Coffee and Conservation

| September 26, 2014

Earlier this week I had the privilege of attending the United Nations Equator Prize Award Ceremony at Lincoln Center in New York City. Every two years, this prestigious award is given to projects that have successfully protected biodiversity while reducing poverty within indigenous communities and as Caffe Vita’s Green Coffee Buyer, I felt honored to be among groundbreaking conservationists from around the world.

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Of the 1,234 nominations this year, Caffe Vita’s friends and partners at the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (TKCP) in Papua New Guinea were one of the few that received this prestigious award.  A key reason that they were chosen was due to Caffe Vita’s involvement with the coffee program over the past 4 years.  Revenues generated by our purchases have supported community health, education, and conservation projects for the people living in this region.

 

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The awards ceremony featured celebrity guests and conservation leadership from around the globe.  Al Gore gave a riveting speech on climate change and how grass roots projects such as TKCP are at the forefront of the war against climate change.  Jane Goodall also spoke, saying that ‘a healthy well managed forest can lead to economic improvement.’ The ceremony also featured musical performances from Jackson Browne, Bon Iver, and Feist.

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By working with indigenous communities in Papua New Guinea, TKCP has established a conservation area of more than 180,000 acres, including the pristine cloud forests that are home to the endangered tree kangaroo.  With deforestation being one of the leading causes of global warming, this project received special recognition for sustainable forest management.

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Coffee is unique in that it is a cash crop that can and should be cultivated under native shade trees in diverse, living ecosystems.  Part of our mission here at Caffe Vita is to have direct involvement with the farmers that grow our coffee.  Next week I will be returning to Papua New Guinea to help conduct training workshops near the Yopno River, a new area for the coffee project.  I look forward to working hand in hand with the indigenous people and local agronomists to teach proper pruning, garden management and processing techniques.

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We are honored to be involved in a project that has had a positive and measurable impact on the environment while also improving the livelihoods of the communities vital to maintaining the health of the planet.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

My First Time: The Adventuress and Sound Experience

| September 16, 2014

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Unlike other three-hour tours that some of us may have heard about, the one Sound Experience offers aboard the schooner Adventuress doesn’t leave passengers on a deserted island.

That’s not to say it doesn’t lack intrigue, however, with the captain and crew providing a unique experience for groups through their public, private and event sails from March through October each year.

With the mission of the Sound Experience aimed at educating people to act as stewards of the Puget Sound, a few of us from Caffe Vita and Stewardship Partners—with whom we’ve teamed up with to help build 12,000 Rain Gardens in the Puget Sound—was invited to Port Townsend to board the Adventuress and talk with Captain Daniel Evans and crew about some of the history, goals and challenges they come across in trying to help preserve the Puget Sound.

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It was important to have Bob Simmons of Olympic Water Regions and Stewardship Partners with us, as he works directly on projects that include technical water research and outreach to the public, with a major component of his work building rain gardens to help filter and reduce storm water run-off into the Puget Sound. As we made our way to the ship, I must say that everything was working in our favor for the day. Sunny, mid-70 skies were overhead and the water seemed to be sparkling with our reflections.

Boarding the 101-year-old schooner, we learned the Adventuress first launched all the way back in 1913, with the ship’s first voyage pushing back from Maine in hopes to secure a Bowhead Whale specimen for the Natural History Museum on a trip to the Arctic Circle.

While the journey was successful in reaching the Arctic Circle, there was just one little problem once they reached their final destination—the trip had taken so long that the whale expedition never occurred, as warmer temperatures pushed the species out.

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One other fun, interesting fact about that first voyage, it included the Natural History Museum’s Naturalist, Roy Chapman Andrews, who is widely considered to have inspired the movie character Indiana Jones.

After a few other noteworthy journeys—including touching the tip of Patagonia and up the Western Coast of Africa and South America—the Adventuress eventually found a home in Washington thanks to Monty Morton, who used the ship to educate youth through sailing.

In 1989, the Adventuress was eventually handed over to Sound Experience, chosen because of their community involvement and mission to help continue youth education programs focused on environmental stewardship.

It was also in that year that the ship reached national prominence, as the National Park Service granted the Adventuress as a National Historic Landmark.

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In the 25 years since, the Adventuress continues to house captain and crew through the summer months, with their task to inspire others to do the good deed of acting on creating a better environment, specifically in the Puget Sound.

