We started as Santee Coffee Corner, serving great coffee and the best acai to San Diego, but we saw an opportunity to take what we were already doing and have a bigger impact. Some of our baristas have been to the Hill tribes of Thailand over the last 5 years working with ITDP on developmental projects in the villages inspiring us to launch the Hill Tribes Coffee Roasting division of Santee Coffee Corner. Our goal is to provide great coffee to customers while having a direct impact on the lives of the “Karen” villagers as well as other tribal groups in the Northern Hill Tribes of Thailand.
The story can be traced back over 55 years to Richard and Marlene Mann who are considered Thailand’s coffee pioneers. Richard and Marlene came to Thailand in 1959 with the goal of seeing Thai highland villages become self-sustainable and free from the oppression of the drug cartels and human traffickers that inhabited the area. The solution came in the form of a coffee plant.
The Manns (Richard’s son Mike) started an organization called The Integrated Tribal Development Program (ITDP), which slowly began working one village at a time, with the hope of eventually freeing all of northern Thailand of poverty. Today, over 40 villages are growing coffee, and all crops are owned 100% by the villagers.
Hill Tribes Coffee Roaster partners with Lanna Coffee Co (who works alongside ITDP and the villagers to purchase coffee) often paying beyond the Fair Trade value. This allows villagers to be self-sustainable while Lanna Coffee Co works to further support the cause by offering this specialty coffee to the U.S. market. Hill Tribes Coffee Roasters purchases green coffee from Lanna and roasts it in San Diego where it is available at Santee Coffee Corner!