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ArabicaDabra Coffee Company Changing the World, One Sip at a Time
January 24, 2013 - By Robin Kellogg
PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE ARABICADABRA COFFEE COMPANY
Local resident Jackie Mendelson started ArabicaDabra Coffee Company in 2010 in the San Fernando Valley to provide sustainable social and economic change around the world, one cup at a time.
Known as a socialprenuer, Jackie Mendelson seeks out the most desolate areas in the world and changes peoples livesone coffee bean at a time.
When Jackie Mendelson contemplated retirement several years ago, she didnt see herself settling into an active senior community or becoming a full-time volunteer.
I didnt want to retire, I wanted to rewire, said Mendelson, who had traveled the world as an executive for a U.S.-based AIDS nonprofit organization for several years, where she helped set up clinics in Africa, Latin America and India, meeting clients and their families along the way.
After a while, their stories began to have the same common thread: once clients health improved due to the autoimmune boosting drugs they received, they began redirecting their energies back to their livelihoodstheir farms.
I went around the countryside and noticed that as peoples health improved so did their ability to tend the crops, which in many of these areas was coffee, she said.
This gave her insight into opportunities these farmers and their families could cultivate if they only had access to the resources. Seeing the devastating poverty was an eye-opening experience for Mendelson.
She learned from the farmers that one coffee tree produces approximately two pounds of coffee per year, and that in order to keep their farms thriving, growing and sustainable, they had to sell all their produce.
A woman holds one of two pigs purchased by Jackie Mendelson for women in Manipur, India.
This explains why, although the farmers grew superior Arabica beans that were considered the more desirable bean, they only drank instant coffee. They had to sell every bean they grew in order to survive and thrive.
Mendelson witnessed women in these communities, particularly widows, pushed to the far edges of society. She wanted to give them hope, and a chance at a new beginning, and began considering what form that might take.
Many advised her to start a 501 C 3, but Mendelson had worked for these charities and knew all the red tape involved. She wanted to help people on her own terms, in her own way, without all the red tape and restrictions.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE THE HARD WAY
A girl and her grandmother with the second pig which was successfully reared and produced a litter of piglets, providing them with income.
In 2010, Mendelson left her corporate position to start ArabicaDabra Coffee Co., LLC, based in Van Nuys, CA. At the time, her plan was three-fold: to use Arabica beans that had been grown by farmers in the countries she had visited; to purchase, roast and package the beans using local San Fernando Valley vendors; and to use some of her business net proceeds to purchase livestock, looms and bicycles for impoverished families.
Its been a little over two years and Mendelson has more than realized her dream.
She purchases green coffee beans from local distributors who import the beans from farmers throughout Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Then she vacuum-packs the coffee in bags also purchased from a local firm, and ships it to customers throughout the world.
She views herself as a socialprenuer, an entrepreneur who wants to make a change in the world. She seeks out the most desolate areas, those that the international non-government organizations (NGOs) and other charities do not even reach.
Jackie Mendelson with Sarynina Nieuweboer (a co-worker) and Ugandan Parlimentarian Vincent Ssempijja on his coffee farm in Mbale, Uganda.
Recipients include AIDS survivors, the families of AIDS victims and staff from the clinics, who go to neighboring villages educating the populace about the spread of AIDS and how to take their medications.
A percentage of her proceeds have thus far gone to help families in the Indian State of Manipur, where Mendelson notes she witnessed the most severe poverty she had ever seen. Its right on the edge of Southeast Asia. It is so poor. They have nothing. I didnt have to look any further than that.
To date she has purchased:
A bicycle for a man who previously walked from village to village to educate people about the causes of HIV. The bicycle has saved the man, who also works a full-time job at a local church, hours in travel time.
Two pigs, one each for two women, who have successfully reared them. Both pigs have had litters of piglets. Each woman has kept one piglet and sold the others, allowing them to support themselves and greatly improve their self-confidence and status in the community.
The looms and other donations are for all the people in Manipur India.
Two looms, a large and a small one, that went to two widows. The women were provided the raw materials by Touch of Hope Foundation with which Mendelson serves on their Board of Advisors.
The Foundation also paid the women for their labor at the same rate paid to commercial weavers in that area. The larger of the two looms required hiring a specially trained person to run it. That loom is now producing waistcoats that are being sold through the Foundation.
SELLING THE COFFEE AND THE MISSION
Gift baskets and bags of ArabicaDabra Coffee are available at Whole Foods Markets in Woodland Hills and Tarzana. The coffee can also be purchased online at www.tastymagic.com.
Selling premium coffee from farmers who are given a fair share of the profits was only part of the dream. Mendelson also wanted her customers to understand that their purchase of her coffee beans meant that they, too, were giving back. To reinforce this message, Mendelson refers to her customers as coffee patrons.
On her website, Tastymagic.com, she explains, We are very committed to supporting other like-minded companies that are mostly small, individually owned and operated, and which want to BE THE CHANGE as well. Please join us and BE THE CHANGE by buying local, buying from small businesses and by supporting businesses that care about the world we live in.
The Arabica coffee beans used in ArabicaDabra Coffee come from all corners of the world, from Ethiopia, Tanzania and Sumatra to Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala and India.
Clients can choose among several exotic varieties: Sumatra (Regular and Decaf), Costa Rican, Tanzania Peaberry, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Brazil Decaf, Afro Asian Fusion, Guatemalan and Monsoon Malabar, which can be purchased separately or through the Magic Club, that delivers a pound of coffee to clients doorsteps every month.
Mendelson is writing a book on the various uses for coffee, such as using coffee grounds to hide scratches on furniture.
Recipes using coffee as a flavor enhancer can also be found on her website.
Last year, ArabicaDabra coffee hit the shelves at Whole Foods Markets in Tarzana and Woodland Hills. Mendelson sought out this affiliation because the organic food chain has a similar ethos to her own.
She hopes to get on the shelves in other Whole Foods Markets in the area.
A bag of ArabicaDabra coffee ready for purchase.
Her vivid black and gold packaging also caught the eye of scouts for Legacy Entertainment, a product placement firm for film and television, which now has a contract with Mendelson. Her coffee package has appeared in television shows on last years fall lineup and will be featured in two upcoming films.
ArabicaDabra was also a participating sponsor in the 12th Annual Oscar de la Hoya Golf Tournament.
Mendelson hopes to continue her quest of paying it forward for years to come. I can help one individual with AIDS so that they are able to live a more productive life; I can give someone a pig, a bicycle or a loom; and make an impact in the world.n