The Thorn Tree Story
From the Heart of Africa, with a Heart for Africa
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.
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 all a lot of lessons! We continue to believe coffee is a link to help change peoples lives at the day-to-day living level.
When the bottom dropped out of the coffee market in 2003, some of our friends in Zambia, the Powell family, 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 pay directly to the farmer, they have been able to pay their workers 150% more than the other larger coffee plantations, which makes a big difference to the subsistence farming village workers. This allows them to buy the medicines, and pay the school fees, for their children.
The Powell's also have a heart for the community, and NESteam rents a house from them for the Life Skills training programs in the community of Mbala. Life Skills in carpentry, tailoring, and forestry gives orphans and vulnerable children a skill, and hope, for the future. Kansato Estate has also begun shade grown farming on their new plantings! We are hoping this will belp the environment, and enhance coffee growth at the same time.
So, we deal directly with the farmer, 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!