Tag Archives: coffee

Top 5 Trips of 2009

This past year I had the pleasure of going to several cool places around the country!  So here is the list of my favorite trips:

1)  Seattle – At the end of the summer I got to spend three weeks with my wifes family in the Great Northwest!  I was welcomed up there by Q Cafe in order to do a small internship and learn more about running a nonprofit coffee cafe.  While I was there I, of course, learned a lot about the coffee industry and making espresso beverages.  I spent a lot of time in the Q and in other great coffeehouses in Seattle – Caffe Vita, Stumptown, Seattle Coffee Works, Cafe Vivace, Victrola, Zoka, and Bauhaus Coffe & Books.  But other than coffee, I loved riding around the city, walking for miles downtown, visiting Bainbridge Island, hanging out in the public library (sounds nerdy, I know, but the building was amazing), reading in Elliot Bay Books, eating at the terriyaki place across from Q because it was the only place that would take my plastic, riding the 194 for a few hours everyday, watching people fish at the Des Moines pier, visiting Mt. Rainier with my wife’s uncle…  Only part that really, really sucked – Amber wasn’t with me!  You can read more about the trip here, here, and here.

2)  Chattanooga – During Spring Break last year Amber and I visited Chattanooga.  We stayed at the Chattanooga Choo Choo – a historic train station turned into a hotel.  We had a great time and the first day we arrived it snowed, in April!  Right now that probably doesn’t sound too great to most, but at that time we hadn’t seen snow in a while so it was a lot of fun!   We spend a week exploring the small city.  Our favorite spot was the North Shore area.  It has an amazing park right on the river, a nice row of restaraunts and shops, and a warehouse district on the far end that has a lot of shops and condos.   Chatty had a lot of charming little neighborhoods and plenty to do – aquarium, museums, and the popular Rock City!  We are going back again this spring break!  You can read more about the trip here and here.

3)  Mountain Home – Yes, going back to our hometown was the third best trip last year – because we did it to surprise our parents on Father’s Day!  We decided about a week before to drive home and that we would do it as a surprise.  So we drove through the night and pulled up to my house at about 7 a.m.  It was great because my dad was still sleeping and we woke him up!  Next we surprise Amber’s mom and dad, both at work at the time!  It was a fun time but it only lasted a weekend!

4) Florida Keys – This past fall the 6th grade at Explorer K-8 taught an interdisciplinary unit on coral reefs.  So as a

group some of us teachers went down to the Keys to “study” coral reefs!  We did some snorkeling and really did learn a lot about Florida’s coral reefs, got some real coral from a few shops, and took lots of pictures of the corals off of Key Largo.  But we took the rest of the weekend to explore the Keys for ourselves with our friends the Fickleys (the trip was out of our own pocket by the way!).  The picture at the top of the blog is from a sunset at the hotel we stayed at in Key Largo.  If you are ever going through Key Largo then I would highly recommend stopping at Mrs. Mac’s (Amber would recommend the mimosa!).  After staying a night in Key Largo we drove down to Key West.  On the way we saw a water spout a few miles off shore as well as beautiful blue and green water!  At Key West Amber and I rented a scooter and rode around the island.  We ate at Sloppy Joe’s, stopped at the southernmost point where we were closer to Cuba than to Miami, saw Ernest Hemingway’s home, and had a margarita at Margaritaville!  And just some FYI, if you ever go to Key West the ghost tour sucked!

5)  Cocoa Beach – Amber and I actually went to Cocoa a couple of times but I loved it everytime because of the waves.  You can ask Amber, I could ride the waves back in for hours and hours everyday.  I am always stiff the next day of course but it is worth every minute of it!

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Seattle, Coffee, and the Interview

It has been a long time….sorry.  I didn’t intend to not write while I was in Seattle but I didn’t have a card reader and wanted to incorporate pictures into my posts. (Is that a good excuse for my laziness?).  Anyways, almost a month later and I finally have time to sit down and write a little.

So as most of you know I went to Seattle to get my feet wet and learn a little bit more about both the coffee industry and, more specifically, the non-profit cafe.  As far as the coffee aspect goes, my head is still buzzing from more than just the caffiene!  I learned more than I could have imagined.  The guys at Q were able to answer a lot of my questions and just give me more info on the coffee world in general.  I got a chance to talk to each one of them pretty in depth about different subjects -with Jake about the business end, with Matt about more of the supply end as he has a history in that area, and with Josh about latte art and the east coast scene.  Each one of them really helped to teach me how to make the drinks too.  It was kind of a process when it came to the drinks to!  Jake taught me the grind, tamp, and most of the stuff with the espresso.  I spent most of my time with Matt practicing steaming milk (whole, skim, soy, half & half, etc…).  Finally, Josh attempted to give me a crash course in latte art – which was not about to happen in only a couple weeks!

