Category Archives: conservation

Farm to Cup: Caffe Vita & Jackson 20 Travel to Guatemala

| December 17, 2014

For many years, Caffe Vita has sourced excellent coffee through our farm direct partnerships in Guatemala, one of the most prized coffee producing regions in Central America.

Coffee cherries.

Coffee cherries in Guatemala.

Usually, our Green Coffee Buyer Daniel visits the farms on his own but last week, a special guest from Alexandria, VA came along for the ride. Chef Brian McPherson of Jackson 20 has served Caffe Vita since opening six years ago. Located in the Hotel Monaco by Kimpton, Jackson 20 was named after President Andrew Jackson and is known for contemporary versions of traditional American classics.

So how did a Chef from Virginia get to spend six days in Guatemala with Caffe Vita? Long story short, our own, Bob Prince, pitched the idea to Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, consistently named one of FORTUNE’s 2014 “100 Best Companies to Work For,” and a longstanding Caffe Vita wholesale account. The goal of trekking six days throughout Guatemala together was to take a talented chef who uses our coffee in his or her restaurant on a journey to witness Caffe Vita’s innovative farm to cup process.

The first week of December, Bob, Daniel and Chef Brian visited current, former and potential new partners in four coffee producing areas of Guatemala. When the trip began last Sunday, it was clear that Guatemalan hospitality would be a common thread throughout their stay.

Chef Brian and Bob Prince

Chef Brian and Bob Prince looking tough at Finca Nuevo Vinas.

First they spent time with the Keller Family in Finca Nuevo Vias where Caffe Vita has sourced coffee for seven years. The community threw a party and roasted a pig to welcome their guests on the last day of their trip in the country, a highlight of the experience according to Daniel. The FNV coffee has been farmed by the Keller family for over 100 years, and in 2003, they made the full transition to organic farming, an expensive and lengthy certification process. This is where Chef Brian first witnessed pulping, where the seed from the coffee cherry is removed from the actual fruit. For six years, he has served Caffe Vita coffee and now he knows exactly where it comes from.


Chef Brian McPherson holds pulped coffee cherries in Guatemala.

Next, they made their way to Finca Pacamaral to meet the farm’s new owner, Sergio. Vita previously purchased coffee from this land but Daniel was looking forward to meeting with Sergio to discuss a potential partnership in the future.

After Finca Pacamaral, Valmar in Coban was next on the list, where Vita has purchased coffee for the past two years. Coban’s climate this time of year is very similar to Seattle, cold, wet and cloudy. Bob and Daniel felt completely at home surveying the property in their rain gear, and were welcomed into the farm home of the Valdez family.

Coffee cherries dry in the sun at Santo Tomas Pachuj.

Coffee drying in the sun at Santo Tomas Pachuj.

Then it was onto Santo Tomas Pachuj where Andres Fahsen grows coffee near the Lake Atitlán region, a nature preserve. Andres visited with us at Caffe Vita in Capitol Hill when he was in town for the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s annual event last April.

Compost with red worms at Finca Chacaya.

Compost with red worms at Finca Chacaya.

After Santo Tomas Pachuj the team drove to Finca Chacaya, a farm on the western shores of Atitlan that still grows old typica coffee, the first variety of coffee brought to the country and which is now hard to find.

Lastly, the team drove to San Juan Sacatepequez to visit the celebrated farm San Jose Ocana. Guillermo Sanchez gave a wonderful tour and provided a delicious lunch of local cuisine.

To be able to share this unique farm to cup process with Chef Brian was a fantastic experience for Bob and Daniel. Now that he has witnessed it for himself, Chef says that he plans to find new ways to use Vita coffee in his restaurant. Even bringing home dried husks to hopefully make bitters to be used in Jackson 20’s famous bar program.

Connecting with our Guatemalan farmers over long conversations, property tours, cuppings, and special meals with hard working families is certainly an experience these guys will never forget. “Every farmer we met exuded a strong sense of stewardship and pride for their land,” according to Daniel. This is something that Caffe Vita takes into account when searching for the best coffee; it’s about more than just a cup of coffee.

Learn more about how Caffe Vita meticulously sources the best coffee through our farm direct partnerships across the globe and purchase our own Guatemala Valmar single origin coffee today while supplies last.


Caffe Vita Visits Wolf Haven

| September 24, 2014

Just south of Olympia, WA, Wolf Haven International has provided refuge for captive bred and rescued wolf breeds since 1982 in Tenino.

For years, this amazing organization has vigorously championed every aspect of wolf conservation- from advocacy efforts, to the captive breeding program for endangered wolf species, and even a dedicated enrichment program, which gives each wolf in their care a full and peaceful life.

More than 14,000 visitors tour Wolf Haven each year, which sits on 82 acres of rare mounded prairie, wetlands and woodlands.

