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  • Our 1st #BeeBold Mendocino Advisory Committee Meeting

    A wonderful way to begin a bee friendly county!

    On Tuesday February 2nd, 2016 Thanksgiving Coffee Company hosted the first Bee Bold Mendocino Advisory Committee meeting.


    The goal is to make Mendocino the first “Bee Friendly” County in California.


    The meeting began with introductions all around.


    Top row left to right – Paul Katzeff – CEO and Co-Founder of Thanksgiving Coffee Company, Tanya Wyldflower – Coastal Bee Keeper, Lavender Cinnamon – Community Development for Thanksgiving Coffee Company, Joan Katzeff – President and Co-Founder of Thanksgiving Coffee Company, Elmer Whaley – Community Environmental Activist, Betty Lou Whaley – Coastal Bee Keeper, Erin Arnsteen – Pollinator Friendly Gardening, Parducci Vineyards, Jess Arnsteen – Manager of Edible Ecosystem for Parducci Vineyards.


    Bottom row from left to right, Tim Ward- Farmer and Director of Fundraising and Programming at the Grange Farm School, Sakina Bush – Mendocino Farmers Market Manager, Miles Gordon – Mendocino Food Policy Council, CA Food Policy Council, David Martinez – Winnemen Wintu Community Activist, Anna Marie Stenberg – Mendocino Community Activist, Cornelia Reynolds – Noyo Food Forest Executive Director,


    (Not Pictured: Kate Frey – Sustainable Gardens, Co – Author of “Bee Friendly Gardens”, John Schaeffer – President and Founder Real Goods, and Michael Thiele – Gaia Bees.


    After our introductions, which included a delicious local honey tasting, 3 main areas of focus were identified.


    1. Policy on pesticide use in Mendocino County. Address the use of Round Up and neonics.
    2. Education/Public Awareness of the plight of bees in Mendocino County.
    3. Planting and providing forage for pollinators and bees in Mendocino County.

    At our next meeting we will be defining what we want to accomplish, how to do it, and the desired outcome.


    John Schaffer from Real Goods will host the next Bee Bold Advisory Committee Meeting in March.


    We are extremely grateful to everyone who came and is willing to work towards a better future for the bees in Mendocino County!


    Bee Bold Medo "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" The Song of Increase
    For current news and developments of Bee Bold in Mendocino visit www.facebook.com/beeboldmendo

    If you want to participate please call Lavender Cinnamon 707 964-0118 ext. 107 or email me at lavender@thanksgivingcoffee.com




    bee-bold-alliance

    Our 1st #BeeBold Mendocino Advisory Committee Meeting

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  • Our 1st #BeeBold Event

    Thanksgiving Coffee Company has created Bee Bold Coffee, made a commitment to our bees, and is ready to share it with Mendocino.

    Bee Bold Booth

    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 Booth
    Bee Bold Booth

    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)


    Bee Keeper 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.


    Hand in the Seed 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.
    Tim Ward Speaking of dirt and seeds, Tim Ward joined us. He works as Director of Fundraising and Programming at the Grange Farm School. Grange Farm School logoI came across their website when I was doing research on different organizations Logo 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.


    Tim Ward 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.


    Main Organizer 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.


    Noyo Food 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).

    Bee Bold Mendo 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”

    For current news and developments of Bee Bold in Mendocino you can visit www.facebook.com/beeboldmendo

    If you want to participate please call Lavender Cinnamon 707 964-0118 ext. 107 or email me at lavender@thanksgivingcoffee.com




    bee-bold-alliance

    Our 1st #BeeBold Event

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  • Origin Trip: Nicaragua 2015

    Origin Trip: Nicaragua 2015

    This coffee buying trip to Nicaragua marks the 30th year Thanksgiving Coffee has traveled to this beautiful country. It is also the first year that Thanksgiving Coffee is sending staff without the guidance and counseling of CEO Co-Founder Paul Katzeff.


    The trip represents the “passing of the torch” to a new generation. It’s a generation that grew up with coffee as a medium for carrying the message of the people, their craftsmanship, and their hope for a better life through coffee cultivation.


    Jacob and Jonah carried The Company message to the cooperatives that our mission, and the value we place on long term relationships, bridges generations. We are in this together, and prosperity for all is the common thread we value most.
    – Paul Katzeff

    Nicaragua

    Adventures at Origin: Nicaragua

    Jacob Long, Nicholas Hoskyns, and I (Jonah Katzeff) traveled together from March 23rd-27th. We visited first and second level coffee cooperatives that produce approximately 25% of our annual green coffee purchases. We cupped and selected our Nicaraguan coffees for 2015, met with cooperative leaders and farmers, and visited beautiful coffee farms.


    We were received warmly everywhere. I am so grateful to the hundreds of hands that touch coffee, from the time it is picked to when it is exported. Our 2015 Nicaraguan coffees will be exceptional. The new harvest will be available starting in late May.


    Nicaragua

    Nicaragua

    DAY ONE

    Solcafe and Byron Corrales’ farm visit

    • We cupped the Solidaridad washed and dry-processed (natural) micro lots, along with Byron’s washed and dry-processed coffees in the morning at Solcafe- the dry mill that processes and exports coffees from first level cooperatives.


    • Cecocafen is the second level cooperative that owns the dry mill and is the exporter for many first level cooperatives.


    • They have constructed a new cupping lab that is much more spacious than the older one. It was interesting to see on this visit that three cupping labs had been moved to new locations.


    • We then traveled to Byron’s farm for a delicious lunch consisting of beets, carrots, squash, potatoes, cheese, tortillas, gallo pinto (rice and beans), and mini chicken tamales.


    • After lunch, Jacob and I toured Byron’s two farms with Byron and his daughter, Sara.


    • Byron showed us the tree where Paul, Byron, and Arnulfo (Byron’s grandfather) first agreed to work together 22 years ago (in the photo at left).


    • We learned about some of the biodynamic techniques Byron is applying to the land. Byron expressed that the 3 most important factors resulting in great coffee are: the producer/farmer, the quality of the soil, and the skill of the roaster.


    • We also learned about some of the negative effects resulting from climate change on his coffee trees – fruit not ripening at all, or not ripening fully, and trees flowering now [end of March] when they typically flower in May.

    Upsetter

    • Byron is taking action now by replacing older trees with ones that are more resistant to climate change. He is also planting more shade trees to protect the coffee trees from the sun.


    • He expressed concern that if changes are not made now, there may be a lot less coffee in the future.


    • We visited a small grove of a variety of pine trees (7 total) that Byron smuggled back from Brazil. There are no other varieties of this pine in Nicaragua.


    • We then returned to Byron’s farm called Finca de Los Pinos and said our goodbyes to Byron’s parents, and returned to Matagalpa for the evening.


    • We enjoyed pizza with the Corrales family in Matagalpa!



    Nicaragua

    The green coffee sourcing team:


    Nicholas (on right) is the Managing Director of Etico. He organized our visit and traveled with us throughout the week. Nicholas was born in England, but Nicaragua is his adopted home after spending almost 25 years there! Etico imports our coffees from Nicaragua as well as green coffees from Guatemala, Mexico, Rwanda, and Uganda.


    Jacob (second from right) is the Director of Coffee Control and Roastmaster at Thanksgiving Coffee. He is responsible for developing the roast profiles of all our single origins, blends, and decafs. He approves all the green coffees we purchase and ensures that the coffee roasted at Thanksgiving is consistent roast after roast.


    Jonah (on left) works in Business Development and as an Account Manager. He serves in a variety of roles that include green coffee sourcing, managing the San Francisco Bay Area accounts, and special projects, as assigned by Senior Management.




    byron

    Origin Trip: Nicaragua 2015

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  • YCFCU is Transforming Lives.

    YCFCU is Transforming Lives.

    re-posted from yirgacheffeunion.com

    From poverty to self sustainability; Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers’ Union has played a big role in the success of these farmers and their families as well as their surrounding communities.


    The Testimonies coming from these great achievements of the Union are many, diverse and immense.





    Category_Farmers & Cooperatives

    YCFCU is Transforming Lives.

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  • A Trip to Africa: Day 9 -The Final Entry

    A Trip to Africa: Day 9 -The Final Entry

    In January 2014, CEO & Co-Founder Paul Katzeff traveled to Africa to meet with two of our producer cooperatives. In this blog series, Paul shares his experience in Uganda and Rwanda.

