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.
Support this work in an ongoing way by joining the BEE BOLD Coffee Club – you’ll receive two packages of coffee each month, and Friends of the Earth will benefit with every cup you drink!
Local Action in Mendocino County
Thanksgiving Coffee Company will donate $1/package of Bee Bold sold in County Retailers to create and fund the Mendocino County Bee Bold Advisory Committee .
Here are the steps we are taking in Mendocino County, our own back yard to support the campaign that Friends of the Earth is leading:
- Creating a Bee Sanctuary out of the 3⁄4 acre Apple Orchard full of 47 heirloom trees at our roastery.
- Educating and distributing flyers that identify the plight of our bee population in Mendocino County.
- Assemble Mendocino County leaders into the Mendocino County Bee Bold Advisory Committee.
- Coordinating outreach to influential religious groups, labor groups, elected officials, citizen activists, and businesses.
- Assisting in media outreach to educate Mendocino County.
- Recruiting and managing local volunteers to run campaign actions such as rallies, tabling events, and film screenings
- Petition drive/County initiative on 2017 Ballot
What YOU can do:
There are many steps you can take locally to help save the bees. Here are a few ideas for where to start!
- Create a Bee Sanctuary in your back yard.
- Do not use or buy products containing neonics.
- Ask your local nurseries, wineries, and building supply stores to stop carrying and using nionics.
- Volunteer to organize campaign actions such as petition drives, tabling events, rallies, swarm-ins and media events.
- Gather friends and family to participate in making Mendocino Bee Friendly.
- Record your actions and make your pledge at beeaction.org
- Maama Vanessa with original cooking fire
The Namanyonyi Cooperative
in Uganda is an interfaith community of Muslim, Christian and Jewish farmers who have put aside religious differences to produce a fine coffee called “Delicious Peace.”
The Clean Cook Stove project was born out of a climate change mitigation initiative brought to Namanyonyi Cooperative (formerly Mirembe Kawomera) in 2012. It began with planting trees. However, the trees were quickly devastated by the cooperative’s highly inefficient cooking methods.
The coop members knew that if they had more efficient ways to cook, they would lower their use of firewood. The Clean Cook Stoves were the solution. In the first phase of funding, we were able to provide Clean Cook Stoves to the most disadvantaged cooperative members. The first 44 stoves were built for the elderly, families with children, and single-parent families. This was completed by December of 2014.
Farida Wafidi with new Clean Cook Stove
The objective of Phase I was to test the ability of the coop and staff to find local materials and train local craftsmen, creating ongoing jobs with a new Clean Cook Stove trade or industry. Funds were generated by coop board using their Fair Trade premium and by Thanksgiving Coffee Company’s sales rebate of $1.00/ pkg. added to Delicious Peace coffee purchases by supporters of interfaith work.
With Phase I successfully completed, we now enter Phase II: to complete the next 50 stoves for this year. It is our goal to continue to provide guidance and funding for a “smokeless kitchen” with a clean cook stove for every member of Namanyonyi Cooperative by the end of 2016.
Clean Cook Stove Benefits
Aisa Kainza with new Clean Cook Stove
As a result of the Clean Cook Stove project, the rate of deforestation has been curbed. The newly planted trees can develop deep root systems which then allows the soil to become more fertile for food production as the trees bring up the water table. This rich soil further strengthens the coffee trees and other food crops grown for subsistence. This will improve food security for the area’s farmers by increasing the diversity of foods immediately available to farming families.
These stoves use 1/10 the fuel to produce a cooked meal, while the chimney directs smoke out of the kitchen, reducing the risks of respiratory disorders to all involved with cooking. They also reduce the risk of fire, given that the homes are made of dry banana fiber & grass-thatched roofs. This also lowers the chances of children getting burnt or even dying.
This project is designed to create a new indigenous industry. Over one million rural Ugandans use open fire kitchens in their highly flammable homes. Utilizing local materials and local craftsmen, this project will become a model for future funders. The Clean Cook Stoves are part Health Benefit, and part Climate change Mitigation, while also providing new employment opportunities. Scale will lower costs, increase the number of cook stoves builders, and form the basis of a new and healthier cultural norm.
