Buying coffee that helps others

February 05, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • Jeff Myers and his wife, Stacy, roast coffee in Chambersburg, Pa., and donate money from the sales to various organizations.
By Jennifer Fitch

The United States imports 2.3 million 60-kilogram bags of coffee a month, more than any other country, according to the International Coffee Organization.

Amid all the java flowing in the Tri-State, some businesses are selecting beans that help others.

Jeff and Stacy Myers opened a Chambersburg, Pa., coffee-roasting business, Abednego Coffee, in 2008, and started donating 25 percent of sales to nonprofit organizations. One of the primary recipients of funds is South East Asia Prayer Center ( in Cambodia.

“We have some really loyal customers because we do that,” Jeff Myers said of making donations locally and internationally.

Stacy Myers said an Abednego Coffee donation allowed an orphanage to fix its roof after a collapse.

“It’s neat. Things like that make us want to keep going,” she said.

Abednego Coffee roasts beans from Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ethiopia and Sumatra. The ones from Ethiopia and Sumatra are classified as fair trade, meaning they guarantee the farmers a living wage.

Jeff Myers said most farmers are receiving payments higher than fair-trade rates.

“Coffee prices have gone up quite a bit,” he said. “They’re the highest they’ve been since 1977.”

Today’s farmers are turning to “microlots” to diversify what they produce, according to Garth Emmery Janssen from Lost Dog Coffee and Tea of Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Rather than producing two or three varietals, farmers are growing 15 high-quality varietals in limited quantities. Janssen said the Internet allows roasters, farmers and small-business owners to connect easily.

A portion of the Lost Dog Coffee and Tea’s selection is from the Bucafe cooperative in Rwanda. Those coffee sales help the Rwandan people rebuild infrastructure, specifically water systems that wash husks from coffee beans.

“The women were left behind (after genocide) to rebuild the communities,” Janssen said.

Lost Dog customers are knowledgeable about their purchases, Janssen said. They are willing to pay higher prices for coffee to support sustainable and responsible agriculture, small farms and cooperatives, and initiatives to improve the quality of life for farmers, he said.

“They know we’re supporting that kind of industry that is worried about communities,” he said.

Crosswalk Church in Waynesboro, Pa., pays more-than-average prices for the coffee it buys from Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Co. The company supports farmers in Rwanda.

“It’s a huge step up from Folgers. It’s really good,” said Craig Baugh, who oversees the church’s cafe.

The church off Third Street serves 100 to 150 cups of decaffeinated, medium-roasted and dark-roasted coffees each week. Baugh said supporting those affected by genocide helps the church be relevant, address social injustice and serve the world.

“We really want the emphasis to be on the purpose behind the coffee. ... They want to not only help the growers make a living wage, they want to help them move beyond just eking out an existence,” Baugh said.

The simple step of buying coffee that helps others can be a starting point for people not familiar with missions, and drinking it with others can strengthen bonds with others, according to Baugh.

“Coffee is one of those things, I think, that creates a very warm environment,” he said.

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