    Like everything else in life, things change over time. This was a wonderful story of how one man had a vision and changed his community once he was able to act on his idea, which was to unite coffee growers with different religions into a Fair Trade Certified coffee cooperative. He realized that if the farmers were working together they could reap beneficial economic gains and improve the quality of their lives. Laura Wetzler, Program Director of Kalunu was working with the Jewish community in Mbale, and came to aid this vision of the community leader, JJ Keki. That was 11 years ago. Thanksgiving Coffee responded to Ms. Wetzler’s and JJ’s call for help, and we began to purchase their coffee and to sell it via telling the amazing story of this interfaith cooperative.

    We told their story, purchased their coffee, and worked with the coop and its “Leadership” to help the story survive, and the Cooperative to flourish. However, over ten years, random and not so random events make things change, and PKC was no exception to this rule of life.

    Poor leadership, predatory organizations that wanted to use the story for their own purposes, unethical business practices, and a complete disregard for transparency and record keeping by the Mirembe Kawomera Cooperative Board created a toxic environment for using a Fair Trade model to improve and meet the needs of the coffee farmers of the Mirembe Kawomera Cooperative

    Thanksgiving Coffee Company lost its trust in the Cooperative as the leadership declared their intention to become independent from their parent second level cooperative, Gumutindo, the organization that provided them with Organic certification oversight and leadership training, financial pre financing of the coffee harvest. Fair Trade certification, quality control and export services. This departure made the small cooperative rogue outfit out of what was in the beginning, a collaborative effort with adequate oversight of both quality control and financial integrity.

    We have always intended to support the farmers through the Cooperative. It is always about the farmers. The Cooperative is a business model that democratically facilitates business policy and the activities of trade. We have ended our relationship with PKC under its current leadership; lack of trust and too much financial risk is the reason. But, we have not abandoned the farmers who were being poorly served by their leadership.

    The situation has evolved, changed and morphed into Phase II, a more mature phase with the lessons learned, being applied to build a new primary level cooperative with the same interfaith coffee farmers that once were nominal members of Mirembe Kawomera. The Vice President of the PKC Cooperative and the Organic Coffee Director have broken away from the original PKC and reunited with their parent cooperative, Gumutindo, to begin this year’s purchasing of green coffee from the very same farmers. Thanksgiving Coffee will evolve our role in the supply chain to support the changes that are occurring in the coffee community that was once the Mirembe Kawomera primary cooperative. We have committed to begin purchases for the 2015 crop, and the farmers have already delivered over 600 sacks of dry parchment coffee to the Gumutindo Cooperative for export.

    We are in transition to a deeper and more economically valuable situation. It has evolved from what was once a fine interfaith vision with poor leadership at the Cooperative, to what we see as a real positive evolution for the farmers and for interfaith work. We will continue to sell Delicious Peace Coffee from the same inspired farmers, and we will continue to support their coffee production by selling their coffee under a duel banner which I will briefly explain and then leave for more detailed discussion as we learn about and grow into this new evolution over the next decade of interfaith and inter-tribal collaboration.

    The decade of work in Mbale Uganda has taught us that the coffee farmers of the Mt. Elgon region, which comprise the PKC members, was composed not just of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, but also of the nine indigenous tribes of Uganda. The original idea of PKC highlighted interfaith cooperation among Jews, Christians and Muslims to create peace in the region, and therefore enable economic cooperation for the common good. Now we will begin our efforts to support their tribal communities, and learn about this aspect of the farmers lives, as well.

    In sum, we are changing, because things on the ground have changed. We ask for your continued support of this coffee, as it is the fuel that drives our ability to carry on. It took a decade to discover the internal toxicity that one or two charismatic leaders can create with a weak board of directors, and when hubris from self importance leads to decisions that are ill advised and beyond the scope of abilities. This interfaith story of peace and community economic development is still alive.

    We see a bright future for telling the story of the value of interfaith and tribal cooperation in the quest for improved living conditions for all.

    Nothing remains the same for long, however “Not Just a Cup, But a Just Cup” will stay with us for as long as coffee farmers need a friend to promote a fair deal for their efforts to grow our favorite national drink- coffee.

    Here are links to the first 9 parts of this story:

    A Trip to Africa (series archive)

    Intro – I’m going to Africa

    Day 1 – Arriving in Uganda

    Day 2 – Dancing, Mango Trees & the Dry Mill

    Day 3 – On the Road

    Day 4 – Transparency, Trust & Relationships

    Day 5 - Coffee Quality & A New Mystery

    Day 6 – The Mystery Coffee’s Story

    Day 7 – All Things Revealed

    Day 8 - Making the New Transparency Work

    Day 9 - The Final Entry

    Africa

    A Trip to Africa: Day 9 -The Final Entry

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  • A Trip to Africa: Day 8 - Making the New Transparency Work

    A Trip to Africa: Day 8 - Making the New Transparency Work

    In January 2014, CEO & Co-Founder Paul Katzeff traveled to Africa to meet with two of our producer cooperatives. In this blog series, Paul shares his experience in Uganda and Rwanda.

    The duplicity of The Coexist Foundation was ever on my mind while in Uganda. I felt betrayed by two young men in Washington DC. Tarek and Lance are the leaders of The Coexist Foundation. They came to us in early 2013, seeking a collaboration with the Thanksgiving Coffee Company. They presented the idea that they market and sell Mirembe Kawomera coffee in a coexist package. We were excited to have them come on board as promoters of this Interfaith Cooperatives coffee which we saw as our primary responsibility. Roasting the coffee for others to market and sell to their congregations, members and followers.

    “Coexist came to us in early 2013, seeking a collaboration with the Thanksgiving Coffee Company.”

    It has been a decade since we began promoting Mirembe Kawomera Coffee, and we have invested many hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring this story to the coffee world. Tarek and Lance, in numerous emails and phone conversations both encouraged and worried us as we moved forward with their private label package. We loved the idea that they were investing in a fully printed package, but we worried about their unwillingness to present Thanksgiving Coffee as the decade long carrier of the torch and promoter of the story and developer of the supply chain that created the improved quality we now roast. But we forged on with Coexist as they gave assurances to us that their only interest was to sell the coffee to raise funds for the school in Mbale.

    When we were told that the 250 mystery sacks were sold to the Coexist Foundation by the cooperative two months before we arrived in Uganda, the mystery was no longer who were the bags of coffee for, but now the questions were; how did this happen, why did it happen, and what were the consequences going to be for this double betrayal of Thanksgiving by both the Cooperative and The Coexist Foundation.

    The conversations led to these discoveries:

    1. The Coexist Foundation had used the film makers of the Documentary “Delicious Peace “, Ellen and Kurt to set up their own Film project and then sent a five person film crew with a script, to Mbale to create The Coexist Foundation Story of their discovery and adoption of this cooperative. Their video tells the story as if Thanksgiving Coffee never existed these past ten years.
    2. The president of the PKC Board had negotiated with the Coexist Foundation to sell this coffee without informing many on the Coop’s Board and in fact, there were no records of this coffee being purchased from the PKC coffee farmer members.
    3. Coexist had purchased coffee that could not be shown to be Certified Organic and was certainly not Fair Trade Certified. They had paid a price that was far below the price Thanksgiving Coffee had paid for this years crop according to their General Manager.
    4. There was nothing we could do about the situation because the money had exchanged hands already.
    “Our Story was being re-filmed and revised to replace our Brand with Coexists Brand.”

    I concluded that our decade of work had been hijacked. Our Story was being re-filmed and revised to replace our Brand with Coexists Brand. They believed they could buy media, legal services and a coffee supply chain that Thanksgiving Coffee company had developed over a decade of investment in time, travel, expertise, and money to create. What to do was the question on my mind in Uganda on day 8. I could walk away from this Interfaith Story and punish the cooperative for their moral decay. I could confront Coexist and threaten to expose their deception and unethical business practices to their Board of Trustees, I could redouble my efforts to strengthen the PKC cooperative now that we had a ability to discuss all issues with openness and transparency. One thing for sure, I was going to stop in Washington DC on my way back to California to confront Terek and Lance and lay down my threats to expose them.

    To make it real, here is a link to Coexists Current Blog. It tells the story as if cutting out the middle man (Direct Trade) was a good thing. But this is their way of justifying cutting out the Company that invested its money and time to develop this story. There is no mention of Thanksgiving Coffee whatsoever. They are spinning ” Direct Trade” as something that benefits farmers by putting more money in their pockets, but Coexist paid substantially less to the cooperative saving money so they could be more competitive on their wholesale price to their customers. In their eyes, Thanksgiving Coffee was a Middleman in the supply chain, instead of the creator and financial supporter of the chain.

