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Bremerton-based company sells fair trade certified coffee at Sunny Farms

Coffee drinking is on the rise, according to the 2008 National Coffee Drinking Trends Study by the National Coffee Association of U.S.A., Inc.

Seventeen percent of the adult population consumed a gourmet beverage on a daily basis in 2008, compared to 14 percent in 2007. Young adults who drank coffee consumed an average of 3.2 cups per day, the study showed.

Eric Harrison, a Bremerton resident and founder of the nonprofit agency Water and Sanitation Health, encourages java lovers to buy coffee beans that benefit the farmers and communities where the coffee is grown rather than companies marketing and selling the product in the U.S. Eco Café, a Bremerton-based company, does just that. The business sells whole bean, medium roast coffee beans and donates 100 percent of the profits to W.A.S.H.

Eco Café products are sold in Carlsborg at Sunny Farms Country Store and in Port Townsend at Aldrich's Market.

"Eco Café was formed as a way to import the local farmers' coffee and distribute it to the U.S.," Harrison stated in a recent press release. "I decided to turn the coffee industry upside down by donating 100 percent of the profits back to the local community so I could help build water systems and health systems and make needed improvements to schools."

Helping Hondurans is a cause near and dear to Harrison's heart.

At the age of 22, Harrison accepted a job with the Department of Defense and was on his way to fulfilling the "American dream." He made his first mortgage payment on a house and was trying to decide what type of new car to buy.

But after three years, Harrison came to a crossroads in life. "I could have continued my course for the next 30 years and achieved economic security or I could sacrifice the so-called 'American dream' and invest 100 percent of my energy into something greater than myself," he said.

After reading that 3 million children die every year because of a lack of clean water, Harrison chose the latter. He quit his government job in 2006, joined the Peace Corps and started W.A.S.H., an organization dedicated to improving living conditions for people in Third World countries.

"It was a very difficult decision," Harrison, 28, admitted during a telephone interview. "When you are young and making money, to call it quits and leave the corporate world is hard. But I'm glad I did it."

"People tell me, 'I don't have the guts to do what you did,'" he continued, "but I think they do. Don't get locked into a job and think you can't leave. You need to live life on your own terms not society's terms."

Upon quitting his job, Harrison said "goodbye" to hot showers, clean food and drinking water, reliable transportation, friends and family and spent two years living in the mountains of western Honduras.

"I lived with some of the poorest people in Central America," Harrison said. "I met children who eat only one meal a day consisting of only rice and beans and walk to contaminated rivers for their drinking water."

Harrison didn't ask for any special treatment during his stay. He ate, drank and lived among the natives, suffering multiple illnesses and infections related to unsanitary living conditions as a result. Nonetheless, he stayed for the entire two years and made a promise to himself to make a difference for the people living in that part of the world. He's fulfilling that commitment by helping Honduras coffee farmers sell certified organic, fair trade, shade grown coffee.

"In going to Honduras, I was given an opportunity to create positive changes in the lives of thousands of people while experiencing their unique culture and customs," Harrison said. "I lived high up in the mountains in an area that produces some of the best coffee in Honduras and all of Central America. Unfortunately, the local farmers do not see many of the profits realized by the large coffee corporations."

"The coffee industry has tried to wrap themselves in a positive, green marketing scheme by doing a few small community projects," he continued, "but the fact is their industry is still operating essentially as imperialists, taking raw material from poor countries and leaving them with very little."

For more information about Eco Café projects and how money from coffee sold benefits the people of Honduras, go online to www.ecocafeonline.com/projects.html.



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