce our new Bee Bold Coffee.
Bees are dying in droves worldwide! They are “canaries in the coal mine,” warning us of an imminent and frightening threat to our food.
One out of three bites of food we eat has been pollinated by honey bees and if we want to save the bees and ourselves we must do it now.
Together in this amazing collaboration full of bold vision, innovation, and awareness of the true costs of environmental inaction, we work to achieve a mutual goal, to ensure our planet is Bee Friendly.
Friends of the Earth (FOE) has been a true inspiration, as are the very bees themselves. FOE has asked for an immediate halt to the use of the dangerous neonicotinoids (neonics) pesticides in the U.S. These neonics have been identified as the main cause of the bees decline. The bees were the first indicator, now a serious decline in birds is being seen as these poisons make their way up the food chain.
Through this new awareness brought to Thanksgiving Coffee Company, we have made the commitment to urge local legislators to create a County ordinance that bans the use and sale of these neonics, in Mendocino County. This bee friendly policy will:
Prohibit the sale of plants and seeds treated with neonics.
Prohibit the use of neonics on all public lands including schools, and government buildings.
Ensure shelter and food sources for bees.
Advocate that marginal lands be allowed and encouraged for bee habitat, with forage trees, shrubs and flowers.
Support adoption of a tolerant attitude to feral bee colonies in buildings, and hive bee colonies in one’s neighborhood.
Introducing #BeeBold Coffee
These coffees benefit #BeeBold – a campaign that Friends of the Earth is leading. When you buy these coffees, 25% of your purchase goes to Friends of the Earth.
Seven coffees to choose from: Light, Medium, Dark, Very-Dark and Decaf.
Byron Corrales is a visionary farmer, campesino leader, and pioneer in the application of biodynamic farming practices to coffee production. Twice he’s won top honors for this magical coffee: Maracaturra, a special variety found only on his small family farm in Nicaragua.
Last year, Byron began processing a small amount of this special coffee using the natural process: sun-drying the coffee cherries to develop a rich, fruity flavor notes. This coffee received a rating of 94 points from CoffeeReview.com!
The coffee is a unique hybrid of the heirloom varietals Maragoype and Caturra (Bourbon). It was developed and is grown exclusively by Byron Corrales for Thanksgiving Coffee Company. It is a truly exceptional coffee that’s more akin to its cousins in the highlands of East Africa than its neighbors in Central America.
Byron’s Maracaturra Natural
Lush, mellow and jammy, with a suggestion of blueberry.
Smithsonian 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.
Sincerely, Paul KatzeffCo-Founder & CEO
Try 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.
This month, we have some exciting news to share! Over the past several months, we’ve been working on some big projects to make it much easier to find coffees you’ll love. We’ve organized our coffees by roast color, improved our packaging and built a brand new website. You’re invited to take a look at our new look, below…