story of a dish

Katz Coffee Gives a Jolt to Local Good Causes

By / Photography By Ellie Sharp | January 07, 2018
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It is no secret that certain foods and drinks can bring a mood lift, like mac and cheese or hot chocolate do for me. Coffee provides this effect in millions of lives around the world. Through the Coffee Cause Program of Katz Coffee, caffeinated connoisseurs can simultaneously fuel their daily fix while sipping in support of a select group of nonprofit organizations.

Katz Coffee was founded in 2003 by Avi Katz as a means to develop and share his passion for customer service and hospitality, honed as a student at the University of Houston. After working for a few coffee roasters in Houston he created Katz Coffee. Initially serving farmers markets and a growing number of restaurants, over time the company outgrew two previous storefronts and took over its current space in August 2016.

In addition to an extensive collection of regular coffees, the company launched its Coffee Cause Program in 2007 as an extension of Avi’s desire to serve others.

“These coffees give back to nonprofit organizations,” says Celina Sandoval, the company’s sales representative since 2013. “The coffees were carefully planned and selected down to the artwork on the bag, to the bean in the bag.”

Although not native to Texas, Avi Katz has spent the majority of his life here, Sandoval says. “His love for Texas is evident through the Coffee Cause Program. It’s a wonderful state—we have so much to offer—and the natural beauty of Texas is something that’s important to him to preserve,” she says. “A lot of the Cause coffees have to do with nature and preserving something about Texas.”

Currently, the Coffee Cause Program benefits six Texas nonprofits directly or indirectly (depending on the specifics of the partnership) including Bat Conservation International, Friends of Enchanted Rock, Buffalo Bayou Partnership, Houston Arboretum & Nature Center, the Houston Area Firefighters & First Responders and the University of Houston (Katz is a roasting partner for the Cougar Blend but alumni-owned campus coffee shop The Nook Café makes the donations to UH).

Through a collaborative process between roaster and recipient, a specific blend was chosen to reflect each organization’s culture and mission. With the exception of the HFD and Cougar blends, which have a different format, 25 cents from each pound of coffee sold is given to the associated organization on a quarterly basis.

The Austin Bat City Blend, a marriage of dark roasts, was the concept’s debut blend in 2007. It benefits Bat Conservation International, which supports education and conservation efforts for their namesake creature. Particularly popular in Austin (nicknamed Bat City), the bag depicts the 6th Street Bridge and the colony that inhabits it but is also a nod to colonies in San Antonio, Houston, and beyond; the bold beans inside offer earthy, rich chocolate and fruity notes.

In 2008, the Enchanted Rock blend was born to represent Friends of Enchanted Rock, which works to sustain one of Texas’ most treasured natural landmarks and recreation areas through conservation, education and trail maintenance.

Close on its heels came the Bayou Blend in 2009, to highlight the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, which educates, develops, protects and maintains areas along the bayou. “We appreciate Katz Coffee joining with us to ensure that future generations benefit from and enjoy Houston’s most significant natural resource.” says Trudi Smith, director of public relations and events for the Buffalo Bayou Partnership.

Light roast Early Bird was released in 2015 and benefits the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center, an in-town sanctuary for wildlife and nature where visitors get up-close and personal with both native and migratory species. One of the latter, the Summer Tanager, arrives annually from a region in Guatemala known for organic, shade-grown and bird-friendly production methods; naturally, the Early Bird uses these beans and the bag is identified by an image of the tanager against a backdrop of a meadow at the arboretum. “[The Katz] team has been fabulous,” says Katie Campbell, administrative and special events manager for the arboretum. Funds from coffee sales go towards hands-on science education pro-grams, conservation, trail and native habitat maintenance and land restoration.

The Fire House Series, launched in late 2015, takes a different approach through an alliance that offers participating fire stations affordable coffee to prepare in-house using equipment provided by Katz (the program is optional and 37 stations currently participate). “Firefighters are ordinary men and women who do an extraordinary thing at the right time,” says Houston Fire Department Assistant Chief Ruy Lozano, who approached Avi about starting the program. He says that having high-quality coffee not only keeps everyone awake, but also provides a comforting feeling and time to reflect after a call. Since firefighters pay for station goods out of pocket, proceeds from retail sales of the series enable them to purchase the blends at a price competitive with big-box suppliers. The department contributed names for each of the four blends and approved the final flavor profiles, which were developed with a firefighter’s daily schedule in mind: The Classic Roast is a medium roast for the everyday drinker; Shift Change is a super-light but highly caffeinated option intended for the firefighter just coming off a 72-hour shift or the one just coming in, “designed to wake you up or get you home”; Running Hot is a bold, darker roast for someone drinking coffee all day; and the False Alarm decaf ensures everyone can enjoy a cuppa when needed.

When Hurricane Harvey hit in August, Katz Coffee donated hundreds of pounds of coffee, provided twice-daily deliveries of hot coffee to the first responder headquarters downtown and free coffee to area fire stations for over a week.

“I definitely don’t think we have any intention of stopping this program anytime soon [and] I think it’s only gonna grow,” says Sandoval. “But it’s just a really neat part of what we do at Katz and kind of reminds us to be humble and be respectful of the area we live in and how what we do affects these areas and what they’re doing to try to preserve it. They’re great reminders for a lot of people and you feel good about it.”

> Find Coffee Cause coffee at or at area retailers and coffee shops such as Central Market, Lola, Retrospect Coffee Bar and Kolache Factory or purchase at 2400 Karbach St., Houston, on weekdays 8am–5pm; 713-864-3338.

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