Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A First Taste of the Coffee Industry

A new adventure starts Friday morning when we leave Nashville, headed for Amsterdam.  A busy first weekend includes a train trip to Brussels to Saturday.  The NIBS competition kicks off with a welcome banquet Sunday night.  Much to be excited about!

I'm scrambling to get next week's assignments into my professors' inboxes tonight before I leave -- the last thing I want to worry about is trying to connect to the internet in a foreign country while under pressure to get my work in on time.

Now about this trip...
We just had our pre-departure briefing for Guatemala this morning.  It was so neat to have Bob Bernstein, owner of beloved Belmont Blvd coffee shop Bongo Java, tell us about his experience starting a fair trade coffee cooperative several years ago to buy coffee directly from small-scale farmers -- although he doesn't use the term "fair trade" anymore because "it's been bastardized," as he puts it.  Most people refer only to price when talking about fair trade requirements, but it's so much more than that, says Bob.

Bob has a lot of thought-provoking ideas and experiences to share with us, especially in regards to responsible sourcing for coffee sellers, so you'll read more about this as I think about our discussion throughout the trip. What really caught me off guard, though, was this: Of all the coffee-growing and -producing communities Bob has visited during his travels, Ethiopia is the only coffee-drinking community. In all of the other coffee-growing communities, the bean might be the region's biggest economic driver, but it's final product is not enjoyed there.  

Some of the reasons coffee isn't so popular -- or good-tasting -- in Guatemala?  Uneven and inconsistent roasting, and the inability to get water hot enough for a good-quality brew present major challenges. And of course all the best coffee gets exported, so what stays in Guatemala is definitely not the cream of the crop. Bob's cooperative is now working to help coffee farmers in Guatemala improve their equipment so that they can taste their coffee. 

I can't wait to explore Guatemala and experience the entire tree-to-bean-to-latte process!

In other news: I was honored to be nominated by my peers to Belmont's Homecoming Court last week, and even though I wasn't crowned Homecoming Queen, it was so much fun participating! (In fact, I didn't even know that we had a homecoming court in college, so the entire event was a surprise.) My friend Rami was also nominated, so here we are walking out on the court together at halftime of Belmont's Men's Basketball Homecoming game last Friday night!  

Photo courtesy Belmont University


  1. Sounds like you are in for a great adventure! Look forward to your photos. Also, CONGRATULAIONS Homecoming Princess! xo


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