Thursday, April 8, 2021

Qahua to Coffee

Thanks to everyone who attended my presentation "Qahua to Coffee: Ancient & Modern Geographies of MENA's Signature Drink." I was pleased to be invited to speak as part of MENA Awareness Week at BSU, sponsored by the Middle East and North Africa program and the U.S. Department of Education.

Meanwhile: spotted on the Internet, so it
might be true.

I am especially grateful for the questions and comments from colleagues that were offered at the end of the presentation. If you missed the program, I hope you will take the time to watch and to stay for the contributions of these colleagues -- it was very much a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary exchange.

In addition to the video, you are invited to view the slides -- anything on a slide that looks like a link is a link that leads to further information.

During the talk I mentioned three books. In honor of National Library Week, I offer links to my reviews of these titles: Javatrekker, Uncommon Grounds, and Where the Wild Coffee Grows.

Among other things, "Qahua to Coffee" touches on the significance of the café shown below, which is situated in a neighborhood known as "Paris on the Nile." Café Riche has been serving coffee and conversation in Cairo since 1908.


The MENA program that sponsored this event has also provided a small research grant for me to learn more about coffee in the region. Stay tuned: the Coffee Maven will have more to say on this subject!

After I gave this presentation, I turned to our copy of Yashim Cooks Istanbul in order to prepare a MENA-themed dinner. The resulting Hazelnut and Lemon Pilaf (findikli ve limonlu pilav) scored very high on our nutritious-delicious-easy-cheap trade-off matrix. 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Thanks a Thousand!

On March 8, author A.J. Jacobs visited (virtually) my Secret Life of Coffee class. This affable writer is the author of a handful of very interesting books, in which he sets himself rather ambitious personal challenges and then writes about the experience.

His visit was sponsored by Bridgewater One Book One Community, which has been organizing community-wide reading and associated activities since 2006. 

Jacobs was introduced to me and the entire community by my favorite librarian, who has reviewed a couple of his books on her "Library" Books blog, which features hundreds of books (and a few films) whose common element is some mention of a library. In 2012 she reviewed Jacobs' Drop Dead Healthy, but she first learned of his work as part of her "Year of" Books project, in which she wrote about his works throughout her year of reading a particular kind of book. I do not write about books nearly as much as Pamela does, but I describe my appreciation for this book in a Goodreads review

We already had the March 8 visit scheduled when I happened to hear Jacobs on the TED Radio Hour, in which he explores many additional aspects of what he calls the gratitude chain. This is an hour well spent, in which he mentions another of my favorite TED Talkers, Chimamanda Adichie. Jacobs also mentions author Mark Pendergrast, who long ago visited my Secret Life of Coffee and Geography of Coffee classes.


Unlike. A.J. Jacobs and Chimamanda Adichie, my TED Talk has not made me famous. I did, however, speak about campus coffee at a local TEDx event. I invite readers to listen to my Coffee Belwethers talk [sic: my misspelling is part of the talk] and to advocate for ethical coffee at BSU if it inspires them.

Friday, August 28, 2020

My Sig File

Bridgewater State University
Transgender Civil Rights Working Group
EarthView Co-coordinator
Honors Advisory Board
Regions: Latin America - Caribbean - Africa & U.S. Cities
Topics: Political Ecology, Environmental Policy 
International Research and Scholarship Committee, American Association of Geographers
President, Natural Resources Trust of Bridgewater
Affiliated Scholar, Vanderbilt University Institute for Coffee Studies

BSU Dept. of Geography
Bridgewater, Massachusetts 02325
USA/EUA/eeuu :: 508-531-2118 
Personal Portal:

Taking on a few new roles during the 2020 pandemic, I allowed my email signature file to grow a bit beyond what is reasonable, as a beloved relative gently pointed out. (We don't use email much, so they had not seen its gradual growth, only the unwieldy result.)

So I have outsourced the signature file, with a pointer to this post -- only for those who care enough to click to it. And now it might really grow, like a plant that has been moved to a bigger pot.


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Environmental Education in Nicaragua

 Our friends in Nicaragua face a multitude of challenges -- a terrible political situation, a global pandemic being handled poorly by the national government, and an economic depression resulting from both.

But Nicaraguans are incredibly resilient (a quality nobody should have to demonstrate as often as they do), and my friends in the coffeelands especially so. Some of them have responded in a way that is meeting economic, educational, ecological, and psychological needs all at once.

They are building on their expertise in sustainable tourism and environmental education to create an 18-month training program for local young people. This program will rely on monthly sponsorships.

On Wednesday evening August 19, we will be explaining the project in an online discussion. I will also be posting more details here, but if you can join us at 7:30 (U.S. East Coast time), please do.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Quality & Justice

Updated August 15, 2020: We had a very nice conversation on June 26 (see the promotional information below), and my friends at Equal captured it for others to see. Urgent family matters took my attention away for the following month, so I am only today remembering to post the video here. Please have a look. 
Equal Exchange Action Forum is the consumer-organizing arm of the West Bridgewater-based company that is best known for its leadership in fair-trade coffee. Danielle Robidoux is one of the coordinators of the Action Forum, and a former student of mine. This message is from Danielle to the Action Forum network (and anybody interested in this work). The event is free, but pre-registration is required. 
During this uncertain time and as in-person gatherings are still at a standstill we are going to continue to create virtual spaces for us to gather and learn together. Please join us for this upcoming virtual event!
(click the link above to RSVP)
What does coffee quality mean to Equal Exchange? What is the importance of coffee quality to our producer partners? How has quality evolved over the years? Join Mike Mowry, Coffee Quality Coordinator at Equal Exchange, and James Hayes-Bohanan, citizen-consumer member, teacher, and coffee geographer for a discussion on coffee quality. 
Bridgewater State students at the world's first farmer-owned cupping lab.

Saturday, April 25, 2020


On Monday evening, April 27, we held an online event sponsored by Bridgewater One Book One Community, BSU Senior College, and the BSU Department of Geography. This was a Zoom event; a recording is at the end of this post.

The repela process at Mil Flores, my home-away-from-home in the community of La Corona.
From the Facebook Event page for this presentation.
See my review
The event is an online version of a public lecture that was originally scheduled as part of the community-wide read of Thanks a Thousand by A.J. Jacobs.

I will describe my own journey, beginning in our Bridgewater kitchen and ending in coffee farms in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and beyond. Skipping over a few steps in the commodity chain, this presentation will begin with our daily coffee ritual and will then focus on the farmers to whom those rituals are connected.

You do not need to have read this book to attend this presentation, but it is a quick read (even by my slow-reader standards) and readily available online for those who wish to peruse it.

View my slides to revisit any part of the presentation and to follow links for further exploration. A video of this presentation will be available after the event.

May 6 Tasting Event: Please visit the GEOG298 blog for student presentations; please visit early to choose one or more coffees to order so that you can enhance the experience with remote tasting.

Summer note: If you wish to learn more about coffee from the comfort of your home, please consider Coffee Week. We will be offering this 3-credit summer class June 15-19; it is open to BSU and non-BSU students alike, for undergraduate or graduate credit.