Latte Art - Josh did this, not me!

On the non-profit side of things, I have to give a special thanks to Jake and Eugene at Q Cafe and Summer at the Green Bean Coffeehouse for all their help.  They were really open about some really tough questions and because of that I am much more aware of the strengths and weaknesses of this type of business as I go forward.

Over the next couple of weeks I will be posting more on my trip.  I will probably split them into three posts:  one on Seattle itself, one on coffee, and one on Mt. Rainer.

Until then, enjoy this video that I was able to do with Eugene, the pastor of Quest Church in Seattle, while I was up there (yeah, I know, I look like a dork!).  Again, thanks to everyone at Q for allowing me to follow them around for a couple of weeks – especially Jake, Matt, and Josh!

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Going to Seattle!!!

Remember that post I wrote a couple weeks back titled “My Dream”?  Well its about time I get serious and start working on it!!!  So in addition to starting the business plan this summer I am also going to Seattle.  I have been in contact with Eugene Cho for a couple months now trying to work out a short term internship at a non-profit cafe that he runs in Seattle called Q Cafe.  Q is very similar to what I want to eventually create and so I am going to spend a

Q Cafe
Q Cafe

couple of weeks with his cafe manager and arts director to see how they run things.  Along with being a great place to build community, have great coffee, and listen to music, they also donate 10% of their profits to non-profit groups doing great things all over the world. 

The official time that I will be with the cafe is July 20 – August 3, but I am going to go a week early so I can explore Seattle and get a feel for the great coffee culture there.  So I say all of this to ask a favor of you…does anybody know anyone in Seattle that I could stay with from approximately July 13 – August 3?!?  Just a minor detail that still needs to be worked out!

So this summer is the beginning of a big journey for Amber and I.  We are looking forward to the adventure ahead and praying for God’s will in all of this (so please pray too!).  If you would like to receive a copy of the business plan, that will be ready by the end of the summer, please leave a comment and let me know (this will help me stay accountable too). 

Here’s to a great summer!!!

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Why You Should Be Drinking Fair Trade Coffee, Now!

Over the past couple of decades we consumers have become increasingly aware of how our purchasing affects the world.  From destroying a rainforest we may have never heard of to forcing children into unfair employment, what we purchase can have a detrimental impact.  Now, I understand that the thought of us individually having this kind of power sounds like the height of hubris, but I really believe that we have simply been naive since the Industrial Revolution (i.e. the historical examples of the rubber industry and the not so historical examples of the chocolate and garment industries).  The agricultural industry has certainly not been excempt from exploitation and has in many cases been a leader in destroying the environment.  Coffee, for instance, became a cash crop over the past century and has since faced a corporate explosion due to consumer demand.  Unfortunately such an explosion, combined with traditional capitalist principles, meant that companies drove down production costs any way possible, including clear cutting environments and finding the cheapest labor possible.  This also led to the proliferation of an inferior product, as major coffee companies found that it was easier and cheaper to produce robusto species of bean instead of arabica.

Fortunately we no longer have to accept products that are inferior, environmentally destructive, and that keep families in poverty.  With the advent of mass communication, particularly the internet, we now have the ability to change things.  There are many organizations out there trying to show ordinary consumers that their purchasing can have an extraordinary impact, either for good or ill. 

One organization that is making a big difference, particularly in the coffee world, is Transfair USA.    ftc_logo

Transfair certifies different products that meet rigid standards that not only improve the environment but help coffee (and other products) producing families climb out of poverty.  They do this in several different ways, the highlights of which include improving environmental standards, organizing farming families into democratically controlled cooperatives, and securing a base price for coffee.

Improving environmental standards – Unfortunately, for the sake of profit, large coffee plantations tend to clear cut plots of land in order to grow larger amounts of coffee.  Traditionally this has not been the case as coffee, historically, has always been shade grown.  The cleared fields allow for higher and quicker yields but tend to produce an inferior product (most of the time producing robusto).  It also faces problems similar to other single crop fields, the need to continually fertilize and the use of pesticides.  Shade grown coffee is both better for the environment and produces a superior product.  It is better for the environment because it is not a monoculture and therefore requires less fertilizers and pesticides.  This method also provides a much more natural habitat for wildlife.  It is a superior product because, like wine, coffee tends to pick up the flavors of its environment.  Thus when it is grown near cocoa or a type of fruit, those flavors make it into the bean.

Organizing families into democratically controlled cooperatives – The majority of coffee throughout the world is being produced by small families (which is one of the main reasons that discretionary purchasing in this area can make such a huge difference).  What Transfair seeks to do is to organize these farmers into cooperatives that allow them to fight for higher prices for their products and improve their agricultural techniques.  The cooperatives are then able to pool their money and democratically decide how to improve their communities with their profits.  This also protects these families from being taken advantage of by middlemen who, in any other situation, would be necessary to get the beans to market.

