For the Birds is a blog series from Thanksgiving Coffee Company, highlighting one of the 200 Neotropical migratory birds who rely on shade grown coffee during their winter migration. In January, we featured the Cedar Waxwing, in February, the Magnolia Warbler, March was the Blackburnian Warbler, and to celebrate the re-release of our Song Bird Decaf, we are featuring the Altamira Oriole!
Song Bird Decaf Medium Roast Coffee
The striking orange and black plumage of the Altamira Oriole (icterus gularis) graces the label of our newly re-released Song Bird Coffee Decaf, and with good reason. This delicious Smithsonian Migratory Bird Certified coffee is decaffeinated with a clean, all-natural mountain water process in the Chiapas region of southern Mexico, home of the Altamira Oriole.
The Altamira is a large oriole and builder of the longest nest of any bird in North America. In the United States their range is limited to the Rio Grande Valley of southern most Texas, but their nests are a common sight throughout Mexico and Central America.
The female bird uses the inner bark of trees, retama leaves, various grasses, and occasionally Spanish moss and plastic twine to create one of nature’s architectural marvels. Over the course of several weeks, she painstakingly weaves a two-foot long basket that hangs over an open space, road, or river, suspending her fragile eggs thirty feet above the ground.
While many species of birds specialize in hiding their nests from the eyes of predators, the Altamira Oriole takes a different approach by building a home that is wildly conspicuous, but impossible to reach.
All of Thanksgiving’s organically certified coffees are shade grown, and a select few carry the Bird Friendly gold seal of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. This certification ensures that tropical “agroforests” are preserved and migratory birds can find a healthy haven to eat and rest as they travel the hundreds of miles from your backyard to the coffee farms producing the beans you so enjoy every morning.
You don’t need binoculars to find a coffee that protects forests, helps wildlife and supports the efforts of the American Birding Association; just look for the Songbird Coffee with the Altamira Oriole on the front.
National Trails Day was just last week, but we never miss a chance to get outside and enjoy this gorgeous Spring weather. This Saturday is National Get Outdoors Day, and you don’t have to tell us twice! This weekend, we’re all about the Mendocino Woodlands. Just about six miles out from the village of Mendocino, you get a chance to step into a the Redwood forest.
The Mendocino Woodlands is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that has been operating and maintaining the park since 1949. The Park is a National Historic Landmark built as a Recreation Demonstration Area by the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s. The park boasts over 700 acres of redwood trees and accompanying wildlife, along Big River. This spot is actually the oldest group camping facility in the United States.
We created Restore & Explore as a Cause Coffee, benefiting this beautiful area. For every purchase, 25% is donated directly back to the Mendocino Woodlands, and helps keep this forest pristine.
Thanksgiving Coffee, an industry leader in social and environmental justice for over forty years, stands in defense of our wild horses. The vanguard of fair trade shade-grown coffee, Thanksgiving has helped their nonprofit partners raise much-needed funds to champion their missions through the Cause Coffee fundraising program. And now, Thanksgiving is proud to support the efforts of the American Wild Horse Campaign (AMWC) with the release of Wild Grounds Coffee.
Save Wild Horses
Today, both livestock and wild horses have the right to roam the range, but the political power of the cattle ranchers is stronger then the political power of wild horses. In the forty years since a bill was passed by congress to protect the wild horses, moneyed interests have worked tirelessly to chip away at it. Now, the use of our publicly owned grazing lands is being prioritized to create market value for ranging cattle, which only provides for 3% of America’s beef consumption.
Unable to cull the herds or sell them for slaughter, the BLM began to round up what they considered to be an excess population. Today 35,000 horses, more than their entire population in the 1970’s, are kept in government holding pens. Not to be killed, yet never again to be free; this is a terrible fate to befall the national symbol of perseverance and freedom.
“The whole thing is cruel and lacks any sense of the American Spirit”, says Paul Katzeff, CEO of Thanksgiving Coffee and Past President of The Specialty Coffee Association of America, “We just gotta do something about the suffering to restore our own sense of freedom. Can you imagine the conditions? Thirty-five thousand wild horses in shadeless pens in 100 degree heat waiting to die?”
The American Wild Horse Campaign
The American Wild Horse Campaign is a champion for America’s wild horses and burros and they have been calling on Congress to reform the current ‘holding pen’ policies. Not only would such methods keep these animals in the wild, where they belong, it would also save taxpayers millions of dollars annually by no longer funding the removal of wild horses from the range and stockpiling them in government holding facilities and paying for their feed and water and medical needs.
