Donald N. Schoenholt

"Founding Father" Specialty Coffee Assoc. of America "Founding Father" The Roasters' Guild

Meet Donald Schoenholt:

Donald Schoenholt, Specialty Coffee Association Lifetime Achievement laureate, and member of an old and respected coffee family, is Coffeeman Emeritus at Gillies Coffee Company, founded in 1840. A roaster, cupper and teacher of renown, Donald has written hundreds of articles on coffee subjects during his 7-decade spanning coffee career. He has been quoted in prestigious publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Crain’s New York Business, USA Today, The New York Daily News, The Tokyo Shimbun and The Times of London, and hometown journals as the Elyria Ohio Chronicle Telegram, and the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Schoenholt, has been called, “Father of America’s coffee renaissance,” as he was 1st among US roasters to bring world recognition to America’s cup in the 1970’s. His knowledge, professional probity, and personal character have made him a leader to three generations of American coffee roasters. He has been called in publications both, “a mensch” and “specialty coffee’s white knight.”

Don founded both the Roasters Guild (now Coffee Roasters Guild), and Specialty Coffee Association of America (now Specialty Coffee Association), serving as inaugural year chief executive of both organizations. He is a founding member of Kona Coffee Farmers Association, Hawaii USA. He is a pathfinder for coffee ethical practices; among the first boosters of Coffee Kids®, Grounds for Health, Coffee Quality Institute (CQI), Women’s Coffee Alliance, Coffee Trust® and Cup for Education. Under his stewardship Gillies became New York’s 1st Fair Trade Certified, 1st Organic Certified, and 1st Smithsonian Bird Friendly (shade grown) Certified Roaster. His vision of a specialty coffee community has proven to have been both prescient, and modest as today an international industry stands where in his youth there was, in the words of coffee author, Mark Pendergrast, only, “a scattered band of fanatics.”

Donald helped write the specialty coffee traders’ Green Coffee Contract, served on the 1st SCAA Forward Planning Committees, and was a charter member of the SCAA Green Coffee Arbitration Panel. When SCAA was financially plundered by the theft of $465-thousand, Don chaired (with friend Tim Castle) “SCAA First Responders” raising a quarter-million dollars to literally keep the lights on at SCAA. He served as Gourmet / Specialties Editor at the prestigious Tea & Coffee Trade Journal for over 35 years and serves on the Roast Magazine Advisory Board. He also contributes to CoffeeTalk. Mr. Schoenholt was the first individual recipient of the Drachman Award for coffee excellence, and was named among the 25 most influential people in the coffee industry during the previous quarter-century by Gourmet Retailer Magazine (2004). He has contributed his expertise to many books on coffee as well as to numerous governments, The United Nations, The World Bank, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, private corporations, NGOs, museums educational institutions and media.

In addition to the SCAA Lifetime Achievement Award Donald holds accolades from Jamaica WI, Costa Rica, Tanzania, Coffee Growers of Colombia, Coffee Growers of Brazil, Coffee Kids, Roasters Guild, and The Coffee Brewing Center. Mr. Schoenholt was Tea & Coffee Person of the Year in 1998, and was honored in 2010 as SCAA Distinguished Author. Don has been featured on television in Japan, Jamaica, and National Public Radio (NPR), Crain’s NY Business, The Food Channel and NBC’s The Today Show in the United States. He can be seen currently in Good Coffee Men a film produced by the Green Coffee Association (USA). Mr. Schoenholt appears prominently in New York City Coffee: A Caffeinated History, by Erin Meister (Arcadia Publishing) 2017, and in Ian Bersten’s, Coffee and Tea Perceptions and Illusions, Helian Books, 2017. Sealand has produced a film portrait of Mr. Schoenholt.