Our founder, Jeff Power, tells the story of how Pangeo Coffee started:
“Pangeo Coffee began with almost being arrested in the Addis Ababa airport with contraband coffee.
Not exactly. But there’s a story…
We’re dedicated humanitarian aid workers, helping some of the poorest villages of Africa, Asia and the Middle East with sustainable development.
We’re also coffee geeks.
Our “day job” for years has been helping villages learn to transform themselves out of severe poverty, through Geneva-Switzerland-headquartered Global Hope Network. We teach villages low cost, low-tech, locally available ways to get for themselves things like clean water, enough food to grow and eat, dramatically reduced disease and death, small businesses they dream up and launch, schools they help build with their own hands, etc. We help them to be strong and independent — it’s exciting work where we see real results.
Now, to the coffee story…
As we prepared to go help our Ethiopian villages again in early 2011, a friend and supporter of our work gave us an idea. “You guys will be in the world’s most amazing coffee country,” he said. “Let people pre-order bags of the famous Harrar coffee to help fund your trip and the village work. Then get the coffee when you’re in Harrar and bring it back to them.” In fact, he decided to come with us on the volunteer trip.
Being eager for new sources of funding, and not too bright, we jumped on the idea. We put out a quick email, and in record time 200 bags of the famous Harrar coffee were spoken for.
So we went to Ethiopia and took some volunteers to help work in our villages near Harrar for the week. We saw great progress and enthusiasm in the villages.
Then we went to a reputable local coffee dealer we know, bought 200 bags of roasted Harrar beans from him, and loaded them into our truck. But only then did the thought fully hit us, “We have to get 200 bags of coffee HOME!” (That’s TWO HUNDRED half-kilo bags… we looked like drug dealers.)
So we filled SIX duffle bags with the coffee, split them between several of us, and said the famous airport-kindness-please prayer.
Amazingly we checked-in trouble-free.
Until just before the airplane boarded.
Over the departure lounge speaker came an official-sounding voice calling me: “Mr. Power, Mr. Jeff Power, please come to the counter.” Who, me? An airport security official then grimly walked me down several floors, through multiple security doors, into the bowels of the airport. Luggage was being whisked by conveyors at high speed in every direction.
He marched me over to a screening station where one of my duffles had been pulled aside. A scowling Baggage-Screening-Woman-Official awaited me.
I thought fast on my feet… I know some Amharic (the Ethiopian language) so I greeted her in the feminine evening singular, “Endemin amashesh.” She cracked a tiny smile.
“What’s in the bag?” she demanded.
“Coffee,” I said. “A lot of coffee.” OK, that was stupid. “It’s for the friends and family who support us in our work with poor villages.” OK, yeah, I played the humanitarian aid worker card.
“Open it,” she said.
So I did. Yep, there was A LOT OF COFFEE inside. Basically I had put one pair of jeans on top of 40 bags of coffee. Smart.
She paused (I think she also grinned a bit) then sent me away with a wave of her hand. Mr Security Man led me back upstairs. “She must like you,” he said. “Why do you say so?” I asked. “Because you’re only allowed to take four bags out of the country,” he replied.
OK, I knew we were probably pushing the limit, but… OH. MY. WORD. We had no idea what the limit was!
Our flight home was filled with excitement, we cleared US customs fine because we were each under the price limit, and we delivered the coffee to the gracious supporters, friends and family who had basically paid for our trip and helped villages by drinking it.
And the idea for Pangeo Coffee was born right then.
Oh, and the name? Pan=across, geo=the world. We’re working to help villages across the world.
So… we invite you to deliciously join with us in our village-transformation work by drinking Pangeo Coffee. We import (legally!) the truly finest coffee beans in the world from where we work in Africa and Asia. Those beautiful beans are fresh-roasted by our premier roaster here in Denver, and instantly shipped to you for your uninterrupted coffee pleasure (every month by subscription if you’ll let us).
And every time you drink Pangeo Coffee, you’ll know you’re directly supporting excellent village-transformation work in some of the poorest places on earth.