Thanksgiving Coffee Company, 2017’s Roaster of the Year, is sending Wild Grounds coffee out into the country with the mission to raise funds and educate others about the plight of our wild horses. Together, we will stand in defense of the mustangs who have an inalienable right to roam the western landscape, just as we stand up against those who would profit from their incarceration and eradication.
We invite you to join us. Stand up for America’s wild horses and the pioneer spirit we all share. Order a package of award winning Wild Grounds coffee and you are not just supporting the horses; you are also supporting fair trade for the farmers, organic shade-grown coffee that preserve rich jungles forests, and the ethical standards of a certified B corporation. Since 1972, we have been proud to bring you a beautiful cup of coffee that tastes just as good as it feels.
Today is Endangered Species Day, and we’re asking you to stand with Thanksgiving Coffee and our partner organizations to save our wild creatures. In honor of Endangered Species Day, send a package of these coffees to a friend, or sign up for a monthly subscription to keep your donations going.
Early one morning in 1992, a local Mendocino sculptor by the name of Howard Wheatley Allen was shaking in his boots. He had just been informed that he would be presenting a gift to a world leader on behalf of the United States, and the recipient was none other than Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. With a steadying hand, he held his bronze sculpture before the President and said, “Mr. President, this is a snow goose that migrates between our two countries.”
“You mean a living link,” Gorbachev replied, understanding the significance.
Gorbachev later recalled that, “During the nuclear arms race, I was given a gift by an American, a little figure of a goose in flight. I still have it at my dacha. It is a goose that lives in the north of Russia in the summer and in the winter migrates to America. It does that every year regardless of what’s happening, on the ground, between you and us.”
It was one year later, in 1993, that International Migratory Bird Day was established. While IMBD is celebrated from Canada to South America to support the hundreds of Neotropical migratory bird species that travel across the continent, Gorbachev’s goose is a beautiful reminder that birds will always rise above our imaginary borders, transcending beyond the cultural or political boundaries of the time.
Here in the United States, we sometimes claim a cultural ownership of beautiful birds like the Baltimore Oriole, perhaps forgetting that the very same species could just as easily be named the ‘Panama Oriole’, or the ‘Nicaraguan Oriole’, as it spends half it’s life in Central and South America. IMBD is a reminder that the health and abundance of these birds that are so much a part of our heritage does not stop at our own backyard feeders. If we wish to enjoy their beauty and their songs for generations to come, we must care for them and their well being across all borders.
The growing demand for coffee, and the rise of the mono-cultured full sun coffee plantations, has demolished much of the wintering habitat for iconic birds like Orioles. In fact, many of these species are now referred to as ‘Coffee Birds’ because the only forest home left to them are the shade-grown coffee farms that preserve the jungle canopy.
For over 20 year, Song Bird Coffee has been a leader in supporting the farmers who protect their native forests by growing delicious coffees under the jungle canopy, preserving priceless habitat and biodiversity. This year, on International Migratory Bird Day, we hope you will join us in protecting our precious songbirds, just by enjoying a great cup of shade-grown coffee. Not Just a Cup, But a Just Cup.
For the Birds is a blog series from Thanksgiving Coffee Company, highlighting one of the 200 Neotropical migratory birds who rely on shade grown coffee during their winter migration. In January, we featured the Cedar Waxwing, in February, the Magnolia Warbler, this month we’re focusing on the Blackburnian Warbler – the bird featured on our dark roast Songbird coffee.
Songbird Coffee Dark Roast from Colombia
With their bright colors and trilling songs, it’s no surprise that a group or flock of vibrant warblers is often called a ‘bouquet’. However, one of the most striking members of the warbler family would rather not join the bunch.
Common along the eastern region of the United States during their migration, the Blackburnian warbler can be easily identified as the only orange-throated warbler in North America. Named after botanist Anna Blackburn, the Blackburnian warbler is territorial on its breeding grounds, solitary in the winter, and only forms flocks during migration. In fact, this little bird is such a loner that even though both parents feed and care for the chicks, the parents separate when the young are old enough to fledge and leave the nest, each taking part of the brood with them.
But even the most solitary parent needs the support of a group every once in a while. After going their separate ways, the parents will sometimes join foraging flocks of kinglets and nuthatches with their begging young, the cries of which have been known to also attract chickadees.