Last week, Caffe Vita’s marketing team went down to meet with the organization’s Executive Director to discuss partnership opportunities and check out the world-renowned sanctuaries, home to more than fifty wolves in expansive enclosures.

In addition to the most common, Gray wolves, Wolf Haven also houses red wolves, Mexican gray wolves, coyotes and occasionally, wolfdogs. Except for the coyotes, these animals are all captive born and come from various circumstances – many were rescued from being pets. A shocking but real problem throughout the world, born out of a complete misunderstanding of wild animals.

Driving up to Wolf Haven’s property, we had some questions– would we really get to see these wolves up close in their habitats? How many packs are here in the Northwest and how many different species do they have?

Upon speaking with Diane, the organization’s Executive Director for a few hours, we quickly discovered the true mission of Wolf Haven is to protect and conserve wolves and their natural habitats.  As of December 31, 2013 there were a minimum of 13 packs and 52 wolves state of Washington, a startlingly low figure for our large state, ripe with sprawling forests throughout.

Wolves are not only endangered around the globe, but here in Washington, various laws allow ranchers to have these beautiful animals killed if their livestock is harmed by a pack. In fact, the breeding female of the Huckleberry Pack in Eastern Washington was recently killed aerially by a sharpshooter contracted by the state’s department of Fish and Wildlife because 22 sheep were killed by Huckleberry. A detrimental blow to the health of any pack, the consequences could be significant on the longevity of this family of wolves.

The Wolves of Wolf Haven International

Wolves are dangerous. They are aggressive. They pose a serious threat to humans. These types of misconceptions shape policy throughout the world and even in the Northwest, meant to harm and devastate a species that is a vital part of each ecosystem they inhabit.

We saw firsthand the calm and peaceful nature of these animals. Not only are they inherently timid creatures, wolves are completely dedicated to their pack – a protective and loving family unit. In most cases, the breeding male and female of each family group are committed companions, travelling and hunting together for the entirety of their lives while leading the rest of the family.

Walking around the sanctuary, we met the wolves paired in male and female companionships, living in large enclosures complete with trees, grass, logs and dirt. What was most striking about the wolves were their intense and stunning almond shaped eyes. Watching us either up close from the other side of the fence, or from afar – depending on how comfortable each wolf is with human visitors, we saw the wolves move freely, play with each and rest under the trees.

Near the end of our sanctuary tour, Diane suggested that as a special treat we could initiate a howl. What does this mean? Good question. If all of the conditions are right – the weather isn’t too hot, it’s not time for the wolves to take their daily snooze and if they are not eating – you stand in the middle of the sanctuary and start howling. What happened next, was one of the best experiences of our lives.

Caedus, a seven year-old wolfdog who has been living at the sanctuary since 2009, began howling right along with us. Then, we could hear each wolf howling from every corner of the enclosure, and for several minutes, we just listened to more than 30 animals participate.

The Wolves of Wolf Haven International

It turns out that wolves often howl together, although sometimes you will hear one wolf singing alone when they have lost their companion. This can go on for weeks and we were told by the Animal Care specialists at Wolf Haven that these lonely cries are painful to hear and a reminder of the sentient nature of these often misunderstood creatures.

After the howl, we watched one of the animal curators throw zucchinisicles – frozen chunks of zucchini and garlic- into the enclosures for a late morning snack. At first, the wolves were hesitant and probably hoping for something with meat, like the oyster and sardinesicles or salmon they occasionally receive from generous donors like Pike Place Fish. Once they realized this was their main treat for the day, the wolves picked them up and ran off to the back of their enclosures to enjoy them in private.

The Animal Care specialists, led by Wendy Spencer who lives on the property, provide enrichment like food, scent objects and puzzle feeders to keep the wolves busy in their enclosures just like the zucchinisicles. From hard-boiled eggs to fresh herbs and sheep pelts, these tactics stimulate the wolves minds and bodies, while also encouraging their natural behaviors so they are not lost in a captive environment.

In addition to the work that Wolf Haven does for animals on their grounds, the organization has gained a reputation throughout the world for their presentations, tours, eco-scavenger hunts and more. They even give Skype lessons to people in countries like Mexico as a regular part of their education department, and send their Animal Care providers to schools and companies

Once we finished our tour of the sanctuary, Diane led us on a walk around the prairie, home to hundreds of species of birds, butterflies, flowers, bats, moles and the Mazama Pocket Gopher, protected under the federal and state endangered species act. More than 97% of this highly threatened prairie habitat has already been lost in western Washington, which is why Wolf Haven works with several partners to reclaim these native ecosystems through various conservation efforts.

One of the most unique parts of the prairie is the Grandfather tree, a 300 year-old Douglas Fir with huge, swirling branches. Known as a Wolf Tree as it stands alone (a common misconception as wolves are very social), the Grandfather is a must-see when visiting Wolf Haven. Standing under its massive boughs, it was easy to see why this tree has become a favorite spot for storytelling.