    The last chapter in this story is being written now and will be posted soon.

    — — —

    Here are links to the first 8 parts of this ongoing story:

    A Trip to Africa (series archive)

    Intro – I’m going to Africa

    Day 1 – Arriving in Uganda

    Day 2 – Dancing, Mango Trees & the Dry Mill

    Day 3 – On the Road

    Day 4 – Transparency, Trust & Relationships

    Day 5 - Coffee Quality & A New Mystery

    Day 6 – The Mystery Coffee’s Story

    Day 7 – All Things Revealed

    Day 8 - Making the New Transparency Work

    Day 9 - The Final Entry

    Africa

    A Trip to Africa: Day 8 - Making the New Transparency Work

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  • A Trip to Africa: Day 7 – All Things Revealed

    A Trip to Africa: Day 7 – All Things Revealed

    In January 2014, CEO & Co-Founder Paul Katzeff traveled to Africa to meet with two of our producer cooperatives. In this blog series, Paul shares his experience in Uganda and Rwanda.

    This knowledge thoroughly pissed me off…I was about as angry as a wasp being chased by a Zebra! But what good was anger? It was good for motivation to confront the duplicity while still in Uganda. And that is what we did. We asked for a second meeting with the Cooperative Board to discuss the matter of the 250 sacks…being sold directly to one of Thanksgiving’s wholesale coffee accounts. That “customer” had become aware Mirembe Kawomera through the media’s reports on my company’s decade-long collaboration with Mirembe Kawomera Cooperative. So, that was my beef. Why did the cooperative not see this end-around? Why did this important customer go around the roaster who they came to for a proposed collaboration?There are always many stories in a screenplay, such as the one Nick and I found us in. And, we were in Uganda, about to be in a semi-barren second floor meeting room, just chairs and walls not yet painted.

    We sat together for three hours with the board and I expressed my surprise to learn that we had different ideas about our relationship and by open discussion, with many pointed questions (“where are the payment records for those coffees?”) and much talk about Transparency. Everybody knew something was wrong. There were those that were in on the deal and those who knew for the first time that “a deal went down” and they were not a part of it. There was a lot of discovery but nothing was revealed. No one got hurt in the scuffle. There were no indelible scars that would hinder future Trust developing.

    Five concrete measures were decided on as a result of the conversations and cross conversations:

    1. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Thanksgiving Coffee Company and The Mirembe Kawomera Cooperative is needed so as to define the authorities and responsibilities, and the quantifiable goals and objectives of each Business.
    2. That the Cooperative members could produce four containers yearly and to be successful, it needed to have the financing to be able to purchase cherry or parchment from their members.
    3. The Washing Station needed to be expanded from being able to process one container to two containers by August 2014.
    4. Solar Driers needed to be installed to handle the increased volume of washed coffee.
    5. Thanksgiving Coffee had not expanded the roasted retail market in The USA to meet the needs of the cooperatives members. If Thanksgiving Coffee was to keep its exclusive relationship with the PK Cooperative, it was going to have to find homes for the three containers it did not purchase.

    It was late afternoon and the heat of mid day was just a sweet memory. The sun was low and there was an orange tint to the air and everything solid and in the sunlight’s way. The meeting disbursed in a flurry of people going off in different directions amid the “good nights” and “see you tomorrows”. We covered a lot of ground during that meeting. It was a workout but through it I learned about the people I was going to be working with. We had discovered a “problem of ethics” and came to terms with no blame placed, and no sermons either. The room was filled with people who knew “when to leave well enough alone”. We all got it, so we moved on.

    And so the long day ended at our very fancy hotel where JB and Juma joined us at the pool. JB is the Cooperatives GM and Juma is the Special Projects Director. They are payed by the cooperative to run the coop’s operations.

    To be continued...

    -Paul

    A Trip to Africa (series archive)

    Intro – I’m going to Africa

    Day 1 – Arriving in Uganda

    Day 2 – Dancing, Mango Trees & the Dry Mill

    Day 3 – On the Road

    Day 4 – Transparency, Trust & Relationships

    Day 5 - Coffee Quality & A New Mystery

    Day 6 – The Mystery Coffee’s Story

    Day 7 – All Things Revealed

    Day 8 - Making the New Transparency Work

    Day 9 - The Final Entry

    Africa

    A Trip to Africa: Day 7 – All Things Revealed

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  • An American Family Grows Coffee

    An American Family Grows Coffee

    Mahina Family We arrived on the Big Island In June 2005 eager to see the coffee farm we purchased, sight unseen. Our first visit to our new home was stunning. While we had an idea of what we might find, we were thrilled to see the lush overgrown coffee trees and a macadamia nut orchard. Our passion soon became cleaning the land. Using only organic practices, solar energy, and water catchment our farm soon became an oasis for birds, camelions, and all plant life.
    The coffee appreciated the attention and soon ripened with vibrant with red plump cherries. The rich volcanic soils of Hawaii and tropical climate allowed the coffee to thrive.”
    — Kollette and Jason Stith, Mahina Mele Farm
    american

    An American Family Grows Coffee

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  • Clean Cookstoves in Uganda

    Clean Cookstoves in Uganda

    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

    Uganda

    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.”


    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. – Paul Katzeff


    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.


    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…
    -Paul





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    Clean Cookstoves in Uganda

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  • A Trip to Africa: Day 6 - The Mystery Coffee's Story

    A Trip to Africa: Day 6 - The Mystery Coffee's Story

    In January 2014, CEO & Co-Founder Paul Katzeff traveled to Africa to meet with two of our producer cooperatives. In this blog series, Paul shares his experience in Uganda and Rwanda.

    But what about the other 250 sacks along that back wall? Where did that come from and how did it pass defect inspection? And where was it going? Who had produced it, who had sold it? Who had purchased it and who had financed it? This was on my mind as we hit the road to Gumutindo’s dry mill, and it would play an important role in the days to come.

    These mystery sacks of zero defect, 17 screen (large bean size) ready for export coffee were a sharp contrast to the coffee in parchment set aside for Thanksgiving Coffee's shipment. Where did they come from? We asked the Board and the General Manager. It was as if we had caught a thief . They could not account for the purchases . There was no record of this coffee being purchased by the cooperative from its members.
    Then, as the pressure built for disclosure ( I threatened to dissolve our relationship of 10 years) JJ, the cooperative's founder revealed that the coffee was for Coexist, a Washington DC based charity with whom Thanksgiving Coffee had developed a relationship a year before.

    Parchment coffee is not green coffee. Parchment has to be milled off of the green beans so the green beans can be graded for percentage of defects. (broken beans, insect eaten beans, unripe beans, black beans, sticks, pebbles etc). Quality is related to the number of defects contained. Gumutindo, the secondary coop that is made up of 15 primary cooperatives of which PKC is but one member, accepts up to 7% defects. Anything over that needs to be sorted and picked out of the delivery to get the percentage down to 4%. If a coop delivers parchment coffee and there are more then 4% defects, they are deducted .02 cents per pound for each percent over 4%. The coffee in the open sacks had been delivered to the mill and tested, and showed 12% defects. That coffee had been rejected by the mill on our behalf – twelve pounds of defects per hundred makes for a very rough tasting coffee. Now, this organization was going around Thanksgiving Coffee, buying directly from the Cooperative. I was shocked and angry. It is one thing to not represent us in the development of the story and how we brought this incredible Interfaith story to the world (and the reason Coexist executives were able to discover them), but it is quite another thing to disrupt a business relationship based on a decade of trust and mutual inspiration.

    So, the sacks were brought back to the PKC warehouse to await my arrival – perhaps they thought I would have some “pull” at the Mill to get the coffee through. This was not exactly the way the problem was presented to me by the PKC management. They pointed fingers and said they were being picked on and that was why they wanted me, their buyer, to front for them at the mill. I thought this sounded legitimate, so I went to the GM at Gumutindo that afternoon to plead their case.

    Willington, the GM of Gumutindo who has visited me in California, offered to send his truck to pick up the parchment coffee and re-test it in front of the PKC Board. That way, they could see for themselves just what the defect percentage was in the batch of coffee slated for Thanksgiving Coffee Company from their 2013 crop. But what about the other 250 sacks along that back wall? Where did that come from and how did it pass defect inspection? And where was it going? Who had produced it, who had sold it? Who had purchased it and who had financed it? This was on my mind as we hit the road to Gumutindo’s dry mill, and it would play an important role in the days to come.