Securing a base price for coffee – Coffee prices worldwide are at an all time low.  This has been tragic for families all over the world who make a living producing coffee.  So Transfair has set a floor price for beans (currently at $1.25 per pound) that allows farmers to create a sustainable way of life.  Fortunately this is bringing many families out of poverty.

I first really began to seriously consider the importance of fair trade after hearing a podcast by John Sage, one of the cofounders of Pura Vida Coffee, from an address he gave at Stanford University (iTunes Store, search “How Do You Take Your Coffee?”).  John explains a lot of what I wrote here, but then follows it up with a concrete example.  He tells the story of a woman that was part of a cooperative in Central America that Pura Vida buys its coffee from directly and the difference that Fair Trade has made in her family.  They flew this particular woman up to a conference they were hosting at a university in Seattle and the woman was able to tell  the college students her story.  She told them that because of fair trade prices they were now able to take their children out of the fields and put them back into the classroom and that perhaps one day her children would have the opportunity to sit where those college students were sitting.  Wow!  That is the power of discretionary purchasing.  By simply buying coffee for a couple dollars more than what we would normally spend we are able to help families across the world take their children out of the coffee fields and put them where every child belongs, in a classroom.  We are able to help families take the first steps out of poverty and into a sustainable way of life. 

Please, listen to the podcast I listed above and further educate yourself about the benefits of Fair Trade and begin to help make a difference!  We can make a difference – we just have to make the choice (but now that you know, aren’t you making a choice either way?).

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My Dream

Can you believe that at the beginning of June Amber and I will have been in Florida for two years!  We left Arkansas in 2007 to come be a part of what God was doing at Crosspoint Church in Spring Hill, FL.  For the past two years Amber and I have served as interns (1 yr for Amber and 2 for me) and Amber has been an office assistant (for the past year).  My internship is over at the end of this month andwe decided that it was time to move on.  Not to leave Florida, but not to spend another year as an intern.  I won’t be dropping out of Crosspoint, but maybe fulfill another role that I will get to later.

Anyways, so what is next?  For those who may not know, Amber and I do not envision ourselves staying in Florida longer than another year.  We plan to stay until next June because I can teach and Amber can continue as a marketing director.  But after that…

 I have had an idea/dream that has kept growing over the past few years.  Three years ago I wrote the outline for a missions program for Crosspoint.  At the end I mentioned that I would like to start a coffeehouse to support missions.  Well, that last part has stuck with me and has always been in the back of my mind (or in the pit of my stomach) since we have been here and has morphed and changed along with me. 

So that is my dream – to open a non-profit coffeehouse!

Those who know my wife and I know we have always been passionate about missions.  I have also become much more globally aware of poverty, disease, and human injustice.  I am convinced that these issues are close to the heart of God and therefore should be close to my own heart.  There are so many great organizations and people out there bringing peace, love, and transformation to those in need and I want to be able to come along side them and support what they are doing.  I think that capitalism has the power to do this.  Therefore I want to start a business that will use its profits to make a difference in the world!  To support orphanages, clean water initiatives, microfinance organizations, and local foodbanks and shelters.

I want this business to be a coffeehouse for a lot of reasons!  First, I love to serve people.  I love to meet new people and hear their stories and make them feel welcome.  My dream is for this coffeehouse to become a third place (1st place is home, 2nd is work) where people come for friendship andconversation.  Second, I have fallen in love with coffee!  The bean itself has an incredible ability to transform communities.  Through fair trade (and other certifications which may be even better) coffee growers are slowly coming out of poverty, able to take their children out of the fields and put them back into classrooms.  I also love the drink itself.  There are so many layers and complexity to it.  Third, I love music and art, even though I suck at both!  I want to be able to support local artists by connecting them with customers and helping to spread their message.  Last, I do not feel called to a traditional ministry role, but I still feel God’s calling on my life.  I still desire to see God transform those I meet and want to connect them to His mission in the world.  In a coffeehouse I will be able to do this.  To make relationships and discuss God with people I form relationships with, what many refer to as incarnational ministry.

I have thought about this for a long time and have a whole lot more swimming in my head.  If you would like to know more then stay tuned because I will have plenty of posts to come on the coffeehouse.  You can also contact me and I would love to discuss it with you.  This summer I plan to apply for non-profit status and write the business plan, so please hold me accountable to that!

Finally, please keep Amber and I in your prayers.  When I sit and think about it I feel completely overwhelmed.  But I know I have to keep trusting God and continue to pursue this without abandon!

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