Make coffee, not war: Dean’s Beans of Orange pitches in to help Ukrainian coffee roasters

  • Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee Co. purchased unroasted coffee beans in a western Ukraine warehouse and had them shipped to five coffee roasters in Kharkiv. CONTRIBUTED/DEAN’S BEANS

  • Dean and Annette Cycon of Leverett, both descendants of refugees, identify with the Ukrainian cause. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 7/27/2022 5:21:15 PM

ORANGE — Dean Cycon was reading about the ongoing war in Ukraine when he came across an article describing the unique problem the nation’s coffee roasters are having, especially in the regions occupied or formerly occupied by Russian forces.

The owner of Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee Co. learned the country’s supply of green (unroasted) coffee beans was stored in warehouses in western Ukraine, with roasters on the eastern side having little money or other means to access it. Much of Ukraine’s roasted coffee has been provided to soldiers, hospitals and first responders in the wake of the Russian onslaught.

“I said, ‘That sounds like a supply chain bottleneck,’” Cycon recalled this week.

So, he reached out to his coffee contacts and offered to buy those green beans so the Ukraine chapter of the Specialty Coffee Association could use its infrastructure to get them to roasters. He said he spent $20,000 to purchase the beans — which are actually seeds of the Coffea plant — and SCA Ukraine distributed it to five roasters they identified in Kharkiv, a northeast city being heavily bombarded. The association chapter currently operates out of Poland.

Cycon said he has since spoken with these roasters and sent more money to them to address other community needs. His company’s Facebook page posted a photo of roaster Ilya Kushnirenko, who used the beans and money to get back into operation and also donated roasted coffee to soldiers in Kharkiv.

Cycon also funded the flights and lodging for some of Ukraine’s top baristas to travel to Milan, Italy, last month for the World Coffee Championships at World of Coffee 2022, the Specialty Coffee Association’s headline global trade show. One of those baristas, Vladyslav Demonenko, finished second place in the World Coffee in Good Spirits Championship.

“That’s really bringing home the kudos and bringing home the respect,” Cycon said.

He also sent along hundreds of his company’s “Make Coffee Not War” bumper stickers (manufactured in blue and yellow, the colors of Ukraine’s flag) to be distributed in Milan.

“So people all over the world now have those bumper stickers,” he said.

Cycon and his wife, Annette, who live in Leverett, spent two weeks in Poland in March to help Ukrainians fleeing the war. They worked closely with World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit, non-governmental organization that provides meals to people affected by tragedy. The two also set up a GoFundMe page (bit.ly/3IfHHQm) and distributed envelopes of $100, mostly to distressed mothers.

The situation is personal to the Cycons, both descendants of refugees. Annette’s mother, Wanda Kokurewicz, was born in Warsaw in 1929 and was part of the Polish resistance that fought the Warsaw Uprising. Dean’s grandmother, Sarah Golembi, was 6 years old in 1906, when the family fled the massacre of Jews during the pogroms (violent riots) of what is now Belarus, and traveled to Ellis Island. The Cycons named their daughter after Dean’s grandmother.

Reach Domenic Poli at dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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