Support this project by purchasing Delicious Peace Coffee. $0.50 per package sold will be used to fund Phase II of the Clean Cook Stove project.
Shop Delicious Peace Coffee
By Paul Katzeff, CEO + Co-Founder, Thanksgiving Coffee Company
In 2012 Thanksgiving Coffee Company, in collaboration with the Mirembe Kawomera Board and members, began a Climate change mitigation initiative in the foothills of Mt. Elgon, with the cooperative. The first phase was tree planting, and the project had these basic principles at its core:
- The trees would provide shade to keep the ground cool and moist
- The trees would enhance the habitat for indigenous birds and other wildlife
- Deep root systems of trees holds the moisture in the soil and brings nutrients from deep in the ground to the surface via leaf litter produced by the trees. This makes the soil more fertile.
- The trees soften the impact of rainstorms and mitigate against runoff that carries away topsoil
- Shade improves the health of coffee trees as well as the flavor profile.
- Trees produce wood for cooking and reduce the need for long distance hauling of wood
- Trees bring up the water table and enable the ground to hold more water
JB Birenge, Climate Change Mitigation project manager in 2012 (photo credit: Ben Corey Moran)
There remained a problem.
The coop members were relying on the climate change mitigation tree planting as a source of firewood for their open fire cooking. Open fires are a simple but extremely wasteful way to build a cook fire, so the coop members decided that if they had more efficient ways to cook, they would lower their use of firewood. This plan was the best way to allow the trees to grow to maturity before being sustainably pruned for firewood, and thus was born “The Clean Cookstove Project.”
Rock fire rings are traditionally used to cook food
In partnership with Carrotmob, Thanksgiving Coffee Company raised $4,600 in a crowd-funding campaign. The funds were allocated for the Clean Cookstove project. The General Manager of the cooperative designed the project, researched the methodology, hired local craftsmen and women, gathered materials, and began building the stoves in April of this year. In this first phase of the project, 46 families will receive the stoves. Families with children, older people and single parent families were chosen by the coop as are recipients of the first 46 stoves. The plan is to expand the program so all 300 coop member families eventually have one built for them in their homes.
The benefits of clean cookstoves are many.
Obviously, better respiratory health and easier fuel collecting because these stoves use 1/10 the fuel to produce a cooked meal. That means more time to attend school, make music, do homework or whatever leisure time is used for in a small village at the base of a mountain, where there is no cafe to hang out, no community center, and where electricity is limited to a few outlets per square mile. We are proud to be associated with this project – happier, healthy coffee farmers means a better world, and better coffee.
Aisa Kainza with her Clean Cookstove
I am currently in Uganda, on a trip that was planned back in February when I was last in Africa.
Much has happened since, including a clear Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that outlines our and the Cooperatives responsibilities and expectations from the relationship we have created. The goal of this trip is mostly oversight. We are advancing funds to the Cooperative to double its washing station capacity. This will require a solar drying system of greatly increased capacity, and a financial system that is going to handle twice the amount of money, double the volume of coffee, and provide more transparency. We are building capacity and the requirement for a higher level of professional financial management will be required as soon as this next crop is ready in September. That is in about 60 days!
There is lots to do – and we want to be a part of the doing.
To be continued…
In February of 2013, Thanksgiving Coffee staff visited the farm of Alexa Marín Colindres, a member of the PRODECOOP Cooperative in Nicaragua. We toured her farm, listened to her heartbreaking story, and wondered how we could help. Later that day, we did a blind cupping of 20 of the cooperative’s coffees, and asked that her coffee be included.
We sipped and slurped for two hours to get through them all, scoring each coffee on Fragrance, Aroma, Body, Acidity, Flavor Notes and Balance. One coffee was, hands down, the best on the table – and it turned out to be Alexa’s. We bought 10 sacks (all that was available), and are proud to offer you this special coffee, and invite you to help.