Of the over 50 species of New World warblers to be found in North America, perhaps it is the colorful Blackburnian that stands out as a lone bloom, refusing to join the colorful assemblage of other warblers.
Help protect the winter habitat of Blackburnian warblers by buying SMBC Song Bird Colombian dark roast shade-grown coffee.
Dark Roast Colombian Coffee
Toasted • Spicy • Dark Chocolate
A rich coffee with flavors of toasted nut and dark chocolate followed by a smooth lasting finish, making this a clear winner for dark roast coffee enthusiasts.
Frank Van Curen, Art Explorer and Paul Katzeff, CEO of Thanksgiving Coffee
“I love doing art because until recently I had never done it before. It makes me feel really good. It makes me happy because I love learning new things.”
“Doing art calms me down. I feel happy while I’m planning a design and working on my pictures.”
“Art makes me feel calm…art makes life better.”
“When I do my art I feel calm and like I’m experiencing what I think in my mind and throwing it onto the paper. The colors came from my brain and from nature. God gave me my talent and a giant heart that can love and do art and do other things.”
“Art is both relaxing and exciting. It makes me feel good about myself.”
“I like to spend a long time working on my portraits, often for weeks, even months. Sometimes I wake up in the night and plan what I’m going to do when I get to Art Explorers.”
If you haven’t taken the time to stop by and meet the artists at the Art Explorers Studio and Gallery, then you are missing out on one of the great hidden treasures of downtown Fort Bragg.
Art Explorers has been supporting artists with mental disabilities since 1996, providing a safe space for them to express themselves and find peace of mind with the stoke of a paint brush.
Last weekend, the Art Explorers celebrated a new ceramics show in Town Hall in collaboration with their artist in residence, Sabine Brunner of the Little Cup ceramics studio. A departure from their usual work, the artists got to enjoy expressing themselves in ceramics with hand made sculptures and painted mugs. And what goes perfectly with a new, one of a kind hand painted mug? Why, a fresh cup of coffee of course! Which is why the event also debuted a new fundraiser for the Art Explorers program: Thanksgiving Coffee.
Showcasing the artwork of 5 current Art Explorers, each bag label shares the story of the artist who created it. As the program grows, the work of more artists will have the opportunity to grace the front labels, highlighting the incredible talent of our local artists.
Packages of Art Explorers Coffee, dark roast and decaf, are currently available for purchase at the studio, online, or at special events. Each bag sold supports the artists and staff members of the Art Explorers program, and with 5 different labels to choose from, you’ll want to collect them all!
So take the time to stop on by the studio at 305 E. Redwood Ave (Tues. Thurs. + Fri. 9:00am – 3:00pm, Saturday 12:00pm – 3:00pm) and meet the artists, maybe buy a painting or some greeting cards, and pick up a bag of truly beautiful and one of a kind Art Explorers Coffee.
The Incredible Story of a War-Torn Region Redeemed by the Coffee Bean
The Democratic Republic of Congo is in the heart of central Africa and considered to be the most bio-diverse country in the entire continent, which is quite a distinction. Iconic African wildlife such as jungle elephants and white rhino roam throughout the four national parks, and it is one of the few places on Earth that many great ape species, such as gorilla, chimpanzee and bonobo, call home. Its lush forests and equatorial climate means that the DRC is also an excellent region for growing some of the best sweet Bourbon varietals of coffee trees in the world.
But despite the country’s wealth of natural resources, decades of war, genocide, and political unrest has condemned many of the 68 million civilians to lives of poverty, disease and violence.
The lack of businesses and income-generating activity pushed the DRC into deeper turmoil and left the once=productive coffee sector neglected or abandoned. Most of the coffee farmers could no longer bring their harvest to market and fled the region, while others resorted to smuggling their beans into Rwanda in hopes to barter for food and supplies. So near, and yet so far: smuggling coffee is very dangerous and many people have lost their lives in the attempt.
Due to these circumstances, the small amount of coffee still produced in DRC was coming from small farms with old or rudimentary equipment and no access to international markets. All of that changed when Joachim Munganga founded the now-famous SOPACDI co-op.
