The Thorn Tree Story

From the Heart of Africa, with a Heart for Africa Makoma Coffee!

The founder of Thorn Tree Coffee, Lee Albaugh, has been an active part of Zambian life since 1975. In the early years, he and his family worked in the northern part of Zambia at Mbala, participating in the African community as a missionary, and teacher at the local Secondary School. In the village we worked to find ways to better the lives of the community both physically, and spiritually.

The poverty and disease in those days was not as difficult as today. Many of the farmers had cattle, good fields, relatively healthy families and were a big part of our lives. After leaving Zambia in 1984, much of that changed as the communities began feeling the effects of AIDS and extreme poverty. Our friends, and these challenges, brought us back to Zambia many times over the years as we engaged in developing two Training centers in the north of Zambia

How did coffee become a part of this? Early in our years in Africa, we attempted to encourage coffee growing in the villages we worked with. This was not too successful, but taught us lessons! When times get tough, crops they can eat always win! Coffee was not one of these. We continue to believe coffee is a link to help change peoples lives at the day-to-day living level as it can provide work. Over 120 families have full or part time employment in the production of 16 hectares coffee at Makoma.

When the bottom dropped out of the coffee market in 2003, some of our friends in Zambia were faced with the possibility of losing their coffee crop because of the depressed prices. Learning of this on one of his work trips with NESteam International, Lee agreed to purchase and market their crop in the States. Because of the better price we paid directly to the farmer, they were able to survive the price crisis then, saving jobs for village farmers in the north of Zambia.

From that time, we formed a partnership with Gracewell Mwansa, a friend in Mbala, and began a coffee estate in the region. Planting over the years we have endeavored to grow naturally with no chemical inputs. We farm with a fungi root which naturally lives in symbiosis with the trees, taking the nutrients and water through its expanded root systems. See more about this at

We are a farm direct grower and supplier of coffee to the US. We make a difference in the local community, and are committed to responsible and productive farming. All because we have some of the best coffee, and people, in the world to work with! Have a cup of our brew, and you will be one of us too!