In response to the economic downturn created by the COVID-19 virus, one Lebanon business, Kitty Town Coffee, is sending out free bags of coffee beans to people in need.

It’s a little something to help people get through the day; a hot cup of fresh coffee combined with the knowledge that someone cares.

“If you lost your job or your business has shut down, we want to do what we can to help,” said owner Zanetta Kok, who owns and runs Kitty Town Coffee with her husband, Kenny.

Kitty Town Coffee is a bean roasting company; they do not sell coffee from their Cumberland Street locale, the former Bethlehem Steel building.

The company sells fresh-roasted beans for specialty coffees to places like Lebanon’s own “Wrinkle and Boon” on Ninth Street where patrons can buy a cup of their coffee or take home a bag of coffee beans or to Pronio’s in Hershey.

Much of their business is generated online.

“We started this last week as an initiative to help our community,” Zanetta Kok said. “Since our customers are primarily e-commerce, anybody can email us for a free bag of coffee beans.

“They don’t have to give us any information,” Kok added. “We’re doing this by the honor system.”

Free coffee; no questions asked.

Kok may not require financial information or job histories, but people tell her anyway.

“Most of the people have been sharing; many of them have had their businesses shut down or hours reduced,” Kok said. “It’s unfortunate because some have sick family members.

“It is heartbreaking for me when I read the emails, but sometimes people want to vent,” Kok said. “I’m trying to do what I can.”

The company began in 2017, and she said, the free beans are a way of showing their gratitude for the positive response they’ve received from the community.

Kitty Town Coffee is aptly named, since it is cat-themed. The various coffee blends offered are named after cats the couple have owned or currently share their lives with, or cats belonging to their friends.

On Kitty Town’s website, under “Which Coffee is for Me,” consumers can find descriptions of different blends and even a photo of the cat for which the specific blend was named.

That includes “Robust Roy,” which is flavorful and bold; the “Albert Blend,” a little sweet and smooth, and “The Original Sydney,” very smooth with a distinctly nutty flavor.

One bag of coffee beans is about $12; a price that could add up as the Koks send free bags of coffee throughout the country.

“I have a few disclaimers on the website; if it gets out of hand, we’ll have to stop,” Kok said. “But we’ll keep the program going as long as we can.”

On the website, Kok asks for help with the free coffee program by folks purchasing a voucher that helps to cover shipping costs – but only if they have the means to do so.

“So far, the response has been really good,” Kok said. “It’s been about even; the people who ask for coffee and those who donate; it’s a good balance so we’re pretty happy about that.”

Kitty Town’s free coffee bean initiative has been detailed on Facebook and folks have heard about it through word-of-mouth, Kok said. So far, they haven’t had to advertise the free coffee.

About half of the coffee bean bags are going out of state and the rest remain local, Kok said.

If Zanetta or Kenny knows the customer’s preference, they’ll send a specific coffee blend. If not, they’ve got a few standards, Kok said.

“We have several out-of-state customers who are regular customers and we consider them part of our community even though they’re far away,” Kok said.

In addition to complying with all FDA regulations for food manufacturing, Kok said the crew is wearing washable face masks while handling the product. Proper hand washing has always been encouraged, she added.

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Read all of LebTown’s COVID-19 coverage here.

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