Meet Alexa. She lives with her two teenage sons in the mountains of Northern Nicaragua, where they focus on growing the best coffee possible. She has been a coffee farmer for many years and has worked with the cooperative PRODECOOP since 1992.
In 2013, Alexa noticed that the leaves on her coffee trees were affected by La Roya, a fungal disease which attacks the leaves and prevents them from converting sunlight into energy. The coffee cherries turn brown and fall off before ripening, and the tree eventually dies.
La Roya is thought by many in the coffee industry to be one of the many challenges brought on by Climate Change. This disease is sweeping across coffee country, devastating the coffee trees of many small, family farmers – and threatening their way of life.
For some, this will mean starting over – even on a new piece of unaffected land. For others, it may mean removing or pruning affected trees and replanting where necessary.
Want to Help? Support Project: La Roya
Alexa’s coffee is fabulous and we want her coffee farm to thrive – so we decided to rally our customers to support her and other farmers battling La Roya. In March 2014, we launched Project: La Roya with our partners at The Social Business Network (SBN) in Nicaragua.
The project will raise $10,000 to help the farmers of PRODECOOP stop the spread of this disease and re-plant 5,000 coffee trees that have been affected. $2 from every bag of Finca de Alexa coffee sold will be invested in Project: La Roya.
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
A guest post by Ellen Friedland, producer of the documentary film
“Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean“
I remember the first full day of our initial trip to Uganda in October 2006 to produce a documentary about Mirembe Kawomera (“Delicious Peace”) Coffee Co-op. After three days of travel (one from NY to Europe, the second from there to Entebbe Airport, and the third by car up to the Mbale region), we enthusiastically showed up at the entrance of the coffee co-op’s clay-constructed storefront. We were eager to meet the legendary farmers who had formed a collective to bridge interfaith differences and generate economic development through a Fair Trade partnership with California-based buyer, roaster and seller Thanksgiving Coffee Company. Since we had been in touch via email for several months and the executive board had invited us to come, we were ready to break out the cameras following the handshakes and dive into work. Instead, the farmers asked that we sit down for a four-hour meeting that began with the question: “Why should we let you do this?”
At that moment, Curt looked at me and said, “You are the attorney. You can negotiate this. I’m going outside to take pictures. They may be the last ones we get!”
Now here it is, six and a half years after that meeting and three years after the premiere screening of Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean, and we are returning for our fifth trip, this time (as the last) with a group of friends in tow. Dual goals motivate this journey: (1) adding an extra 15-20 minutes of footage for a one-hour TV release focused on co-op updates and the impact of climate change on the farmers’ crops, and (2) introducing more American consumers to the work of the Mirembe Kawomera co-op, helping to spread awareness about their truly delicious coffee and the myriad families whose lives orbit around it.
In many respects, the first aim parallels corporate video production shoots we do around the world for many clients. We have done our homework and know what we want to record, all the necessary equipment is packed and ready to go, a basic schedule is in place, and we have the contact information for folks who will be crucial data-providers.
This assignment, however, comes with advance bonuses. We already have established friendships with farmers in the co-op, who are excited to help with the new phase of the project by devoting days of time when we are present to providing assistance; they understand and appreciate our role in helping to publicize their messages. And – New Yorkers — you know that excited feeling of being with out-of-towners who arrive in New York for the first time and stand in transcendental wonderment upon their initial ascent out of the subway? We will have the opportunity to experience that feeling through the eyes of our trip participants, multiple-fold, beginning with the moment our friend/tourguide Samson drives our group out of the airport onto the streets of Entebbe.
In response to the farmers’ initial question in 2006, I promised a long-term, mutual partnership in which success would be shared. I promised we would produce, complete, and screen the documentary. I said this would be an important avenue to spread the message of the work they are doing to bridge interfaith differences and educate coffee consumers about the hard work of farmers dedicated to specialty coffee production so that purchasing decisions reflect that knowledge. I told them that a successful documentary will trigger interest in their coffee. I told them that we have always established long-term friendships with the people who are the subjects of documentaries we undertake – as we have often done with our corporate video production clients.
