Coffee of Hope
By Kirsten Fairchilds
Lois Muhly remembers exactly when and why she tasted coffee for the first time.
“I was 13 years old and in the seventh grade and about to go on a cattle drive,” Lois recounts. “I remember every article of clothing my mother made me put on for this drive. I remember she had made coffee and offered it to everyone, including me. It was so I had some extra stimulation to keep me alert and warm on the drive.”
Unlike his wife of 65 years, Bert Muhly doesn’t recall any specific event leading up to his first taste of coffee. “I think I had coffee for the first time during the (Franklin D.) Roosevelt Administration during the Great Depression in the 1930s,” Bert says. “I don’t remember any particular reason why.”
Although the significance of their separate introductions to coffee may differ, both Lois, 85, and Bert, 88, agree that the value that coffee has brought to their lives and the lives of so many others could not have been anticipated after those first few sips.
Since 2003, the Muhlys have been selling coffee at the Aptos market through their nonprofit organization, Three Americas, Inc. Net proceeds go directly to cooperative projects that the organization undertakes to support social, environmental and economic justice in the Americas.
The couple first visited Central America in 1981 when Lois decided that learning Spanish would help her in her role as a teacher at Santa Cruz Gardens Elementary School. The Muhlys had wanted to go to Cuba, but since traveling there was closed to U.S. citizens, they ended up joining a tour headed to Nicaragua.
Bert says that what they discovered during that first trip was a far different Nicaragua than what was being portrayed at the time by the Reagan Administration to the American people in the mainstream media. The Muhlys felt strongly enough about their experience that they and another couple formed Coalition for Nicaragua in 1982 to help the Nicaraguan people directly.
Twenty-one years later, Coalition for Nicaragua transformed into Three Americas, Inc., which imports two organic, fair-traded, shade-grown coffees from Nicaragua under the name of Cafe de la Esperanza (Coffee of Hope). Through the assistance of the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company, Three Americas, Inc. sells the two coffees – Ometepe and Pancasan – either freshly brewed by the cup or bagged by the pound as whole beans as well as four other flavors donated by the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company.
Along with their 30-year-old grandson Joe Hutson, who began working with them on a regular basis more than three years ago, the Muhlys enjoy sharing with their customers the one-on-one experiences they have had with the farmers in the roughly 25 trips they have made to Nicaragua as well as providing updates on the current projects supported by Three Americas, Inc.
“Every time a patron at the market orders a cup of our coffee, they are helping an individual someplace in the Western Hemisphere,” Bert says. “Because of our relationship with the patrons and their understanding of what the money is used for, they’ve become very faithful customers. They’ll come out rain or shine. They’re dedicated to the market and they’re dedicated to us.”
Market Profile: more about Three Americas >
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