    That is enough reading for today. In my next post I will tell you how we handled this situation, how it changed our plans for the next three days of our trip and caused Nick and I to re-route out flight back thru Washington DC to meet with Coexist's Executives. I took this photo of a local artists interpretation of a street market. Total Chaos! The picture was hanging in our Hotel Lobby.

    To be continued...

    -Paul

    A Trip to Africa (series archive)

    Intro – I’m going to Africa

    Day 1 – Arriving in Uganda

    Day 2 – Dancing, Mango Trees & the Dry Mill

    Day 3 – On the Road

    Day 4 – Transparency, Trust & Relationships

    Day 5 - Coffee Quality & A New Mystery

    Day 6 – The Mystery Coffee’s Story

    Day 7 – All Things Revealed

    Day 8 - Making the New Transparency Work

    Day 9 - The Final Entry

    Africa

    A Trip to Africa: Day 6 - The Mystery Coffee's Story

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  • A Trip to Africa: Day 5 - Coffee Quality & A New Mystery

    A Trip to Africa: Day 5 – Coffee Quality & A New Mystery

    In January 2014, CEO & Co-Founder Paul Katzeff traveled to Africa to meet with two of our producer cooperatives. In this blog series, Paul shares his experience in Uganda and Rwanda.

    In Mbale we stayed at a youth Hostel that has a Cafe that serves western style food that looks and tastes familiar. We had lunch there and met with the USAID Chief. It’s the kind of place where the average age of the people who hang out there is 20-something.

    Peace Corps workers and backpackers can live there for $14.00 per night in a small private room or ‘Dormitory style’ for $5.00 per night, wake up in the morning and have a perfect Latte at the espresso bar in the lobby.

    The story became different once we got into the world that the story was taking place. Theories are mental, the real world is physical.

    Below is a picture I took after the Board Meeting we had with the Mirembe Kawomera Board.

    What do we see in this picture?

    1. Coffee in burlap sacks against the back wall with Peace Kawomera (PKC) lettering
    2. A concrete floor with someone sleeping on a mat
    3. A hand operated machine that is used to remove parchment from beans that have dried in the sun after the cherry pulp has been removed
    4. White open sacks of coffee in parchment

    This picture uncovered a different set of issues. Where did the 250 burlap sacks come from and where were they going? They were ready for export while our coffee was ready to be taken to the mill in town to be “readied for export.”

    This was the warehouse under the offices where we met the Board for discussion of the issues we came to resolve (late shipment, blending of coffees, verification of the sources of the coffee). As an aside, the PKC offices were in a building that was only half completed. In 2010, USAID funded the building of a small central coffee washing station. Thanksgiving Coffee’s rebates to the cooperative provided their in-kind contribution to the Grant. Unfortunately, there was embezzlement of funds by the coop’s GM who ran off with funds, and the Founder of the Coop was removed from the Board. USAID withdrew its remaining funds – and the building remains built but without a completed interior (no doors on offices , no paint on walls, No tables or chairs) and remains a shabby edifice that one would find hard to be proud of.

    Africa
    Parchment coffee is not green coffee. Parchment has to be milled off of the green beans so the green beans can be graded for percentage of defects. (broken beans, insect eaten beans, unripe beans, black beans, sticks, pebbles etc). Quality is related to the number of defects contained. Gumutindo, the secondary coop that is made up of 15 primary cooperatives of which PKC is but one member, accepts up to 7% defects. Anything over that needs to be sorted and picked out of the delivery to get the percentage down to 4%. If a coop delivers parchment coffee and there are more then 4% defects, they are deducted .02 cents per pound for each percent over 4%. The coffee in the open sacks had been delivered to the mill and tested, and showed 12% defects. That coffee had been rejected by the mill on our behalf – twelve pounds of defects per hundred makes for a very rough tasting coffee.

    So, the sacks were brought back to the PKC warehouse to await my arrival – perhaps they thought I would have some “pull” at the Mill to get the coffee through. This was not exactly the way the problem was presented to me by the PKC management. They pointed fingers and said they were being picked on and that was why they wanted me, their buyer, to front for them at the mill. I thought this sounded legitimate, so I went to the GM at Gumutindo that afternoon to plead their case.

    Africa

    Willington, the GM of Gumutindo who has visited me in California, offered to send his truck to pick up the parchment coffee and re-test it in front of the PKC Board. That way, they could see for themselves just what the defect percentage was in the batch of coffee slated for Thanksgiving Coffee Company from their 2013 crop. But what about the other 250 sacks along that back wall? Where did that come from and how did it pass defect inspection? And where was it going? Who had produced it, who had sold it? Who had purchased it and who had financed it? This was on my mind as we hit the road to Gumutindo’s dry mill, and it would play an important role in the days to come.

    We arrived at the dry mill (Gumutindo) that afternoon with the Board members of the cooperative to witness the grading process. It’s a simple process – first, a long pointed metal tube is thrust into a sack of parchment coffee and withdrawn filled with a sample from that sack. This is repeated on another ten sacks, each providing a small sample (about a half pound). The multiple samples are aggregated into a single sample from which 250 grams are taken and placed in a moisture meter.
    The sample must come in under 13% moisture. Then, 100 grams are put through a hand crank parchment removal device and the green beans are then winnowed to remove dust and small pieces of parchment. The beans are then clean, and ready to be inspected for defects, which are sorted out by hand and eye inspection. There was an air of anxiety as the head sorter picked at the 100 gram sample.

    The defects are placed in a tray for all to see and agree on. Then they are weighed. This sample came out 9%. Again, too high for their Dry Mill to accept. Now there was a problem. I don’t want nine pounds of defects in every 100 pounds of coffee. There is no way I could make that coffee taste good enough to sell. The coop had to make a decision. They could pay the woman sorters to remove enough defects to get the coffee down to 7% or they could haul the coffee back to their warehouse 20 Kilometers to the north and sort out the defects themselves. Otherwise they would have to negotiate with the woman on a price for sorting out 2% from 30,000 lbs of coffee (600 pounds of defects).

    At Gumutindo, the sorters are independent contractors. They sit under a giant shade tree at the mill and spend their days picking out defects, damaged bean by damaged bean. Unlike the sorters in Central and South America who sit at a conveyor belt that carries an endless stream of coffee beans past silent, sitting women who pick passing defective beans out of the rapids, these woman socialize all day and pick at their own pace. A much more civilized way to do tedious work.
    The coop board members voted to hire the sorters and sent a member of the Board to the tree to negotiate a price for the sorting. About 300 feet from the defect assessment station the woman sat and sorted, each with their own sack to clean, knowing just how many pounds were needed to be culled from each sack to get it into an acceptable range.

    So now we had the 2014 crop due to be shipped to the US and arrive in May, being in the last phase before being put on a truck to travel to Mombasa where it will head south past Madagascar and round the Cape of Good Hope at the tip of South Africa and head across the Atlantic to The Panama Canal and up the west side of Central America toward its destination, The Port of Oakland. With 2013 crop and its problems behind it, I turned back to solve the mystery of the 250 sacks that were unaccounted for, with 17 screen and zero defects. What was their story?

    To be continued...

    -Paul

     

    A Trip to Africa (series archive)

    Intro – I’m going to Africa

    Day 1 – Arriving in Uganda

    Day 2 – Dancing, Mango Trees & the Dry Mill

    Day 3 – On the Road

    Day 4 – Transparency, Trust & Relationships

    Day 5 - Coffee Quality & A New Mystery

    Day 6 – The Mystery Coffee’s Story

    Day 7 – All Things Revealed

    Day 8 - Making the New Transparency Work

    Day 9 - The Final Entry

     

    Africa

    A Trip to Africa: Day 5 - Coffee Quality & A New Mystery

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  • A Trip to Africa: Day 4 - Transparency, Trust & Relationships

    A Trip to Africa: Day 4 - Transparency, Trust & Relationships

    In January 2014, CEO & Co-Founder Paul Katzeff traveled to Africa to meet with two of our producer cooperatives. In this blog series, Paul shares his experience in Uganda and Rwanda.