Almost seven years later, the documentary has screened (and continues to do so) at over 35 international film festivals with a TV debut in the near future. We have partnered with a distributor committed to creating local educational “Peace Party” screenings around the country. Countless people have watched the program and learned about the important work of the farmers – many are busy talking about it on social media avenues everyday. And we are going back again to visit our friends and continue to develop the informational base.
We’re grateful the farmers took a leap of faith with us and proud to have earned their trust. T-5 days until we are off to Uganda!
Purchase coffees from the Mirembe Kawomera Cooperative and support their livelihoods:
Last month, we partnered with Carrotmob to raise support for a new sustainability project: shipping coffee on sailing ships from Nicaragua and Peru into Fort Bragg’s Noyo Harbor.
Shipping coffee – to be continued…
We had an ambitious goal: sell $150,000 worth of coffee in just 20 days. While we didn’t make it to our goal, we have been overwhelmed with your support for shipping coffee by wind. With your support, we raised over $31,000 through our partnership with Carrotmob – about 20% of our goal. Even though this first attempt didn’t produce enough funding to further our feasibility study to sail coffee – we’re committed to moving forward with the idea.
With Noyo Harbor right in our backyard, shipping coffee and other goods is a tremendous economic opportunity for our community in Fort Bragg, California that we’d like to explore further.This was our first attempt to break the ice around this idea, and in the months ahead, we’ll be determining the next steps to further this project.
What about the money raised?
Thanksgiving’s Ben Corey-Moran meets with Peace Kawomera’s Board of Directors. Photo: jemglo.org, 2008
Per our agreement with Carrotmob, we’ll be sending 15% of the funds raised in the buycott (about $4,095) to our associated non-profit organization, The Resilience Fund, which will use the money for a project in Mbale, Uganda.
That’s where the Peace Kawomera Cooperative is, which has been a partner of Thanksgiving Coffee since 2004. It’s a co-op of Jewish, Christian and Muslim coffee farmers who came together to build peace through economic development.
You might recognize the name from our online store, where we offer as light roast, dark roast and decaf coffees from this cooperative.
In the Peace Kawomera coop, coffee farmers and their families cook with wood, in stoves or over open fires, often inside their living areas. Due to the lack of clean, efficient wood stoves, this puts strain on local forest resources and often results in poor indoor air quality.
Nathan Watandena, showing land that was once densely forested. Photo: Ben Corey-Moran, 2008.
The cooperative has an existing climate change adaption project funded by a Dutch NGO, Progreso, that is addressing this challenge by bringing farmers together to plant trees and re-forest the area.
This effort is improving the sustainability of their coffee crops and ensuring the availability of resources vital to the community. We’re committed to supporting this important work – and the Carrotmob funds will be put to work immediately for a new project that builds on this work.
With the approximately $4,600 raised in the Carrotmob buycott, The Resilience Fund will purchase clean, efficient cookstoves for about 70 families that are a part of the cooperative. This will reduce their dependency on local forest resources and improve indoor air quality. The Resilience Fund will continue to raise funds to support this project.
While we didn’t meet our goal of $150k, our experience partnering with Carrotmob, its supporters and our customers has been exciting. The Carrotmob has huge potential to create lasting change, and in fact, already has. Thank you so much for your support!
Taste & Place
How the climate crisis is changing the flavor of the foods we love.
Join us at a special event about climate change, coffee & cheese in San Francisco. In addition to learning about the effects of climate change, you’ll taste a selection of our seasonally fresh coffees from Nicaragua paired with cheese selections from Mission Cheese. Our President & Director of Coffee, Ben Corey-Moran will be presenting!
Tuesday October 2, 2012. 6-8pm – buy tickets ($12)
18 Reasons (map)
3674 18th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
More about the event:
Climate change is altering the landscape, ecology & weather of food producing regions around the world. It’s also changing the flavor of many of the foods we love. The taste of every craft food is created by a subtle interaction between land, climate, and culture. Climate, in particular, creates a delicately calibrated set of natural factors conducive to production of specific flavors.
