Posts Tagged ‘community’

Getting back to the brewHoliday season 2008… that means CoffeeInAction has left the desperate public with nothing to buzz about. We sincerely apologize. Not to worry. The book of everything (our log and notebook from the trip) has found its way back into our loving hands. Charming Chicago is next and both Melanie and Sara were, in fact, charmed. The “Windy City” is filled with social entreprenuers, local-community oriented businesses, and of course, sustainable coffee. Not to mention good friends and great times! And I (Sara) do promise you the conclusion of our road trip, and maybe some insight into our learning by February 2009. If not, I will buy anyone who has been negatively affected by our slacking a bag of sustainable coffee when they come to visit in Boulder. Happy reading!

Personal updates en route as well.

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Logs and Figures
10:06 am or 9:06 am (at some point we crossed a time zone) – Welcome to New Mexico :). We see snow 😦.
12:24 am – First view of the Rockies


Thank you Albuquerque for your sunshine; helpful men in hard hats; long-walks (but not on the beach) and interesting tourist attractions. We GPS-ed the city center and found a cozy spot for Suzie. The aforementioned hard hats pointed us in the direction of “Old-Town” and the bus to take us there. We decided to walk (according to Atlanta-ites, that’s because we are from New York). Seeing snow earlier in the day had made us so sad, but the sun helped us quickly warm up so we removed our jackets and sweaters.  Yay! We wandered the streets of the old city for a while, admiring turquoise, hot peppers and blankets – then we needed coffee. 

On our friend Kerry’s recommendation we headed over to R B Winning coffee next to the University of New Mexico. Our overextended former student selves felt a little bit at home around all those students. The mix of community: hippy to hipster, baby to professor, and student to professional, was welcoming and comforting. The barista’s knew almost everyone in the store and our travel mugs got us an automatic discount (good for our wallet AND good for the environment – sweet)!

Our last stop that evening was the Brubaker’s of Santa Fe. Lauren, Lida, and Kate live in the mountains. We spent the evening relaxing and chatting. We were even taken to the portal.

– Sara Rose and Melanie


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p2270261.jpgNew Orleans was a whirlwind of coffee, community, and collecting new knowledge. After a night of dorm-life (Melanie’s brother let us crash on the floor of his freshman room) we headed over to a coffee shop that takes supporting the local community, especially post-Katrina, deeply to heart.

Fair Grinds is located near the Fair Grounds race track. Before opening Robert removed 5 layers of wall covering until they found the original beaded board with paintings from the 1930’s.



In 2002 Robert, the owner, opened the doors of a business he felt provided “a service that was applicable to, and gave back to, the local community.” He asked himself what the local community needed and wanted. He recounted a story for us which he said embodied what it meant to be part of the community.

The thing that happened in our 1st months that was so sweet…one Saturday night the only fridge in the shop went out. Word spread that the store was going to have to close until the problem could be fixed. All the customers brought the milk home and kept it in their fridges. They even brought it back the next day! That brought home the power of ownership for me.

Many of Robert’s business practices were inspired by customers and by his own experiences as a customer. Instead of opening the doors exactly at 6am, Robert lets in the few folks who arrive early. They can sit inside the warm coffee shop (especially when it is cold or raining, etc) instead of being left in the cold. He said taking ideas from the customers empowers them and helps them have a sense of ownership in their local coffee shop.

Robert has created a space where the community can come together to support one another after the storm. He also explained that time in New Orleans is separated into two periods: “before the storm” and “after the storm”. Above the busy and bustling space where coffee is prepared and served is a space used for community organized events. Two large rooms and a bathroom are filled with bookshelves, yoga mats, chairs designed by local artists and tables. The front room has two large windows that let in beautiful afternoon light.  

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While we were chatting with Robert a woman approached him about using the space for an art class. Robert explained that he charges no rent for the space. He only asks that his staff are able to attend the meetings and classes if they are interested.

Robert also facilitates connection between community members. He introduced us to a local activist and told us about the food map that developed post-Katrina to ensure access to safe, nutritious, and enjoyable food: NOFFN.ORG. During our meeting a friend of Robert’s pointed out a woman from a local apartment building who was struggling to remain in her home. Robert immediately called a lawyer who lived in the local area and a few minutes later they were sitting together just a few tables away.

