Thanksgiving Coffee  

Fort Bragg's got fishing. Fort Bragg's got lumber. And Fort Bragg's got coffee.

The good people of Thanksgiving Coffee take their coffee very seriously, and from their Fort Bragg headquarters, they roast, taste and package it up to ship all over. A successful business to be sure, but it's a business that's about more than the bottom line.

"When I saw the level of poverty that existed among coffee pickers and coffee growers it blew my mind. That experience changed my life." Thanksgiving Coffee's owner Paul Katzeff is talking about his first trip to Nicaragua, where he met the poor families who grew so many of those great beans.

It was an experience that shaped the company's philosophy, boiled down in the slogan "not just a cup, but a just cup". The sign's right there on "Thanksgiving Coffee's" trucks, which, by the way, run on bio-diesel fuel. Not a petroleum product but recycled cooking oil that's been modified to run a regular diesel engine.

Thanksgiving Coffee is environmentally friendly and socially aware. A capable, caring team put together by a unique guy. Paul says, "When I was about 25, I was working with Robert Kennedy when he became senator." "I was living in Harry Truman's old railroad car, the one he whistle-stopped around the country in 1948." "Bob Dylan and Joan Baez walked by and pointed down at me and sorta smiled." The founder of Thanksgiving Coffee has a million stories. And he has plenty of stories about his coffee history, which started in the 60s in New York City. Paul said, "At night I'd go home from my job and hang out at coffee houses and play my guitar and write lousy poetry in the middle of the night."

And when it was time to leave New York, he eventually ended up in Fort Bragg. "I had 10 cents left to my name. And I put it down for a cup of coffee; it was a horrible cup of coffee. And I told the guy; this is the worst cup of coffee I ever tasted. And he said, you hippies. All you do is complain. If you want a good cup of coffee, then you make a good cup of coffee and you bring a good cup of coffee here. So I said, okay. And the rest is history" said Paul.

A history about more than coffee, it's about buying coffee grown in the shade, instead of eco-unfriendly clear-cut fields. It's about supporting those small family farms and it's about giving. Some of the company profits go to protecting songbird habitat, bat habitat and the U.S.-Cuba sister cities association.

Plenty of causes, maybe because Paul Katzeff's first bag of beans was given to him. Paul said, "And when I went to pay him, he said, 'wait a second. Don't pay me now. You're gonna need all the luck you can get. You have no idea what you're doing. Pay me when you have the money."

It took two years, but the payment was made. The rest is a history of good causes and, for sure, good coffee.

If you'd like to find more information on Thanksgiving Coffee, visit their site at: www.thanksgivingcoffee.com
A special thank you goes to the Harbor Lite Lodge for accommodating the Heartland crew during our stay in Fort Bragg. Please visit them at: www.harborlitelodge.com

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