April 19, 2011
By Thomas B Haines
If you hang around FBOs much, you'll probably quickly agree with longtime pilot and CFI Rob Riggen that the coffee next to the vending machine with those DayGlo cheese crackers in it has a lot to be desired. About the only thing Riggen likes as much as flying is a good cup of coffee. So he decided to take things into his own hands...or mug. He started a coffee business that returns a portion of the each sale to aviation causes.
" Flying High Coffee exists to elevate your coffee experience as well as to provide you an easy way to pay it forward to a new generation of pilots, professionals, and aviation enthusiasts," explains Riggen, who serves as CEO of the company. Fifteen percent of the proceeds of the coffee business go to aviation causes, with an emphasis on youth programs. In March he began supporting scholarships for Girls with Wings, an organization that attempts to introduce young girls to aviation.
Riggen estimates AOPA members spend some $40 million a year on coffee. If he captures only a small portion of that market, he can return many thousands of dollars to aviation causes while delivering pilots what he says is a better cup of coffee.
Flying High Coffee sources its coffee using fair trade practices, providing a higher return for growers and supporting sustainable growing methods. The one-pound bags of coffee are available via mail through the company's website. The Roaster's Choice Club assures a regular delivery of coffee each month.
A tasty sample we tried showed the care with which the company chooses and roasts its beans. The brewed Organic Sumatra coffee proved to be bold and fresh, a less harsh taste than that found at many high-end coffee bars.
Most one-pound bags cost between $13 and $15 and are available ground or whole bean, although some single-source coffees cost as much as $48 a pound. A one-quarter-pound sample bag is available for $5.
The organic coffees are available from a variety of locations, including Ethiopia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Sumatra. A popular offering is the OSH Blend, which debuted at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh last summer. To introduce the coffee, Riggen provided 1,000 cups free to visitors and volunteers at EAA AirVenture last year. This year, as the official coffee of AirVenture, he hopes to increase that ten-fold. In addition to individual sales, the company has programs to support fly-in breakfasts and other pilot events as well as businesses.
AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines joined AOPA in 1988. He owns and flies a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza. Since soloing at 16 and earning a private pilot certificate at 17, he has flown more than 100 models of general aviation airplanes.
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