    When we left Jinja, we left with a deep satisfaction, having met some really serious people who were in the beginnings of something great. Two hundred elders were one day away from receiving a “Certificate of Completion” for the nine month course in Asset Based Community Economic Development offered by The Communities of SHALOM in collaboration with Drew University. This 3 credit course will give them the tools they need to enter the 21st century global trading environment and may be the only educational accomplishment many of them obtain (The certificate will be of parchment suitable for framing). I can see it now, hanging on a wood slab on a simple brick wall, inside a 12’x12′ square room with a red dirt floor, the only adornment to be found on any of the walls in the home of that proud community leader (and Organic Robusta coffee grower)

    Nick and I felt that our trip had an auspicious beginning. We had a two pound sample of what looked to be a beautifully prepared Organic Robusta which we hoped to “cup” when we got to Mbale, and we had a mutually agreed-to trading relationship started if the coffee proved to be of good quality. It was not my primary purpose to search for another cooperative to work with, especially a coop that had never sold a pound of coffee before, but I use about 75,000 pounds of Robusta each year in our very popular, high caffeine coffee “Pony Express” which I now buy from Importers.

    Paul Katzeff

    At Thanksgiving Coffee go to great effort to make sure we know the farmers we buy from and work with them directly. It is essential to our buying plan that the price farmers receive is high enough that they WANT to continue growing coffee. We want the farmer to love their trees because those trees are providing food, clothing, shelter, health care and education for their family and community. Trees that are loved produce better coffee, they are no different than tomato plants or marijuana plants: care for them, love them, and they will respond. That is the key to sourcing great coffee and sustaining the farmers’ efforts. Quality of life and quality of coffee go hand in hand.

    The road from Jinja to Mbale was red clay – dry and dusty. It’s the same material that most buildings are made from. A great and endless building material. This photo is rich in information. A dirt highway comes to a paved road with electricity poles and wires, a billboard advertising a soda of some kind, two motorcycles, people walking and a truck loaded with hand-sawed slab lumber driving to market. The trees are semi arid in their type, not at all tropical. In this dry, dusty Ugandan moment where the paved road began, I started to ready myself for the work ahead, the major reason for my 23 hour trip to the other side of the world – Uganda is 11 hours ahead of California time. Paved roads mean you are getting close to something!


    At a gas station close to Mbale we came upon this sweet fruit vendor. We ate some bananas for lunch, something I don’t think of doing in the USA. Bananas in the tropics are like candy – and you look upon them as safe energy food. I thought I was taking a still shot but the video was on and I was lucky to get her little hip rotation presentation of her wares and that wonderful smile as it formed. She made me feel special in a male/female kind of way. I felt that she actually saw me more deeply then I could ever see her.

    Trip to africa

    Here you see the way they do building in Uganda. They are, surprisingly, not artisan bricklayers – they just are bricklayers. I could see holes in the backyard where the bricks came from: you rarely see truck loads of bricks being transported to building sites because the bricks are made on location.

    I went to Uganda to visit the Interfaith Cooperative of Jews, Christians and Muslims called Mirembe Kawomera. This cooperative has an incredible story – and Thanksgiving Coffee Company became the story teller for this miraculous group. We have purchased their entire coffee crop each year since 2004, and their coffee has been Certified Fair Trade and Organic the entire time. We market this coffee to faith-based groups, Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and to people who believe in and work for Interfaith healing in a troubled world.

    Trip to africa

    This cooperative presents, perhaps the greatest coffee story ever told, and we have seen our efforts to promote this cooperative bring a modicum of fame (Oprah’s O Magazine) and recognition (Tufts University Jean Mayer Award). We sell the coffee to over 200 religous groups and congregations nationwide and our supply of green beans was running out when I left for Uganda. The supply was running out because the 2012 crop, which was slated to be shipped December 2012 and to arrive in Oakland in May 2013, was eight months late. I went to Mbale to find out why.

    I had some clues before I left:

    1. The contract required that all the coffee be from the central washing station.
    2. In a Skype call to the Mirembe Kawomera Coop (PKC) manager ard the full Board back in October 1013, I asked what was causing the delay and I was told that they could only produce 110 sacks that they brought through their washing station.

    Because our contract was for 250 sacks (37,500 pounds purchased at $3.05/pound), they did not know what to do and were instructed by our Importer (in the USA) to blend in other Ugandan coffees with the washing station coffees to fill the container – and ship it to Thanksgiving Coffee Company for sale as PKC washing station coffee. This presented a problem of certifiable authenticity of the product Thanksgiving Coffee presents to our customers.

    The system of authenticity had broken down and I was there to see if I could verify that 110 sacks were actually run through the central PKC washing station. I needed to verify that each farmer’s delivery was recorded with their name, amount paid and farm location – and that all of this was recorded in the Cooperative’s records for the Fair Trade and Organic Certifiers to verify through their own field trips to farms.

    This was a serious effort on all our parts to get back on track. We all knew that the transparency issue is essential to the trust we use as a basis for working together. Similarly, our customers depend on trusting that what they wish to support is what they are buying – that their purchases are going toward the economic development of a community of courageous people who believed that by coming together in an interfaith coalition coffee cooperative, they could better their personal lives, and their community life as well.

    Here’s a video clip from the first meeting to discuss our mission. I asked each member of the Board to help me remember each one of them when I got home because I was not good remembering names and putting them with faces.

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    A Trip to Africa: Day 4 - Transparency, Trust & Relationships

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  • A Trip to Africa: Day 3 – On the Road

    A Trip to Africa: Day 3 – On the Road

    In January 2014, CEO & Co-Founder Paul Katzeff traveled to Africa to meet with two of our producer cooperatives. In this blog series, Paul shares his experience in Uganda and Rwanda.

    After two days in Jinja in the poor countryside we would return to our hotel for a touch of our comfortable western style life. Hot showers, fruit sliced properly, Gin and Tonic: Uganda was a British Colony back 60 years ago. In the background you can see the Colonial Style architecture beyond the pool. The Hotel manager who came to greet us at our arrival was in a suit and tie, very British in accent. He was from South Africa and considered his "posting" here at the hotel as a purgatory and informed us he was leaving "his post" in two weeks to return to Johannesburg to resume his life. Driving to Mbale, Uganda In this photo, we are approaching the coffee growing region of Mt. Elgon, just outside of Mbale.

    Trip to africa

    In the distance you can see the mountain. It rises up rather spectacularly as you approach it.

    Trip to africa

    Here is my traveling partner, Mr. Nicholas Hoskyns.

    Nick is a Brit who lives in Nicaragua. He is an expert in many fields and specifically cooperative management and business practices. He is the President of a British Charity called ETICO, an acronym for "Ethical Trading Company." Being British I thought it appropriate to photograph him in a tea field! In his hand he is holding "two leafs and a bud", the most delicate of the new growth and most flavorful. By this time, I was getting excited to visit the Mirembe Kawomera Fair Trade Cooperative. This is a cooperative that consists of Jews, Christians and Muslims who came together to work in a coffee cooperative system to obtain the benefits of selling into the Fair Trade and Organic specialty coffee export market. It is the only such Interfaith cooperative in the world and their story has been documented in a 60 minute documentary called "Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean." The cooperative has been awarded many honors. Thanksgiving Coffee Company has promoted their coffee under the Mirembe Kawomera (Delicious Peace) label since 2004 and promises that only the coffee that their members grow is found in the packages and that each package sold adds $0.25 cents to a fund that we send to them each year to be their "in kind" contribution when they seek grants for projects to improve their community. To date we have sent $95,000 and they have built a central coffee washing station with grants from USAID, a climate change program with a tree planting project and in the works for this year will be an expansion of their central washing station and a cupping lab for tasting their coffees of each farmer prior to export so they all can taste the fruits of their individual labor on their farms. Last year, we had some hang-ups in the coffee supply chain. Mirembe Kawomera was unable to produce a full container of coffee for us and the shipment was eight months late. Orders were coming in and we could not substitute any other coffee for their package. What was going on? Nick came with me to examine the books and help with the supply chain logistics.

    Trip to africa

    What's going on in this photo? The facade on the store is a Persian mosaic - Muslim occupants I would guess. I probably could have gotten off here and settled into a simple life of walking two miles to get the day's water from a well that ten kids were filling five gallon plastic containers for their families (40 pounds) and carrying it back many miles instead of being in school or playing little League baseball. Actually Uganda is soccer crazy. They seem to favor Arsenal in the Upper leagues of Europe. Tomorrow we will visit the Mirembe Kawomera facilities to meet with their Board of directors and talk about their issues and my issues.
    To be continued...

