Your work in Uganda—saving the Wild Mountain Gorilla habitat and providing jobs for coffee farmers—is a very significant ecological and humanitarian mission. Are you getting much press about this? I send out alot of press releases and I get very little interest. Everytime a writer talks to me about doing an article for a magazine, I tell them about the work in Uganda, but the end result is an article that says “Urth Caffe is a hip place where celebrities go”. The City of Santa Monica did a segment for their “green” TV show. They sent out a film crew to talk to us about what we do that’s green. And in the show they say “We’re introducing you to Santa Monica’s hip green restaurant.” And they just talked about food. We’re not even a restaurant. We don’t have waiters. I told them all the stuff about the mountain gorillas and they edited it all out. So it’s really strange. I don’t understand why I haven’t found media that’s interested in telling this story. You adopted a whole farming community, creating jobs for entire families and paying them 10 times more than they were making before. It’s really unbelieveable. Must be a big time committment for you. Thank you. I do go there every year for 10 days, sometimes twice a year. And then I correspond all throughout the year. I hosted my Ugandan colleague here in LA for the specialty coffee convention. His name is Henry Nagabriano. He’s the chairman of the Uganda Coffee Development Authority. I’m in contact with him year round and go there sometimes twice a year. We have a list of milestones. So every year we look to see what milestones we’ve completed. This year we have acquired some land and we are going to set up a world class coffee processing center. That’s next on the list. Right now they still have to ship the coffee to another city 18 hours away after it’s been harvested. You’re just one small business owner and you’re changing the way these people are living. This seems very relevant to me. What do you feel is relevant right now? What is worth talking about in the world? Well, I think you summed up our mission and why we do it. My wife and I, when we wanted to create our own business, it was very important for us to give back to the world somehow while we make a profit. We didn’t feel comfortable just to make a profit at the expense of the resource. You know, If we’re going to dedicate our time in life to money and then you get old and die and you haven’t helped anyone or changed the world for better, that’s not acceptable to us. So we found back in the late 80’s that coffee was and stil is today the most chemically treated food commodity in the world. And if we can support farmers who are growing sustainably and organically and people in America love to drink it, then we can perhaps make a difference in the world. Now that this is our first farm in Africa. It’s so exciting to be making a change for the better in Africa. I believe it is the most needy continent that needs change, enlightenment, love and attention. And we’re giving a little bit in our own way and that’s the greatest feeling in the world. Why do you care about making a difference and not just making a profit? Where do these values come from? I guess it’s just natural. It’s a natural feeling for my wife and I. I’m from a Jewish background. She’s from a Muslim background. And we make a joke that we’re a sign of world peace. Both of us, we’re not religiously dogmatic. We’re not devoted to religion. But we do love God and Humanity and we have a sense that we are all created from the same stuff including the earth and the animals and plants and each other. And We have to honor the divinity of that. We have a sense of awe and gratitude for being a part of all this and we want to do good things too. Those are very noble pursuits, but how stable is Uganda to invest in? What about civil war and other threats? Absolutely. The first African farm we worked on in 1994 was Burundi. We had established the relationship. We had established the organic certification. And civil war broke out. The farmers that were providing to us ... their entire farms were burned down. And they were all killed. The whole project was destroyed in the most dramatic way overnight. And so that is a reality. But Uganda is not such a problem comparatively. It’s one of the most promising African countries. And it’s really quite stable, surprisingly. It only has two conflicts right now. In the Sudanese border, it has that cult called Lords Resistance Army. The Ugandan military has been fighting it and dimishing it’s numbers but it jumps back into Sudan to get stronger and then attacks again. The other conflict is in the Congo—thousands of refugees rushing into Uganda in the Southwest corner. But other than that, every year I go to Uganda I see more roads, more businesses, more middle class people. They have freedom of religion—Jewish Ugandan, Muslim Ugandan, Christians, Atheists—and they are free to express it. They have freedom of press. They can complain about their government just as much as we do in America. So it’s really an exciting country. It reminds me of the beginnings of America and the idea of prosperity through life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Your work seems like a successful foreign policy. What would you recommend to make the US foreign policy more ideal? Well, I believe in leading by action. We’re a small company and I want to change the world so I go to Third World Countries and try to create a respectful business relationship with them that respects them and respects the environment. They have to make money and we have to make money. And that’s a really solid model that produces more of the same. I believe in leading by example. But no one is perfect. We are very flawed as humans and our governments reflect us. So I’m not so judgmental against America or the government because it’s a reflection of us. But I think that it’s so important to talk about life and liberty and the original values that made America great. Those are very spiritual values that are in us. And it’s why we’re so prosperous. We are so prosperous and we have so many opportunities because we had an ethic in us from the beginning when we first started. As long as we don’t harm anyone we should be able to build our business and innovate things and enjoy life. You can’t do that unless you’re able to get education and you can’t do that unless you’re able to have freedom of speech. And you should be able to worship any way you want. I still think that one of our greatest dangers in the world is people not having those freedoms elsewhere. So if I was in charge, I would be working on promoting those values because I believe in their success. Not becuse I want to be superior or because I want to be condescending. I really believe those values have been proven to work and would help Third World Countries come out of their struggle. And I think Uganda is a good example of that. You’ll see in ten years, it’s going to be a real gem in Africa. So do you want to be the next Starbucks? Do you want to have Urth Caffé in every city in the universe? (he laughs) We definitely want to be successful. We want to be very, very successful. You can’t show your ethics as having value unless you are successful. So the more success we have, the more we can influence the world and business. But we’re not going to do it like Starbucks. We’re not going to open a thousand Urth Cafes or a hundred. And one of the reasons is that my wife and I are very focused on quality. We’re very focused on quality and relationships. We made a pact that if we grow to a certain level where we can’t maintain our ethics or quality, we’re going to stop at that point. Maybe in some of the great cities of America or other countries we will open one or two and make them successful as we’ve done in Los Angeles. You know we can brag—and thank God we have the right to brag—we’ve got 2000 customers a day in each of the locations. So the business is incredibly successful. You’re making your business profitable while preserving the environment. I think we’re evolving in that direction. I’m optimistic. I think we are evolving as a culture and Urth wants to be a good example and show people why it’s good to grow as a business in this way, with this philosophy. People should try to work together. It takes cooperation to move forward. Is the world of business friendly like that or is it really just a bunch of sharks? No it’s tough. It’s very hard. life is set up that way. In any industry and whatever we do, we all have to work hard in life to make progress. And we have to decide if we are willing to devote ourself to our cause or our business or our industry in a way to push it forward. There’s lots of sharks. But I don’t blame people. I don’t have a pessimistic view of people.