Coffee for a cause

Retired police officer’s Thin Blue Line supports families of the fallen
By Brian Soergel | Sep 28, 2016
Photo by: Brian Soergel Carl Orsi, purveyor of Thin Blue Line Coffee, holds a bag of his coffee at Walnut Street Coffee in Edmonds.

Once a cop, always a cop.

For 18 years, Carl Orsi served with the Berkeley Police Department. “I’ve seen things in my life that I could have gone my life without ever seeing,” he says.

Orsi, 55, is now retired from the police force and lives in Edmonds with his wife and two sons. He’s a manager for a California-based software firm – he works from home – but says he’s never been able to forget about his buddies, those who made it and those who didn’t or were severely traumatized by their experiences.

Because he wanted to help, Orsi turned his love of coffee into a business that supports families of fallen police officers. This July – coincidentally the same month police officers were targeted and killed in Dallas and Baton Rouge – he debuted Thin Blue Line Coffee, named after law enforcement officers who are the “thin blue line” protecting citizens from criminals.

A portion of the proceeds from sales is donated to Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), an organization that provides support programs designed specifically for officers and their families affected by line-of-duty trauma.

“Cops are part of a very honorable organization,” Orsi said. “C.O.P.S. takes care of survivors. When you hurt cops, you hurt their families. So it’s looking out for the survivors.”

Orsi gets his coffee from a small-batch roasting and grinding company that he didn’t want to name. He’s starting small, as he said he wants to determine what’s popular. Available are 12-ounce bags of dark, medium and light roasts ($12.88), as well as five-pound bags of dark roast ($55.88).

He calls the five-pound bag the 5150 deal, because it’s “crazy good coffee at a crazy good deal.” 5150 is mental health and police code for “involuntary psychiatric hold.”

Orsi does not charge sales tax, and pays for shipping. “I’m not in this to make money,” he said. “This is not going to make me rich. I have another job.”

Why coffee?

“I’ve always loved coffee, good coffee,” Orsi said. “I lived in Berkeley (where Peet’s Coffee started 50 years ago) and now live near Seattle, so you couldn’t ask for better coffee. But coffee is just a means to do the other part, to make donations to help families, teammates and friends.”

He said his coffee is very low in acidic content. That’s important to him, as he drinks a lot of the stuff. His favorite is the dark roast, 100 percent Arabica coffee, that’s smooth with cinnamon overtones.

The coffee company he works with roasts and grinds beans for days, Orsi said. There’s a vent on each bag of Thin Blue Line coffee as the beans are hot when packaged.

“When you order the coffee, it’s fresh,” he said.

As a coffee connoisseur, Orsi has tips for those who buy his drip coffee, tips that serious coffee drinkers no doubt already are hip to: Use fresh water, grind beans just before making a pot, and store it in a carafe after pouring the first cup.

“There’s nothing worse that watery coffee,” he said.

His coffee machine of choice? Mr. Coffee.

He’s seen a lot

Orsi began his police career in 1983, retiring in 2001. He was there for the 40th anniversary of the city’s iconic People’s Park and assisted in the deadly firestorm in neighboring Oakland in 1991.

His most memorable, and frightening, call came Sept. 27, 1990. That’s when a gunman held 33 people hostage for seven hours at Berkeley’s Henry's Publick House and Grille in the Durant Hotel. He terrorized and sexually assaulted some of them, killing one college student. Some hostages jumped from a second-floor window to escape.

Berkeley police shot and killed the gunman.

Orsi was part of a SWAT team on site, although he didn’t take part in the shooting of the gunman. But it was still a harrowing experience.

“I was this far from getting shot,” he said, closing his hands together during an interview. “I watched people doing the sign of the cross, thinking they were going to get shot.”

That’s something you don’t forget.

“It’s a tough job, and I think it’s gotten progressively harder,” he said. “It seems like the only birthday parties you get invited to are ones where people are fighting. A lot of domestic violence. When people see firefighters, it’s a good sight. When they see police, they think, what’s wrong?”

Orsi’s coffee is only available online. He said he’s thought about contacting local shops to see if they’d want to carry it, but … “A lot of people like the police,” he said. “A lot of people don’t like the police. So I have to keep that in mind.”

His favorite coffee shop in Edmonds

Like all coffee lovers, occasionally Orsi buys a cup of coffee from Edmonds’ coffee shops. He’s tried them all.

Walnut Street Coffee is his favorite.

“I like the coffee and the clientele,” he said. “But one thing that really gets me is something no other place has. Coming from California, I don’t like the dark. At Walnut, it’s bright and open. Other people may shy away from that, but it draws me.”

To order or to learn more about Thin Blue Line Coffee, go to






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