This class will begin with an introduction by Calla Rose Ostrander, Climate Change Projects Manager for the City & County of SF, and will feature lectures by our Director of Coffee, Ben Corey-Moran and Mission Cheese’s Sarah Dvorak on the role of climate in coffee and cheese production, as well as a discussion of the social, economic and ecological implications of changing climate to these products and their producers.
buy tickets ($12)
This month, we partnered with Carrotmob to raise support for a new sustainability project: shipping coffee on sailing ships from Nicaragua and Peru into Fort Bragg’s Noyo Harbor!
Carrotmob is a San Francisco-based organization dedicated to advancing sustainable business practices through positive incentives. This is Carrotmob’s first large-scale campaign – and we’re proud to partner with them to advance this project. Here’s how it works:
“In a Carrotmob campaign, a group of people offers to spend their money to support a business, and in return the business agrees to take an action that the people care about. We are called Carrotmob because we use the “carrot” instead of the stick.” – from the Carrotmob website
Since virtually all coffee is grown within 1,000 miles from the equator, green coffee is currently shipped from its origin on large container ships, which burn bunker fuel, a low-grade diesel that emits vast amounts of smog-forming pollution and carbon dioxide. We receive these shipments from Oakland, California and drive our beans to Fort Bragg to roast and bag for our customers. We’re interested in being the first company in modern times to ship coffee by wind – lowering our carbon footprint and setting an example for the coffee industry.
If the Carrotmob campaign generates $150,000 in coffee sales during its 20-day run, we will have enough resources to begin to pursue our dream of shipping coffee by wind. Our first step will be to conduct a feasibility study to assess the costs, efficiency and risks involved in transporting our coffee beans on sailing ships – it has to make economic and environmental sense if we choose to move forward with shipping coffee on sailing ships. If it does, we’ll plan our maiden voyage.
Our maiden voyage would bring a load of green coffee from Nicaragua straight into Fort Bragg’s Noyo Harbor, a 6 week roundtrip.
If the maiden voyage proved to be successful, we’d also ship coffee from Peru, an 8 week roundtrip, carrying some if not all of our annual purchases from these origins.
If the campaign doesn’t reach the $150,000 goal, the funds raised for this effort will be directed toward The Resilience Fund – our nonprofit social venture that funds sustainability projects in coffee-growing regions.
We strive to do our best for people and the planet while sourcing and roasting our coffee – through our direct trade relationships, investments in infrastructure and training, our fair trade and organic certified coffees, and by creating long-lasting relationships with the people, communities and ecosystems that are touched by our coffee business.
We’re constantly searching for the cleanest, most efficient distribution system to source our beans and get roasted coffee to our customers. This partnership with Carrotmob is the latest in this effort.
For more information or to support the campaign, visit carrotmob.org/thanksgiving
Why Thomas Keller Is Wrong About Chefs’ Social Responsibility
Whether He Likes It or Not, Global Warming Is Changing the Taste of Food
(Cross-posted on Earth Island Journal)
By Ben Corey-Moran
In its May 15 “Dining & Wine” section, The New York Times broke the seal on a simmering controversy in the world of fine dining: What responsibility, if any, do chefs have to promote sustainable food systems? In a discussion with celebrated restaurateurs Thomas Keller (of California’s French Laundry and the New York restaurant Per Se) and Luis Aduriz (of Spain’s famed Mugaritz), reporter Julia Moskin asked how these top chefs view their obligations to protecting the environment. The article headline said it all: “For Them, a Great Meal Tops Good Intentions.” As it turns out, these guys would rather keep it simple and not worry about the complicated stuff: where food comes from, what makes great food great, and the reality that we are facing the loss not only of great food, but the culture, ecology, and social fabric that creates it.
“With the relatively small number of people I feed, is it really my responsibility to worry about carbon footprint?” Mr. Keller said. “The world’s governments should be worrying about carbon footprint.”