One way of accomplishing that goal is an ongoing renovation of the schooner, with a new deck, and more reliable equipment, continuing the update over the past several years.

The boat’s most recent project includes a complete overhaul of the refrigeration system onboard, with the new appliance being one of the most efficient refrigerators in the world with zero emissions, using material that NASA uses in building its spaceships.

While the crew has accomplished a lot over the 25 years that the Adventuress has been sailing, it continues to search for ways to improve the ecosystem.

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Following the three-hour tour of the Salish Sea, one of the more memorable moments of the trip was huddling below deck with the crew to enjoy a fresh, vegetarian meal prepared by the ship’s cook, Lennard, who also baked coffee cake with our 12,000 Rain Gardens coffee mixed in as an ingredient.

Every one of the crew’s meals, including ours, is made from locally donated goods that Lennard sources each day from the community, ensuring not only organic meals, but also the freshest.

The food was both terrific and the conversation was informational, with about 20 of us tossing ideas around in which ways we could all improve the promotion of the Adventuress’ objectives and their empowerment of the community through sailing trips.

While first-time guests are amazed at the wealth of knowledge, history and actions of the crew, they walk away unsure of how to truly put what they experienced into action.  Finding a way to connect what someone values with their actions in the community is a big task that Sound Experience has set out to accomplish for the sake of conservation.

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Insipring others through the crews teamwork, working towards a common goal, can teach others how to unite and make a momentous impact, specifically on the environment.

As we spoke, I couldn’t help but notice the passion and knowledge each one of the members onboard had, really striking up ideas in one another by the way they spoke about the love of environmental care.

With a number of different sails left in the season before taking the winter off, I encourage you to pay them a visit, inform yourself and act upon the learning’s from the Adventuress, as preserving the Puget Sound and building rain gardens in the area is a key component in maintaining a healthy future.

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The Vita Escort – On the World’s Top Coffee Cities

| September 15, 2014

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It’s no secret that the city of Seattle is one of the top hubs in the entire country when it comes to coffee culture.

Known for its burgeoning empire on the business, Americans might respect what Caffe Vita has going on here, slowly transforming their own cities into the life of small shops and roasteries, but when it comes to other places around the world, Seattle is just one of many that has developed a deep passion for coffee.

So which international cities are just as immersed as we are here in Seattle? Keep reading to find out—as this is the Vita Escort on the world’s top coffee cities.

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5. London, England

Our friends across the pond might best be known for their tea and crumpets, but thanks to a coffee revolution by transplants from Australia and New Zealand in the past decade or so, London has been introduced to a variety of different coffee types.

The most popular is either the flat white or a cappuccino, and although they are most popular in other European cities, have begun to be loved by the Brits, too.

The city might still be an adolescent in the culture, but it’s beginning to spread.

4. Taipei, Taiwan

With an abundance of unique cafes around the city, Taipei may not be as obvious with the placement of each coffee shop—making coffee drinkers walk through nooks and crannies to get there—but make no mistake, they know how to pull great shots.

Giving guests a great atmosphere with terrific coffee, this city has surprisingly thrust itself into the coffee society quite swiftly.

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3. Melbourne, Australia

In addition to bringing their coffee knowledge to the United Kingdom and London in particular, the Aussies have also focused on building a coffee empire down under.

While people may first associate Melbourne as a beer-drinking city, the coffee culture is very much as prominent, with the city even hosting an annual coffee expo.

Piccolo lattes are generally the drink du jour—made with less milk—with residents enjoying the stronger espresso taste.

2. Rome, Italy

Of all the cities on this list, Rome fits perfectly as espresso and cappuccinos are most associated with Italian culture.

While the Italians remain focused on sticking to traditional brewing techniques, the drinks still standout.

The city is so populated with the nation’s best baristas, that it’s hard not to get a great cup of coffee no matter where you go.

Espressso is still the crème de la crème, as most residents and tourists enjoy the the strong shots each morning—as is custom in Italy.

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1. The Netherlands and Scandinavia

The love for coffee in countries like the Netherlands, South Africa, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland is some of the most prominent in the world.

Over the past 25 years or so, each culture has gone from a focus on mainly food to a newfound love for coffee, and with that, a dedication to refine it.

With coffee shops on nearly every street corner, natives tend to drink a lot of lattes or cappuccinos each and every day, supporting the local business at the same time. In Sweden particularly, black coffee refills come free with each meal in most restaurants, acting as the perfect pick-me-up during the dark winter months.