Fair Grinds employs a number of environmentally friendly practices: the to-go cups for cold drinks are made from biodegradable corn starch and the baked items come from numerous local bakers, and coffee grounds are given to community gardens right near the store. When municipal recycling disappeared post-storm, Robert found a place that would recycle cardboard and newspapers.

The icing on the cake of Fair Grounds was chocolate. All the chocolate sold in the store comes from Ghana, through two different companies. Fair Grinds gets their chocolate syrups and powders from The Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company, which creates the finished chocolate product in-country (which is rare). We encourage you to read about the amazing work of this company by clicking on the link above; we were really impressed. Also, the chocolate bars sold in store come from Divine Chocolate: A Farmer-Owned Fair Trade Company.

Our morning at Fair Grinds was a stupendous introduction to New Orleans. We spent the afternoon with our friend Farhad talking about the struggles and successes of community building and local education post-Katrina.

– Sara Rose and Melanie

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Coffee Labs Roasters: Tarrytown, NY


Before working at Coffee Labs, Melanie and I knew we wanted to take this trip. I knew Coffee Labs was a great place, but I did not know to what extent they aligned with our ideas. Mike and Alicia, the owners and dog lovers, have created a wholly mindful business in their own unique way.

Environmental Sustainability

This is one category of our road trip where I am probably going to learn the most. Coffee Labs does many things to take care of the environment. I was surprised to learn the shop is 100% carbon neutral! They achieve this by investing in wind power and in low-impact hydro electricity. When a customer is not using a mug, the to-go cups, java jackets and napkins are made from post-consumer recycled and earth-friendly materials.


While Coffee Labs has inspiring ideals, they also contend with the reality of running a business. They always keep an open mind to new ideas or innovations in the eco-friendly product world and incorporate them when the commitment makes sense for their business.


When satisfying the local caffeine addicts at Coffee Labs I spend a lot of time interacting with the community. From the “renters” who sit for hours on their computers to the dad & daughter duo who read picture books once a week, Coffee Labs is a place where people come for comfort. Coffee Labs looks to other local business for items such as tea blends, milk, and pastries and in doing so helps strengthen the local economy.

I look forward to returning to Coffee Labs after this trip is over and discovering other businesses that uniquely embrace the ideals of CoffeeInAction.

– Sara Rose

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We love coffee. We love each other. We love to travel. We love learning. When these powers combine we are…(drum roll, please)…COFFEE IN ACTION!! Trumpets blare, the clouds part and angels sing a heavenly choir.

No, no…it is nothing that dramatic. Quite simply: we are two friends on a road trip to learn about coffee, community, and sustainability in the coffee industry.

Starting mid-February, we will be traveling around the US to experience small coffee businesses that are involved in their local community while also contributing to the improvement of the global coffee industry. We are especially interested in environmental sustainability (still working on getting and converting a car to vegetable oil) and social responsibility. Below is a list of the cities we will hit on our journey.

If you know about good coffee shops, important organizations to visit, or people wanting one-day volunteers, please let us know.

Thanks for reading (and wish us luck on our first ever blog!)

– Melanie & Sara

  1. Media, PA (Fair Trade Town)
  2. Baltimore, MD
  3. Washington, DC
  4. Lexington, VA
  5. Chapel Hill, NC
  6. Raleigh, NC
  7. Asheville, NC
  8. New Market, TN
  9. Atlanta, GA
  10. Leeds, AL
  11. New Orleans, LA
  12. Houston, TX
  13. Austin, TX
  14. Fort Worth, TX
  15. Oklahoma City, OK
  16. Albuquerque, NM
  17. Santa Fe, NM
  18. Denver, CO
  19. Boulder, CO
  20. Omaha, NE
  21. Des Moines, IA
  22. Chicago, IL
  23. Ann Arbor, MI
  24. Cleveland, OH
  26. Amherst, MA (Fair Trade Town)
  28. Brattleboro, VT (Fair Trade Town)

View The Map!

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