Congo Coffee Farm
SOPACDI (Solidarité Paysanne pour la Promotion des Actions Café et Développement Intégral) was created by Joachim Munganga in 2002, as a means to bridge the ethnic strife of the region in order to tap into the international specialty coffee market. The co-op is located on the shores of Lake Kivu, which straddles the border between the DRC on the west bank and Rwanda to the east. Joachim started with his own farm and worked to rehabilitate an old, rundown estate with a central washing station for the co-op to process coffee. It wasn’t until 2008, when SOPACDI joined forces with the UK’s Twin Trading Company, that the doors to the international coffee market were opened wide. Together, they designed and obtained funding for a program to assist them with business skills and to begin rehabilitating the farms and improving the infrastructure, which included spearheading the construction of the first new central coffee washing station to be built in the country in over 40 years.
Since then, SOPACDI has grown to include over 5,200 farmers, 20% of whom are women. In a region infamous for rampant sexual violence, SOPACDI has been a leader in promoting gender equality and supporting the widows of those farmers who died trying to smuggle their beans into Rwanda. In addition to the revitalizing their lost coffee economy, SOPACDI has earned the distinction of being the first certified fair-trade co-op in the DRC and was also named 2014 Sustainability Award Recipient from the Specialty Coffee Association of America. They even hosted the DRC’s first internationally recognized coffee cupping competition, Saveur du Kivu, in 2015.
Economic stability saves lives, and not just human ones. Poor economic conditions result in the rise of eating and selling bushmeat, further endangering the sensitive wildlife of the DRC. As the animals are hunted, their numbers drop and they retreat deeper into the dense jungle. As logging companies and farmers clear away the forests at an alarming rate, they provide poachers an even greater access to hunt. That is, of course, unless the forest and the animals who live there can become a better economic resource to the people of DRC as a sustainable living ecosystem. Such is the hope of shade-grown coffee.
Coffee trees love the shade and they naturally thrive under a jungle canopy. Many coffee farmers additionally supplement their resources by growing shade-loving food crops, such as banana and avocado, along side their coffee trees, all within the natural infrastructure of the forest. By weaving the livelihood of the farmers into the success of a thriving jungle ecosystem, we are simultaneously supporting sustainable commercial goods and conservation.
Grauer’s gorillas are the world’s largest ape and only found in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Over the last two decades their population has plummeted by an estimated 80 percent, which is why the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International has set up a program to help save them based on their success working with mountain gorilla populations in Rwanda. These efforts include daily protection and monitoring, tracking the gorilla groups, scientific research, data collection, local education programs, and community engagement.
By employing the local Congolese people to protect the gorillas, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International is helping to foster a love for these creatures within the community while also creating an economic benefit. They now operate a permanent research and conservation field station in the core of Grauer’s gorilla range, working closely with traditional landowners and other local partners to help ensure the future of the species and countless others at risk in DRC.
Thanksgiving Coffee is proud to support the economic renewal of the DRC by partnering with SOPACDI to bring you Grauer’s Gorilla Congo Coffee. Not only does the purchase of this coffee promote the livelihoods of the SOPACDI farmers, but a percentage of all online sales benefit the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International and their continuing efforts to conserve and study the great apes of the DRC.
Coffee changes the world, but it is quite possible that there is nowhere on Earth more profoundly impacted by the humble coffee bean than the Democratic Republic of Congo is right now. Together, we can all do our part to help stabilize this unique ecological treasure for future generations to enjoy by simply enjoying a good cup of coffee.
March 3rd is World Wildlife Day, and we’re taking a moment to focus on one animal in particular. The grey wolf is a magnificent creature that has been villainized by popular culture. This animal has been hunted to the point of extinction, leaving very few in North America today.
We’re working with Defenders of Wildlife to save these beautiful animals. We’ve taken a stand to work toward a world where humans and wolves can exist together.
Our part is simple. We’ve created a coffee that benefits Defenders of Wildlife. For every purchase of Save Our Wolves Coffee, we donate a portion of the proceeds (up to 25%) back to their efforts to save the wolves. We do what we do best, and Defenders does what they do best.
In February of 2016, Thanksgiving Coffee made a commitment to honor a species that is necessary for the continued existence of the planet. Humans, plants and animals alike rely on bees for survival, and we decided it was time to start paying attention.
Friends of the Earth
At the end of 2015, much of the Western world was discussing Colony Collapse Disorder. Bees were dying across America and some European countries. Beekeepers and environmental experts were teaming up to raise awareness, and here in Fort Bragg, Paul Katzeff got an email from Friends of the Earth. It asked:
“Donate $25. Help us save the bees!”