As we walked back to their offices, we went through the wolf cemetery, which sits at the entrance to the Mima Mounds prairie, naturally created mounds whose origins are a source of disagreement among scientists. The care taken to make these graves represents the commitment that Wolf Haven has to their animals, from birth or rescue to death.


Once our tour was over, Gretchen, Shawn and I’s childhood dreams came true. We each adopted a wolf on behalf of Caffe Vita. Yuma, Ukiah and Noelle are three wolves that do not live in enclosures visible on the public tour for many different reasons; some are uncomfortable around people and only have contact with the animal care providers. This means they aren’t adopted nearly as often as the others.

Wolf Haven’s adoption program provides vital funds for the animals. Supported entirely by dedicated volunteers, donations and grants, Wolf Haven must raise over one million dollars every year to continue the high quality care for their residents and their work in education and conservation.

The Wolves of Wolf Haven International

One of the ways they do this is by hosting events throughout the year, like Wolves and Wine.  You can also become a member to receive regular updates about wolves in the sanctuary and alerts about issues related to wolves in the wild.

Caffe Vita and sister restaurants Via Tribunali and Bourbon & Bones packages will be available for auction at Wolves and Wine on September 27 at St. Martin’s University. Tickets are still available and we encourage you to check it out.

As we continue to develop our growing partnership with Wolf Haven, stay tuned for future events and ways to get involved in this amazing nonprofit.

Photo Credit: Annie Musselman

Coffee Dreams Coming True

| September 17, 2011

It is a dream coming true that we are awaiting a shipment of coffee beans from Papua New Guinea, specifically the remote YUS Conservation Area of the Huon Peninsula (click here for map). Our partnership with the Woodland Park Zoo’s Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program supports conservation efforts that are good for the land, the environment, the people, the native species, and the coffee crop, too. Our green bean buyer Daniel, a regular contributor to this blog, has posted reports from the June 2011 trip and has recently shared his enthusiasm for the coffee we’re on track to bring you this fall.

Please see this recent blog post by the Woodland Park Zoo that outlines the deep importance of coffee to the villagers in the YUS Conservation Area. For more updates on this project and our conservation coffee — stay tuned right here on the Vita blog.

Above, Daniel discusses drying techniques with YUS Conservation Area landowners and farmers.
Cherry by cherry, the coffee is harvested.
Some planes must be pushed before they can be caught.
Photos by Ryan Hawk, Woodland Park Zoo. 

Conservation Coffee

| August 17, 2011

photo courtesy of Ryan Hawk, Woodland Park Zoo

We have received an encouraging report from our partner in Morobe Province that the first load of YUS conservation coffee has been safely flown from the Sapmanga airstrip to Nadzab and is now being awaiting its sister shipment at a facility in Goroka. The remaining coffee is being stored at Yawan, but due to unfavorable weather it has yet to be picked up. Sapmanga and Yawan are the two villages in the Uruwa that posess airstrips – making them the vital hubs of transport for this coffee. As I witnessed first hand, the flights out of these grass, muddy airstrips can be highly irregular due to the weather and whims of the aviation company. Our hope is for the remaining coffee to be picked up from Yawan and delivered to Goroka, where it will be milled and bagged for a scheduled September shipment across the Pacific to Seattle.

For those of you not familiar with the project, Caffe Vita has joined the Woodland Park Zoo to work towards strengthening the longevity and success of the first ever conservation area to be established in Papua New Guinea, the YUS Conservation Area. Named after the three main rivers that flow through the area, the Yopno, Uruwa, and Som carve majestic valleys through this rugged terrain- one of the most biologically diverse in the world. The conservation area was only made possible by the cooperation of over 35 villages in the region and the landowners who have agreed to set aside their valuable resources for future generations. In addition, we are donating $1 to the Woodland Park Zoo for every bag of Zoo Special Reserve coffee beans we sell at our cafes or online.

The people of YUS are primarily subsistence farmers, cultivating an array of sweet potatoes, taro, cassava, greens, and fruits. In addition, a few cash crops such as tobacco, betel nut, and coffee are grown, but finding a potential buyer can be a challenge. YUS is remote, no roads lead to this region, so all goods heading towards the market must be flown (or walked). The cost and availability of airfrieght can make selling these crops close to impossible, yet currency is necessary for education and healthcare. For the improvement of these communities and the preservation of their land, we aim to provide a consistent market for their remarkable coffee.

Our goal is to establish the structure necessary for the transport of this coffee out of YUS and onwards to Seattle, where we hope the roasted coffee will find a following — the success of this project depends on it. For a sneak peak of the flavor profile you can expect when the coffee lands, we will be hosting a cupping of the coffees from each of the villages we visited. Details to be posted on this blog soon. In the meantime, you can enjoy this slideshow from our recent trip.