    -Paul

     

    A Trip to Africa (series archive)

    Intro – I’m going to Africa

    Day 1 – Arriving in Uganda

    Day 2 – Dancing, Mango Trees & the Dry Mill

    Day 3 – On the Road

    Day 4 – Transparency, Trust & Relationships

    Day 5 - Coffee Quality & A New Mystery

    Day 6 – The Mystery Coffee’s Story

    Day 7 – All Things Revealed

    Day 8 - Making the New Transparency Work

    Day 9 - The Final Entry

     

    Africa

    A Trip to Africa: Day 3 – On the Road

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  • A Trip to Africa: Day 2 – Dancing, Mango Trees & The Dry Mill

    A Trip to Africa: Day 2 – Dancing, Mango Trees & The Dry Mill

    In January 2014, CEO & Co-Founder Paul Katzeff traveled to Africa to meet with two of our producer cooperatives. In this blog series, Paul shares his experience in Uganda and Rwanda.

    Our first day in Uganda was a real experience. The farmers met under a giant Mango tree that had just produced over 1,000 pounds of ripe mangoes and was beginning to flower for next year's fruit. These trees grow wild and can be found everywhere. In the shade of the tree people danced and celebrated. The heart of Rock and roll and the Blues came from these people - I could feel the rhythms vibrate my body and I was moved to dance ... but just couldn't get in there with them. I felt the beat but didn't feel I had the moves. The kid who was drumming was good! (see below)

    Trip to africa

    Back on the road north to our primary Destination, The city of Mbale, the home of Mirembe Kawamera Cooperative. This is the famous interfaith cooperative of Jews, Christians and Muslims working together in a small outlying mountain village in the shadow of Mt. Elgon in the northeastern part of Uganda. This photo shows a typical roadside crossroad. Hard to say what is going on there but in the background is another Giant Mango tree and to the left down the road a couple of hundred feet are banana trees.

    Trip to africa

    This homestead along the road had solar electric panels right in front of their house.

    Trip to africa

    The two hour trip from Jinja to Mbale was filled with a life force so different, visually. These pictures show how western culture mixes with people who have too little but need the same things we need. Food, clothing, shelter and commerce. This little store sells what is needed, not what is wanted. The difference narrows

    Trip to africa

    The selections down to what is available to sell. Carrying Coffee Sacks in Uganda This was our first destination in Mbale, The "dry mill" where our coffee is readied for export after being received from the primary cooperative in the mountains. This is where the coffee is graded (sorted) for defects and the parchment is milled off of the coffee and the burlap sacks are filled with 152 pounds of green coffee beans. Yes, those guys are carrying 150 lbs of coffee.
    To be continued...

    -Paul

    A Trip to Africa (series archive)

    Intro – I’m going to Africa

    Day 1 – Arriving in Uganda

    Day 2 – Dancing, Mango Trees & the Dry Mill

    Day 3 – On the Road

    Day 4 – Transparency, Trust & Relationships

    Day 5 - Coffee Quality & A New Mystery

    Day 6 – The Mystery Coffee’s Story

    Day 7 – All Things Revealed

    Day 8 - Making the New Transparency Work

    Day 9 - The Final Entry

    Africa

    A Trip to Africa: Day 2 – Dancing, Mango Trees & The Dry Mill

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  • A Trip to Africa: Day 1 - Arriving In Uganda

    A Trip to Africa: Day 1 - Arriving In Uganda

    In January 2014, CEO & Co-Founder Paul Katzeff traveled to Africa to meet with two of our producer cooperatives. In this blog series, Paul shares his experience in Uganda and Rwanda.

    We arrived in Uganda (Entebbe Airport) at midnight. In two hours we were in Jinja to visit a coffee cooperative that is producing organic Robusta coffee. This might be the only organic Robusta in the world - so I was eager to meet the farmers. Our hosts and drivers were from Communities of Shalom, a US-based interfaith social justice organization based at Drew University that has been doing Economic Development work at the cooperative for the past nine months. They work to build community strength and empower coffee farmers to run their cooperatives effectively - so that they can benefit farmers and their families. We awoke the following morning to see Lake Victoria from our hotel window. Lake Victoria is the headwaters to the Nile. I felt the water, just as I did the Mississippi River 50 years ago when I first crossed it. It felt good!

    Trip to africa

    Chairperson Fredrick Kibalama and CEO of Thanksgiving Coffee , Paul Katzeff

    On the Coop chairman's farm we posed for a picture. Note the large Mango tree in the background and the Banana tree under it to the left. The weather was mild, about 80 degrees, and the sun was beginning to warm the top of my head. Fredrick's farm was about as self-sufficient food wise as one would enjoy here in the USA.

    Trip to africa

    Here you can see the coffee trees being shaded by the Banana trees and the large trunk in the background of a very tall Mango tree shading all the undergrowth, keeping the ground cool and the moisture in this soil. I loved the Sign that reads "Organic Power Plant," a broad-based double-meaning set of words. One cow's manure will fertilize 1,000 coffee trees per year and the urine tea provides nitrogen. No waste here. Plus, milk and cheese for the family. Organic Power Plant indeed!

    Trip to africa

    Robusta coffee is processed using what is called "The Dry Method." The cherries put out in the sun to dry. Fredrick had some recent pickings drying on a plastic mat when we arrived and about another 25 pounds of ripe cherries ready for sun drying with the cherry pulp still on the cherry. You can see how they turn black when they dry. In this photo I am smelling the de-hulled and finished coffee that was taken from the paper bag next to the sack of cherries. The beans were clean and sweet smelling and foretold, I hope, a bright future in the cup.

    Trip to africa

    When I congratulated the farmers on a job well done, Moses (the Community's political leader) and the farmers were happy campers. This is because last year, the sample brought back to me was dirty and moldy, so I rejected it and sent instructions for them to follow for the next harvest season. This time, I was there to buy their coffee if it was clean and smelled sweet. Robusta is not a coffee variety that is noted for its flavor but it is useful in many other ways (body in Espresso blends for one). I agreed to purchase the coffee and I became the coop's first international buyer.

    Trip to africa

    In this photo, my associate and Board member of Thanksgiving Coffee who is an expert on coffee supply chain infrastructure (how to get it from there to here), was explaining something we found by pure luck. It was, as I explained to the farmers, perfect timing that we arrived to see a potential disaster averted. Nick was showing them the problem. On the mat in front of him, the black drying cherries had a white mold softly covering the skins. The cherries were allowed to dry too slowly. They were probably not covered at night and the dew promoted the mold growth.
    But, as luck would have it, there was a fresher lot to the right on the same mat and it was mold free. The lessons were there to be drilled home. All it took was a smell test and everyone knew what was needed, especially when I told them that the moldy smell was just a smell, but could they imagine drinking a coffee that tasted moldy ? The batch was separated and the potential for the coop coffees improved...if word gets out to all the farmers in the Coop.
    To be continued

    -Paul

    A Trip to Africa (series archive)

    Intro – I’m going to Africa

    Day 1 – Arriving in Uganda

    Day 2 – Dancing, Mango Trees & the Dry Mill

    Day 3 – On the Road

    Day 4 – Transparency, Trust & Relationships

    Day 5 - Coffee Quality & A New Mystery

    Day 6 – The Mystery Coffee’s Story

    Day 7 – All Things Revealed

    Day 8 - Making the New Transparency Work

    Day 9 - The Final Entry

    Africa

    A Trip to Africa: Day 1 - Arriving In Uganda

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  • A Trip to Africa: Intro - I'm going to Africa

    Intro: I'm Going to Africa

    On January 12, I depart my comfortable home on the North Coast of California to visit coffee Farmers and Cooperatives in Rwanda and Uganda. I haven’t visited them on their home turf for almost a decade. Over the last several years Ben Corey Moran, our former Director of Coffee, deepened our relationships with Cooperative leaders and farmers in Africa. It is my intention that this visit will strengthen those ties.

    Map

    I’ll be traveling with Nicholas Hoskyns of Etico, an import/export company that has imported our Nicaraguan coffees for the past two years. In 2004 he accompanied me to Rwanda on a USAID consulting job to help The Cooperative Coffee Sector plan its “cupping lab” construction project for cooperatives. He has a vast knowledge of Cooperatives and their organizational structures.The trip’s focus will be on collaboration: How can our relationship improve quality of life for both coffee farmers and coffee roasters? I believe that quality of life and quality of coffee go hand in hand. There has to be opportunity for a better life in all parts of the coffee trading chain, from the farm to the cup. It is the farmers’ love of their trees that makes good coffee great. Back here in Ft. Bragg , California, it is our pride in what we create for the coffee lover that makes great coffee remain great.

    There are some sticky issues that need attention, which have made this trip necessary. Primarily, about crop financing, shipment dates, and creating a system of transparency that demystifies the transfer of money from Thanksgiving Coffee to the individual farmers.