Both Keller and Aduriz view haute cuisine as a seamless fusion of pleasure and art. They are united in the belief that their responsibility as chefs is primarily to create breathtakingly delicious and beautiful food — not, as some of their colleagues (like, most prominently, NYT food writer Mark Bittman) think, to provide a livelihood for farmers who practice more sustainable practices, to preserve traditional culinary arts, or to help check global climate change by reducing food miles. The idea of promoting more environmentally sound agriculture is the driving force behind the “farm-to-table” philosophy that many high-end restaurants have adopted. But it seems that such ideals are an afterthought at the most rarefied levels of cuisine.
Over at Grist, Twilight Greenway offers a muscular critique of why Keller’s and Aduriz’s cavalier attitude is short-sighted. “If we lived in the 19th century … then you could just focus on making your brilliant food (it would probably be served to royalty) and someone else would do the driving, someone else the laundry, and so forth.” But in the era of climate change and global resource depletion, the it’s-not-my-problem mindset is “not just irresponsible — [it is] destructive.”
Even if Keller and Aduriz feel entitled to dismiss the moral responsibility to care about the farmer behind the ingredients that sustain their art, there is one simple reason why they should care about the environment in the twenty-first century: global warming is changing the way food tastes.
Whether it’s the distinctive briny tang of sourdough bread in San Francisco, the subtle florality of a raw cheese, or the complexity of a great coffee, climate creates flavor. And when the climate changes, so will the tastes we have come to expect — and not for the better.
Take coffee, the crop that’s been the source of my livelihood as the Director of Coffee at Thanksgiving Coffee Company for nearly 10 years. As temperatures warm, coffee fruit ripens more quickly, producing a less complex flavor. The articulation of flavors becomes muddled, and the essential balance between juicy citric acidity, body, and flavor loses dimension. After harvesting, and during processing, the yeast that predominate in a particular growing region (much like the yeast that gives San Francisco sourdough its distinctive flavor) interact with the fruit’s sugar, and transform flavor in the same way that yeast develop the flavors of great bread, cheese, wine, and beer. These yeasts, dominant in particular regions because of their suitability to that climate, are out-competed by rival strains more adapted to the new norms of humidity and temperature. As temperatures warm and climate shifts, the delicate choreography of factors that combine to produce great coffee changes. We are losing the distinctive flavors that we associate with the micro-origins and appellations that coffee lovers cherish. A look at the menu of Keller’s Per Se (warning: sticker shock may occur) reveals a long list of ingredients — cacao, cheese, wine, bread, fruit, vegetables, and, well, pretty much everything — whose flavor, like coffee, is changing because of our changing climate.
As Neelima Mahajan described in the Spring 2012 edition of Earth Island Journal, for coffee farmers in Uganda climate change isn’t some kind of academic concern. It’s happening now, and it’s threatening coffee crops, farmers’ livelihoods, and the area’s ecology. I’d like to invite Keller and Aduriz to visit the farmers of Peace Kawomera, a Ugandan Cooperative I work with on the Mount Elgon region featured in Mahajan’s article. There they would see coffee in the flesh and the efforts, led by the 560 family farmers of Peace Kawomera and supported by Thanksgiving Coffee Company and The Resilience Fund (a project of Earth Island Institute), to develop front-line buffers against the dislocations of climate change. Through simple initiatives such as tree-planting and watershed restoration we are boosting farmers’ resilience to shifting weather.
For the farmers of Peace Kawomera, and others like them, the almost-clinical phrase climate change doesn’t begin to describe the brutal reality they are facing. My friend and Peace Kawomera founder JJ Keki speaks of the climate crisis as a threat to his whole way of life. Perhaps a visit to Keki’s farm would awaken Keller and Aduriz to the responsibilities they possess as persons of influence.
As leaders of the culinary world, these chefs need to remember that their skill in the kitchen depends on their relationships with farmers, ranchers, fisherpeople, and all other agricultural producers. Honoring those relationships is not only key to a sustainable food system, but in fact is the only path to the subtle gifts of flavor that make a great meal.
Ben Corey-Moran is the President of Thanksgiving Coffee and serves on the Advisory Council of The Resilience Fund, an Earth Island Institute-sponsored project that helps coffee farmers adapt to global climate change. Lean more about The Resilience Fund at www.theresiliencefund.org.