He immediately wrote back, and explained a partnership concept to raise $100,000 using coffee. A year later, that partnership has grown into a movement. We created a product: Bee Bold Coffee. For every bag sold, we donate between 15 and 25% of the proceeds to Friends of the Earth, in support of their efforts to create legislation to protect our pollinators.
In addition, Bee Bold Coffee sold in Mendocino County supermarkets provides the funding for Bee Bold Mendocino, an organization Thanksgiving Coffee formed to help focus efforts on our local bee populations. (see below)
Since we began this journey in 2016, we have sold over 1,600 pounds of Bee Bold Coffee through our online store, and over a thousand pounds through our local supermarkets in Mendocino County. We’ve raised over $11,000 for Friends of the Earth, and $1,500 for our local Bee Bold Mendocino committee.
Saving the Bees in Mendocino
Because we wanted to make a difference within our local community, we contacted garden clubs, plant nurseries, beekeepers, and the school food and garden programs to ask how we could support them in their efforts to help bees and other pollinators. We partnered with the Noyo Food Forest so contributions could be tax deductible.
For every bag of Bee Bold Coffee sold at local businesses (see below), we donate a dollar to Bee Bold Mendocino. This local advisory committee is responsible for bee education and action in Mendocino County, and Thanksgiving Coffee has one representative on that committee.
Here are a few of the outlets in Mendocino County that have carried Bee Bold Coffee. Be sure to give them a call and see if they have your favorite roast in stock.
Fort Bragg: Harvest Market, Purity, Interior, Down Home Foods
Mendocino: Harvest at Mendosas, Corners of the Mouth
Laytonville: Long Valley Market
Willits: Mariposa Market
Gualala: Anchor Bay Store, Gualala Supermarket, Surf Supermarket
Ukiah: Ukiah Natural Foods
Moving Forward Locally
In July of 2016, Fort Bragg became the first city in California to be declared a Bee City, with San Francisco following close behind. We are currently working with local nurseries to eradicate the use of neonicotinoids in our community. The City of Fort Bragg has also re-purposed the lawns surrounding the Guest House Museum in our downtown area as a city park. This park will be re-planted with a bee-friendly garden.
We are also planning an observation hive at the Thanksgiving Coffee headquarters for installation in 2017. This beehive will be within the Company’s heirloom apple orchard, just north of our facility in Noyo Harbor. We also recently hosted a screening for everyone on staff of the documentary Queen of the Sun, a film we all needed to see together to better understand why we’re putting so much effort into saving the bees.
It all started with a simple email: a call to action to save this tiny creature. Our goal here is to now inspire YOU. Bees live in a community – they cannot exist on their own, and without their hive, they simply die. Our efforts to save the bees are very much the same; we are relying on our community to spread the word and to keep the awareness spreading. We couldn’t have done any of this without Friends of the Earth, Noyo Food Forest, local gardeners, nurseries, and the beekeepers who have studied and kept bees for so many years.
What Can You Do to Save the Bees
Whether you’re here in California or anywhere across the world, the plight of the bees is important for all of us. How can you be involved in saving the bees? There are so many ways to join in:
Only purchase plants from nurseries that have agreed to stop using neonicotinoids
Attend a showing of Queen of the Sun (more information coming soon!)
Ask your local supermarket to carry Bee Bold Coffee
One of the best ways you can be involved? Be aware. Do your research and be a conscious consumer. Shop from local farms, attend the farmers markets in your area, buy seeds from reputable sources, and share information you can with family and friends.
We are excited about what’s happening with the Bee Bold Movement, and we want to get more people involved. If you have an idea about how to spread even more awareness for the bees, please reach out! We are always looking for more people to join our committee and rally the troops to save the bees.
Learn a little more about each of these cause coffees to benefit the bees below:
Our Bee Bold Light Roast has a soft acidity, featuring the sweetness of blueberry and plums. On our Medium Roast, blueberry notes add to hints of cashew and chocolate, while our Dark Roast is a bold, sweet blend with hints of nuts, chocolate, and caramel. The Very Dark (or French) Roast is distinctly smoky with hints of jammy fruit, roasted nuts, and baker’s chocolate. Each roast is unique and captivating in its own way, and it’s worth it to try every one!
Every morning as you grind and brew your coffee, remember that you’re drinking a coffee that the bees would be proud of. Help us support local and national programs to save the bees!