The Bean and Human Enterprise: Not Just Another Cup of Coffee
Please join me in welcoming Maury Gloster; guest writer, friend, and coffee aficionado. Maury, his wife Ibby, and daughter Michelle, a freshman home from college on spring break, visited Thanksgiving Coffee after many back-and-forth emails, phone conversations, and calendar checks. It was great showing them the inside workings of Thanksgiving, and hearing their passion for the projects, movement, and future of global sustainability . Thank you Maury, Ibby, and Michelle, and to you – the reader of this post.
THE BEAN AND HUMAN ENTERPRISE: NOT JUST ANOTHER CUP OF COFFEE by Maury Gloster
Let’s be clear. My wife and I are coffee aficionados and our daughter is beginning to follow a similar path. It is not difficult to engage us in discussion about coffee, or drinking coffee, nor are we hesitant to try new varieties. We are long past the point when, during years of arduous education and training, coffee’s value proposition was its stimulatory effect. Now, it’s just simply pleasurable.
So, a few years ago, we Sacramentans found ourselves standing in front of a rack of Thanksgiving Coffee offerings in the Mendocino Bakery, deliberating about what would be best to choose for brewing during our stay in Mendocino. A fellow, recognizing our indecision, suddenly appeared from behind the food counter to engage us in conversation about a wide variety of topics, with all at least remotely related to coffee. That was one Paul Katzeff, owner of Thanksgiving Coffee. Over the ensuing 45 minutes, spent mostly listening to Paul, we were regaled with stories, admonitions and caveats about growing coffee plants, preserving forests and protecting song birds of Central America, plane rides with Sandanistas and the superior taste and finish of light and medium brew roasts compared with the far less sophisticatation of our characteristic preference, the deep, dark roast. We were enlightened and entertained. And then we bought a deep, dark roast.
We’ve been devotees of Thanksgiving Coffee and its coffees ever since. The brew is one thing—the mission is the other. Paul has leveraged his career and passion for social work into a business that supports the disadvantaged, the ravaged, the forgotten and the irreplaceable elements of our environment. And he uses the success of his growing business to heighten our awareness of social, economic and environmental issues while bringing tangible assets to peoples from Latin America to Africa. You just have to examine his business pro forma, or simply peruse the Thanksgiving Coffee website, to gain insight into this unique blending of coffee and mission.
So, it was against this background that a few days ago our family of three visited Thanksgiving Coffee. Arriving in the mist of a March Monday morning, we were greeted by Holly Moskowitz, a key ambassador of the Thanksgiving Coffee outreach, in particular to those growing coffee beans on a Ugandan cooperative incorporating followers of Islam, Judaism and Christianity and benefiting in a variety of ways from the helping hand extended by Thanksgiving Coffee. Holly has educated members of the coop on HIV/AIDs and diabetes, befriended its peoples and represented what is the best of America as it supports those easily ignored or forgotten. Spend a moment scanning Holly’s impressive photographic collection of her days in Uganda on the Thanksgiving Coffee website and you’ll get the idea.
And Paul has designed his business model to return a portion of the profits he earns from buying the coop’s beans and selling its coffee in a unique circuitry that merits recognition to match the appreciation, easily reviewed on the website, expressed by coop members. It’s a passion and a raison d’etre for Paul and it shows. Just spend a few minutes with him.
This is not to say that the Ugandan project is a stand-alone. Notably, the Thanksgiving Coffee reach is across continents and causes, aiding peoples and the world in which they—and, ultimately, we—live. For example, if you raze tropical forests to grow coffee beans, you desecrate the nature of the land and, at the same time, destroy the habitat of song birds. An alternative is learning to grow coffee plants in the shade, thus balancing nature with enterprise. But you have to care to make it happen, enlist the skills, talent and sacrifice of people of similar mind, and create the economic engine that sees the mission through. Paul has assembled those elements and has maintained a variety of missions through years of endeavor.
Our visit to Thanksgiving was further punctuated by a â€œcuppingâ€ set for us by Holly and her colleague Ben Corey-Moran, who provided us education, insight and discoveries about coffee that otherwise would have been unreachable. We had the opportunity to smell and taste coffee roasts of beans from a wide range of geographies, all the while learning to appreciate the differences, great and small, among them. The opportunity, offered in the context of shared coffee passion, was singular and deeply appreciated.
â€œNo coffee, no missionâ€, Paul told us. To be sure, he operates a business whose success allows him to fulfill his drive to support and to protect. Fortunately, Thanksgiving Coffee offers a variety of roasts that are easy to embrace, so contributing to a greater good through purchase of its coffees comes with little challenge. The choice is always there: enjoy or enjoy and give back. Paul and his Thanksgiving Coffee family have provided us with the opportunity to both satisfy our conscience and our love for great coffee.
But just don’t let him catch you with a dark roast.