Company History
Wake up and smell the coffee.

At Thanksgiving Coffee Co., we've been doing just that for 32 years by bringing you premium quality coffee and our commitment to social and environmental justice for the coffee producing regions of the world.

Back when acrid, freeze-dried coffee ruled, founders Paul and Joan Katzeff started roasting small batches of coffee beans in the Garden Room of the little Mendocino Hotel. Using a small Royal peanut roaster, they roasted coffee in 25-pound batches and sold the brew for fifteen cents a cup. On weekends, they filled plastic bags with half a pound of freshly roasted coffee and delivered them to locals for a meager $1.50 a pop.

People liked our coffee and in 1974 the manager of a local Safeway store allowed Paul and Joan to install a self-service grinder, bringing high-quality, freshly ground coffee to the masses, a first in the emerging specialty coffee industry.

Today, we've gone from serving fifteen cent cups of coffee to a company with annual sales of about $5 million. We established ourselves as industry leaders well before the premium coffee craze of the 1990s ushered in dozens of java-come-latelys who call themselves "baristas" and "small batch roasters" who "roast to order."

In a world of bad coffee, we had no map to follow when we started and so we had to invent our robust coffee style. Today, new coffee traders, merchants and roasters come to the industry having grown up with great tasting coffee and follow their dream right out of the gate. We "lucked into coffee" and invented the industry as we went.

As our business has grown, so too has our social and environmental awareness. By adding these two extra ingredients to our coffee, we achieve what we call "total quality." This commitment is embodied in our motto: "Not Just a Cup, But a Just Cup."

While Paul was working to build his company, he learned there were others working just as hard on the "other" side of the business. Coffee farmer Francisco Javier Saenz was barely eking out a living on his small plantation in the mountains of Nicaragua. Saenz thought that Paul and other coffee company owners needed to wake up to the realities of the coffee industry. In 1985, he invited the American CEO to make his first trip to a coffee-growing country.

Paul's experience in Nicaragua had a powerful effect on him. He returned home to launch Thanksgiving's "Coffee for Peace" program, an effort to support democratic and economic changes in Nicaragua by buying beans directly from farmers and adding a surcharge to the price of his coffee to benefit producers.

Aince then, Thanksgiving Coffee Co. has instituted a number of innovative programs to promote social, economic and environmental justice in the world's coffee producing areas. Currently, we're working to establish roasting and packaging facilities near the farms where the coffee is produced to lower the cost of premium coffee and enhance economic opportunities for coffee growers.

Today, many of Thanksgiving's "radical" ideas have become standard in the coffee industry and beyond. The idea of forging direct relationships between farmers, coffee companies, and consumers to counteract exploitative trade policies has evolved into the fair trade movement.

Some think of coffee as just something to drink," Paul says. "But 26,000 square miles of the Earth's surface are planted with coffee and it affects the lives of 25 million coffee growers and their families around the world. We try not to forget that.


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