Coffee sales help monks blend mission, marketing

By Sam Lucero

Humble Habits coffee project replaces popular bake sales as means to support ministry

ST. NAZIANZ — For more than three years, Fr. Moses Wright’s baking skills helped support Holy Resurrection Monastery’s mission of prayer and hospitality.

But the popularity of his kitchen cuisine — which included shepherd pies, chicken pot pies, New York-style pizzas, chicken soup with homemade noodles, fruit pies, cookies and cakes — began to interfere with the Byzantine monks’ lifestyle.

“The bake sales were very profitable … but they were starting to take over our lives,” Fr. Moses told The Compass July 28. “It was just so much work. We just couldn’t keep up with the demand.”

Fr. Moses Wright, left, and Br. Issac Hughey, members of the Eastern Catholic Holy Resurrection Monastery in St. Nazianz, hold packages of their Humble Habits Coffee. The monks began selling coffee in June to support their ministry. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

The writing was on the wall for the former chef and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. He cooked himself out of the kitchen.

The monks have found a new way to support their mission and it’s just as aromatic as Fr. Moses’ fruit pies and cookies. The Eastern Catholic monastery now sells locally roasted coffees under their own label: Humble Habits Coffee.

When word got out that the monthly bake sales would cease, one of the customers contacted the monastery. “He put us in touch with a local Catholic coffee roaster in Appleton,” said Fr. Moses. “I sat down with them and we worked out a couple of different blends that we were happy putting our names on, so now we are selling locally roasted coffees through the monastery.”

The Appleton coffee roaster caters to a variety of private coffee labels, said Fr. Moses. “So they do the roasting and the packaging and we just do the marketing and distribution.”

Another friend of the monastery, Ann Rebholz, a member of St. George Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Milwaukee, helped the monks come up with the name of their Humble Habit Coffee label and designed their logo.

“She’s also working on marketing-type stuff: coffee mugs and T-shirts,” said Br. Isaac Hughey.

The monks offer five varieties of coffee, which come in whole beans and ground varieties: A light roast Ethiopian blend; a medium roast espresso; a dark roast fair trade organic Sumatra; a medium roast decaf; and a medium roast vanilla.

Humble Habits Coffee made its debut on June 1. It can be purchased online at humblehabitscoffee.org or from the monastery, 300 S. 2nd Ave., St. Nazianz.

“We are in the process of coming up with a couple of new blends and seasonal varieties we will offer throughout the year,” said Fr. Moses. “Coming up to the fall season, we will offer a traditional pumpkin spice.”

Fr. Moses said the monks choose not to roast their own coffee because of the cost and the delicate process.

“My take on it is, it’s a very specialized process roasting coffee. If you roast coffee 10 seconds too long, you can take it from a very good product to one you’ve got to put it in the trash,” he explained. “I was much more comfortable sitting down with the professionals and developing roasts that we like and letting them do it.”

So far, marketing the coffee has been mostly through word of mouth and social media. Piggly Wiggly grocery stores in New Holstein and Sheboygan Falls began carrying Humble Habits Coffee in late July.

“We are hoping (the coffee project) helps support the monastery in a way that doesn’t detract from our main purpose, which is prayer and hospitality,” said Fr. Moses. “As much as we enjoyed the bake sales and the interaction with local people, it was just destroying our lifestyle.”

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  • Michael Hazz

    Oh noo! I wish the bakery hadn’t closed. It would save me making trips several times every summer to the Jampot in Eagle Harbor, Michigan to buy wonderful goods made by the monks at Society of St. John monastery.