    I want to have a first person experience in discovery and learning. And I want to share this 10 day adventure with you. I use the word “adventure” with a certain amount of respect for its broad application. I am not “going on an adventure,” but I know it will be an adventure. What I wish for is the most uneventful yet spiritual adventure. No ceremonial high points and no high fives or WOW’S! I’m hoping for a low key visit with a slow easy gait, and a smile on my face when I return home.
    To be continued…

    -Paul

     

    A Trip to Africa (series archive)

    Intro – I’m going to Africa

    Day 1 – Arriving in Uganda

    Day 2 – Dancing, Mango Trees & the Dry Mill

    Day 3 – On the Road

    Day 4 – Transparency, Trust & Relationships

    Day 5 - Coffee Quality & A New Mystery

    Day 6 – The Mystery Coffee’s Story

    Day 7 – All Things Revealed

    Day 8 - Making the New Transparency Work

    Day 9 - The Final Entry

     

    Africa

    A Trip to Africa: Intro - I'm going to Africa

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  • The Dukunde Kawa Cooperative Story

    The Dukunde Kawa Cooperative Story

    “The cooperative is important for us because I have three children in secondary school—they are orphans from the genocide. We are farmers, and coffee is the crop that we use to raise the money for school tuition.”



    Stretching across a meandering chain of ridges and hills near the town of Musasa, in northern Rwanda, the 2,000+ members of the Dukunde Kawa Cooperative represent a new beginning for Rwanda and its hopes for the future.


    Working on plots of land so small that farmers often reference their farm size by the number of trees rather than the number of acres, a community recovering from the scars of a recent genocide is laying the foundation for peace and a prosperous future.


    Coffee is the economic lifeblood of Rwanda, accounting for nearly 80% of the country’s export earnings. In rural communities like Musasa, coffee provides income to families for their children’s education, for healthcare, and for the maintenance of their homes and farms. Working together as a cooperative, the members of Dukunde Kawa have been able to increase the quality of their coffee and the value by at least four times.


    We have worked closely with Dukunde Kawa since 2004 on a variety of social, economic, and environmental projects aimed at improving the quality of the farmers’ coffee and strengthening the cooperative and the benefits it offers to its members. The farmers are well on their way to establishing a strong and lasting cooperative. We are committed to ensuring that they are not alone in this process; both as a trusted buyer for their beautiful coffee and as a close project partner, we will continue to support the farmers and the development of their cooperative.





    Category_Farmers & Cooperatives

    The Dukunde Kawa Cooperative Story

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  • New Crop Arrival: Flor de Jinotega, Nicaragua

    New Crop Arrival: Flor de Jinotega, Nicaragua

    Flor de Jinotega, Nicaragua

    November 2010-January 2011 Harvest


    Nestled in the mountains above the regional capital Jinotega, the farmers of SOPPEXCCA grow coffee under the protective shade of bananas, mangos, and mahogany, and alongside dense forests providing home to dozens of rare orchids and winter habitat for hundreds of migratory songbirds. Jinotega is the heartland of Nicaragua’s coffee producing zone and many of the country’s finest coffees come from the thousands of small-scale family farms arrayed throughout the department’s lush mountain landscape.


    This landscape wasn’t always organized this way. Before the revolution of the 1980s many of these small family farms were actually consolidated in expansive haciendas owned by foreigners and the country’s elite and farmed with the intensive use of agrochemical fertilizers and pesticides. The farmers themselves were hired labor, invariably poorly paid. In fact, the genesis of the revolution itself traces directly to these large farms, and the thousands of farmers without access to land. One of the central demands and outcomes of the revolution was a process of land redistribution whereby farmers gained access to the land they had worked for generations. Cooperatives arose out of the need to organize these small farms in larger economic unions that could market coffee, facilitate much needed financing, and serve the community’s broad social, economic, and environmental needs.


    Though relatively small in membership, SOPPEXCCA has emerged as Jinotega’s leading cooperative. The cooperative represents 654 families and is recognized around the world as a leader in the movement to empower small-scale farmers, especially women and youth. SOPPEXCCA has built primary schools in its member communities, alongside pharmacies, cooperative grocery stores, and technical assistance centers. Extensive micro-credit programs offer members access to financing at a discount of 75% compared to locally available commercial finance. Long-term work to develop sustainable coffee production has resulted in a cooperatively-owned organic fertilizer production facility, innovative climate change adaptation efforts, and of course, ongoing coffee quality improvement programs.


    During the harvest, coffee is carefully picked, then depulped and fermented overnight before it is washed and sun-dried. Careful attention to the subtleties of processing and the farmer’s pride produce sweetly floral coffee, with notes of brown sugar and cacao, summer stone fruit, and lingering taste of milk chocolate.


    Cooperative SOPPEXCCA · Altitude 1,200 meters ·Region Jinotega •Processing wet/washed · Varietals bourbon, typica, caturra · Cooperative membership 654


    Buy Now




    Category_Farmers & Cooperatives

    New Crop Arrival: Flor de Jinotega, Nicaragua

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  • Ernesto Speaks: On the way it Is

    A new years message from Ernesto Somarriba Jinotega , Jan.1, 2011 When the old year was gone maybe you were happy because another year was coming. At that moment you were with the ones who you love and when 2010 ended you probably gave them a tight hug and kiss and celebrated with them.
    If you were a person who felt satisfied because you had completed all your goals for the last year, I think that you were feeling more comfortable.
    It is very common that when a new year is starting, you plan to reach those goals that you didn't get to achieve in the previous year or to plan your new goals for this year. I think that almost everybody does the same thing all over the world.
    At the same time, you wonder if this year will be good or bad for you. But it is true that most of the people feel and think positive and sometimes it doesn't depend on you.
    Here in Nicaragua, the people do the same thing, we plan what to do for the well being of our family and ourselves. For that reason the people who don't have work, they look for it; others who have work; they look for another one better in order to get better incomes to support their family; others who have the possibility to study at the university in order to become a professional, they go there; some others who don't have a house, they look for it; other Nicaraguans who came back from United States, Spain, Costa Rica, and other countries for the Christmas Holidays and New Year's vacation, they went back to those countries because they don't have any choice. They have to continue supporting their families here in Nicaragua.
    It is sad that you see that some families have to be separated again because that's their destiny. But what can I say, that is the way it is, and I think that the same situation happens in the rest of the world as well.
    This year will be very important for the Nicaraguans because this year we will have the Presidential election and the history is the same. The Sandinistas against the Liberales. Daniel Ortega will nominate himself again. He wants to continue being the Nicaraguan president, and the liberals, they don't have a clear candidate yet because all of them want to become a president. There is a guy whose name is Favio Gadea Mantilla. He wants to be nominated for President for the liberales but he won't get enough votes from the leaders of the liberal party. There is another guy, his name is Eduardo Montealegre. He also wants to become President. This guy lost the last election against Daniel. I think that this guy intends to hold together the liberal party but he is dividing it. I think that in this moment Daniel Ortega is taking advantage of this situation, but anyway, that's their problem. I only can say that the person who will be the next president of Nicaragua has to do the right things for the well being of the Nicaraguan population and for the well being of this country.
    Well, the old year is gone, the good food, the drinks, and parties are gone, and some members of your family are gone too. So we don't have to continue thinking about that anymore. We have to start working now in order to complete our goals from last year or to reach those goals that we aim for this year because only like that will we feel satisfied again at the end of this year, The only advice that I can give you is to work hard and don't wait for someone else to help you to reach those goals.

    Good Luck in 2011.

    Ernesto Speaks



    Category_Farmers & Cooperatives

    Ernesto Speaks: On the way it Is

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  • "Delicious Peace" Moves Forward

    Exciting news from Uganda this morning: after nearly 2 years of project development, The Peace Kawomera Cooperative is about to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the US Agency for International Development (the development wing of the State Department) for a $250,000 infrastructure development project.

    Just writing those words is a little surreal. It’s been a long time coming, three trips to Uganda, countless hours meeting, emailing, listening to each other on scratchy internet and cell phones. Most of all, it’s been a tireless effort led by JJ Keki and Muhammed Kakaire Hatibu, Peace Kawomera’s Chairman and Secretary Manager, respectively.

