By Richard Weinstein, President & COO, Ocean Reef Community Foundation

I don’t drink coffee. When most people hear that they think it is some diet related, health conscious, perhaps even cultish movement but it so happens I just don’t like the taste. However, I have always been fascinated with the idea of coffee. I even love the smell and over the years have learned to appreciate that others (most of the entire population on the planet) cannot live without it.

“We Serve Coffee” is certainly a welcome sign in any restaurant window, especially early in the morning and late afternoon. It also happens to be the very clever tag line for the National Coffee Association that supports all things related to the coffee business. But coffee has not always had such an easy time. It’s the new kid on the block compared to tea. Tea has been around for some 3000 years, so coffee is relatively new, dating back to 800 or 900 AD depending on the source. Seems that Yemen is the likely origination but popularity stemmed from Ethiopia.

Compared to the well accepted drinking of tea, coffee was the outcast having been banned at least 6 times in the last few hundred years.

  1. In 1511 in Mecca, coffee houses were all the rage and “hanging out” in them was blamed for creating radical thinking so the best solution was to ban the drinking of coffee.
  2. Also in the 16th Century in Italy (gasp!) it was considered satanic and against the morays of Church.
  3. In 1623 in Constantinople, those Ottomans just couldn’t stand the idea of anyone drinking coffee so a first offense was a beating, second offense was likely to find yourself underwater… literally.
  4. In 1746, then again in 1756, and yet again in 1817, Sweden said not only is coffee dangerous, but also, tea has been kind of hanging out with coffee way too much, so we are going to ban them both. Each time they created more severe restrictions going as far as shutting down any import and export of coffee and tea.
  5. In 1777 in Prussia it was banned but they had a really good reason. They claimed that coffee was interfering with the consumption of beer! Well clearly, that had to be stopped. Finally, someone with some sense!
  6. From 1984 to 2004 there was a world wide ban – Oh, your saying “no way, I remember actually drinking coffee during this time period,” but that was because you were not an Olympic Athlete. The Olympic Committee banned the use of high concentrations of caffeine during this time frame. Likely they drew up the proposal one night when working late with extra pots of coffee. It became too difficult to determine what was a high concentration so the ban was eventually dropped.

Coffee in the US started becoming more popular as early as 1850 when Folgers started roasting beans and selling coffee in San Francisco. They took off in sales (as most addictive substances will) and reigned as king until Maxwell House overtook them in 1992. For me it was very different.  I remember going to a coffee shop called Chock Full O’Nuts (The Heavenly Coffee…) outside of Yankee stadium to watch a Giants football game with my dad. Best powdered donut ever (turns out it was a whole wheat donut) The coffee? I got to taste it and perhaps if I had been introduced with a different brand, who knows. By the way, who names a coffee company “Chock Full O’ Nuts”? It seems that William Black had a nut roasting shop in NY before the depression. Once the depression hit nuts became too expensive so he used his equipment to start roasting and selling coffee instead of nuts. So he just kept the original name. His coffee shop took off and also became a place to purchase the coffee in cans.

Coffee cans once empty of the grinds, became the de-facto storage container holding everything from nuts and bolts in the garage to the life savings of a down and out waitress using it for her life savings to escape from a poor existence and worrisome town. These images have been depicted many times over in every movie with a similar story line. It’s good to have a safe and secure place for your money and nothing says security like a tin can.

But that same coffee can is also used for that rainy day fund, the one you can use to help a friend in need, the one you can keep and feed and help grow until the time comes to use it for good. That is what a Donor Advised Fund with the Ocean Reef Community Foundation is really all about. You can open a fund, tax defer the full amount that you donate and then take all the time you need to distribute those funds for charitable causes that are near and dear to your heart; even if you decide to take several years to allocate those donations. Like the money in that coffee can it is there waiting for you to advise on your most desired way to distribute it. Unlike the coffee can, funds over a certain threshold are invested and can grow on their own. Of course, you can also add additional funds to it at any time you choose. No management fees from the Foundation as another benefit means more of your donation goes toward the causes you care about the most.  And our security is much better than a plastic coffee can lid.

We can help guide you. If you would like to learn more about our Donor Advised Funds or any of the other services your Community Foundation can offer, please give me a call. While I will likely stick with water,  I would be happy to meet with you and discuss it… over a cup of coffee…