Good Neighbor, More Than Good Coffee


Faye White

Good Neighbor Cafe sells ethically-sourced cacao tea packaged in eco-friendly compostable bags for customers to purchase, supporting children’s education in Guatemala.

In the sea of ever-growing housing developments and remodels of Capitol Hill, one house may catch your eye on 19th and Spruce. If the espresso flag standing out of the ground does not draw your attention, perhaps the blinking open sign will deter your eye from the suburban setting. There lays Good Neighbor Cafe, which opened in 2019. Owner Sharon Healey has bright ideas for the café and truly wants to be a good neighbor by providing a place for the community to gather and hopes that the cafe really is a good neighbor to everybody.

There are copious amounts of coffee shops on Capitol Hill, but Good Neighbor Cafe is unique. Immediately, you are greeted by the warmth of not only the fire that’s blazing, but by the hospitality of the employees.

Good Neighbor Café is run by Healy, Healy’s daughter, her partner, and Healy’s son. Healy is also an immigration lawyer, which inspired her to adopt a product from local business, Madsen Cacao, into her coffee shop that funds scholarships for underprivileged Guatemalan children.

“I support anything that promotes anything, especially education for girls in Guatemala,” Healy said. “I was really excited when he told me about the concept.”

As an immigration attorney, Healy sees a lot of Guatemalan immigrants and is familiar with the struggles they may face.

“In Guatemala, while there is no school tuition, every family is required to buy books, uniforms, etcetera. Most parents are farmers that earn under five US dollars a day,” she said.

The bags of Madsen’s Cacao are not sold for profit, but rather to help this cause that Healy is passionate about. Good Neighbor is the only coffee shop in Seattle selling Madsen’s Cacao.

The company was started by University of Washington alumni Joey Madsen and his brother Jeff. Madsen graduated in 2014 and traveled to Guatemala to pursue his teaching dreams. While in Guatemala, Madsen saw what children and families were going through in rural Guatemalan areas. The average adult’s education is about five and a half years, Madsen learned after doing research about education in Guatemala, and over half the kids begin to drop out by the seventh grade.

Madsen stated that the desire to study is there, but they’re being held back through the lack of finances, which is a reason for over 75% of those dropouts.

This inspired Madsen to create a scholarship program for students while also trying to be an ethical, sustainable business. Each bag of cacoa tea they sell equates one day of school and every 180 bags provides a year worth of a scholarship to a student.

This school year, Madsen’s Cacao will be funding their first scholarships to five children.

Communication is key in this program, as Madsen keeps in touch with the families.

“As long as the kid is going to school and sending us the report cards, the family will get the money no strings attached,” Madsen said.

Madsen just returned from visiting the children in Guatemala and carries a very detectable sense of pride and humility about the work he is doing.

Madsen has a dream of being able to have 180 bags of Madsen’s Cacao being sold in a day, meaning a yearlong scholarship could be provided in one day of sales. Madsen, with a background in anthropology, is not an uppity businessman. With his casual, down-to-earth demeanor, it is evident he has a story to tell, and he is doing that through his business.

“We’re just trying to do our little small business and send some kids to school,” Madsen said.

Ways he hopes to secure more scholarships for children are by selling in more coffee shops, distributing to grocery stores and having an online presence. His other goals are to be as transparent as possible with the scholarship program and the product, which is ethically sourced and packaged in compostable material.

Madsen encouraged people to do their own parts, big or small, instead of relying entirely on large organizations to take care of their concerns.

“The world really does work better when we build it from the bottom up, we can’t rely on working for some big company or organization,” he said. “We need to embrace all of our unique talents and passion. Everybody doing their own little thing and then when we come together we realize we have done a lot.”

Featured now at Good Neighbor café is a Guatemalan Fog, made from Madsen’s Cacao tea. The drink is created with steamed milk and a hint of vanilla to create a sweet, yet not overpowering taste of nutty chocolate.

Pop into Good Neighbor Cafe to experience the coziness and learn more about Madsen’s Cacao. A good neighbor would be open to helping the community, and Good Neighbor Cafe is starting off on the right foot by being hospitable to all that come in, and by raising awareness for a local business’s vision.

Michaela may be reached at [email protected]