    The project will finance the construction of a world-class coffee processing and storage facility, which will avail the farmers with the best tools of the coffee trade. Now, for the first time in the history of coffee cultivation in Uganda, farmers will be able to bring out the full potential of their heirloom Bugisu Arabica varietals. The Cooperative will collect freshly picked, ripe cherries, and then control the process of depulping, fermenting, washing, and drying in a centralized facility. Based on the development of similar processing techniques in neighboring Kenya and Rwanda (where PKC recently visited our partner cooperative there to study the operation of a central washing station, read more), we expect the washing station to dramatically improve the quality of the farmers’ coffee. And we’re looking forward to paying more for each pound of coffee we buy.

    None of this would be possible if it were not for the support of our loyal customers, who not only lined up to build a market for this young cooperative’s coffee, but also enlisted the power of their coffee buying dollars, through our profit sharing partnership, and over the past 5 years, raised over $100,000 which bought the land and building materials that gave USAID the confidence they needed to invest further in this remarkable endeavor.

    Recently, we made some big changes in our project, and transitioned into a new phase of our partnership with the farmers. Instead of $1.00 per pound or package sold going back to Uganda, we dropped the rebate to $.25. At the same time, we increased the price to the farmers by $.20/lb. We hope to completely phase out the profit-sharing overtime, and replace it with ever increasing prices to the farmers. Please also note that we expect volumes to increase (because of clear price incentives and actual investment in increasing yields through better organic farming practices, pruning, and planting techniques). Instead of creating a continuing subsidy, we created a kind of front-loaded capital fund. This money sustained the rapid growth of a young cooperative, and got them to solid ground. Now they are up and running, and ready to grow.

    It’s almost too sweet to believe, but then it gets even better. Two days ago, arrival samples from our two incoming containers (75,000 lbs) arrived. I roasted them immediately, and cupped them yesterday. They are great. Sweeter than ever before, with more clarity and complexity, and a fuller expression of their unique character. All of this was made possible by better management of coffee buying, which the cooperative initiated themselves. And this was using their old machinery and processing methods if the coffee is already improving this much, imagine how it will taste next year!

    Many thanks to Laura Wetzler and Kulanu.org for their tireless work and for forging the initial connection with the Uganda-based USAID office. As with everything we’ve been able to do in Uganda, none of this would be possible without your contribution.

    You+coffee you love+farmers who love their coffee+a roasting company who loves farmers+4 years of hard work=Good coffee getting better+Farmers working smarter not harder+Incomes increasing+An interfaith peace-making initiative moving forward.

    That’s an equation we’re really proud of. Not just a cup, but a just cup.

    Coffee From Uganda

    Delicious Peace

    "Delicious Peace" Moves Forward

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  • Part II: All You Need to Know About Growing Coffee Trees in Your Home

    The Beauty of Growing Coffee Trees in Your Home

    • From Thanksgiving Coffee Company, the 2017 Roaster of the Year
    • Shop award-winning roasts Kenyan Peaberry, floral Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, and the beloved fruity-chocolatey Paul’s Blend.

    The coffee tree is an evergreen. It does not shed its leaves. They are on the tree year round. That makes them good for indoor beautification. You can get them to grow into a tree that is 5-8 feet tall or you can train them to be a bush 3-4 feet tall. They are pretty flexible.

    Where to find coffee tree seedlings:

    I have found them most consistently in places like Safeway, Longs, Rite Aid and Whole Foods flower Departments. These places carry mostly impulse items when it comes to plants. I think they all have the same supplier, or it seems that way. Your local florist may have them too and if they don’t carry them in stock, they will order a pot or two for you.

    What to look for:

    Seedlings in the stores are no more then 3-4 inches tall and are about 3 months old . They were grown from seed. Usually, they will come in a 2-4 inch pot, and there will be four to six little starts bunched together in the center to make it look substantial. Price is usually between $4.95 – $8.95.

    What to do when you get the pot of seedlings home;

    You have purchased one pot but you have acquired six trees. You don’t want them to grow up together so you need to separate them and repot each seedling in a 4 inch diameter pot. Here’s how you do it: Submerge the pot of seedlings in a bowl of warm water that is on the cool side of warm. Leave overnight . This does two things. It allows the seedlings to load up on water and it softens the potting soil . Get your potting soil and 4 inch pots together for your replanting . Now remove the loose ball of soil with the seedlings from their pot and lay on some newspaper . Slowly and softly pull the seedlings apart. Don’t be afraid of killing the trees ,they are very hardy and strong. Now repot each individual seedling in its own 4 inch pot. Six trees for the price of one !

    Lets talk soil and repotting;

    For the four inch pot and your initial repotting, you should use an organic potting soil. It is rich enough in nutrients to feed the plant until it is eight inches tall. You won’t need to add fertilizer to get the trees to 8 inches. Now things begin to change because at eight inches tall, the tree has spread out it’s root system throughout the small pot and unless you repot to a larger vessel, the tree will not grow much more. So, move the tree into a 12 -18 inch pot . This is large enough to add in soil amendments. At this stage of the plants growing history it needs lots of Nitrogen so keep that in mind . We are helping the tree grow trunk, branches and leaves. That requires lots of nitrogen. This pot stage should take your tree up to the 24-36 inch size. (this should take 12 to 18 months) .

    When the tree gets to the 24-36 inch size it is time for it’s final repotting into a half wine barrel or the equivalent. Now your tree is ready to kick into high gear because it senses that it can grow a root system that can support full production. Within one year from this last repotting your tree will have grown to four feet and it will begin to create beautiful white flowers that will fill your home with the scent of Jasmine and orange blossoms.Nitrogen is no longer needed in growth level amounts . Now it is the flower and fruit supporting supplements that are needed. Rose food is my favorite coffee food but try to stay as organic as you can. It effects the flavor of the coffee you will be getting and you don’t need to support companies that manufacture oil based chemical fertilizers.

    Flowering Phase: It lasts about a month. The sweet aroma will blow you away, but that will come to an end just about the time you are tired of coming home to paradisiacal aromatics. Coffee is self pollinating so do not worry about pollination. The flowers form at the nodes on each branch, just behind the leaves. Each flower will become a fruit (coffee cherry). The flowers will turn brown and fall off the branch. Not to worry. Left behind is the carpel, a small round ball that over the next six months will grow into a fruit with one or two seeds. The seeds are known as “coffee beans.”

    Jungle Jasmine : Coffee Flowers

    Flowering coffee plant

    The Fruiting Phase:

    This phase lasts about six months. Coffee cherries ripen slowly. For the first 5 months they will be green and rock hard. Then they will begin to lighten and turn pink and then cherry red, then dark red to purple. Dark red is when you pick the cherries.

    Fruting Coffee Plant with ripening coffee cherries

    Watering; Coffee trees like water and need enough to feed the leaves and support the fruit. But they don’t like to sit in water so water from the top, like rain waters forests. Water until the water comes out the bottom of the Pot. Use warm water. That is what the tree would get in the tropics. Why shock the tree as if it was jumping into an ice cold lake? Warm water feels good to the tree just as it does to our face when we wash. And if you live where the air is cold at night , you can bet the soil is cold too. So warm up the soil and you have better growing conditions, conditions that the tree will recognize and be thankful for.

    Ripe Coffee Cherries

    Ripe Coffee Cherries

    Where to place tour growing and mature tree;

    Coffee is a shade loving tree that grows under the canopy of the forest . It needs little direct sunlight . Direct sunlight after noon time will fry the leaves and kill the tree. Yo need to position your tree so it gets morning direct sun. This is perfect light . East facing windows do the trick. As the sun goes to the west , the light coming into your home from an easterly window is soft , yet still bright enough to provide the equivalent of shaded sun. If you bring your tree outside, remember, a 10 minute frost will kill it and so will 3 hours of direct afternoon sunlight between May and November.

    Cherry Picking and Roasting:

    When the cherries are ripe, and they will all ripen over a 2 month ripening period, you have to take them from the tree. With a simple twist and pull they will come off easily.

    Ripe Coffee Cherries

    Ripe Coffee Cherries

    Pick once a week , only the true red all over ripe cherries. Squeeze the seeds out of the cherries and drop them into a bowl of water for 24 hours. This softens the remaining pulp stuck to the beans and makes it easy to remove after the beans are dried. Place the beans onto some newspaper ( it is important that the stories on the page are positive and uplifting) and allow them to dry slowly. Sun drying is good but watch out you do not bake them. They should take about a week to dry to a stable condition. Repeat the process until all your cherries are picked and put to dry. Don’t forget to taste the pulp!


    Roasting is the next step in this cycle. That is for another time and another blog entry.
    blog

    Part II: All You Need to Know About Growing Coffee Trees in Your Home

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