Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Secret Life of Coffee 2021 Tasting

A coffee tasting event at the end of the spring semester is a second-year seminar tradition that predates the seminar requirement. Every spring since 2007, students in The Secret Life of Coffee have served up coffee and knowledge from around the world, in something like a science fair of coffee. 

In 2020 and 2021, these are virtual events -- presentations to be enjoyed online. We offer a pre-tasting buying guide for visitors who wish to prepare something appropriate to sip while enjoying the presentations.

Before you go, enjoy this light-hearted take on coffee and justice:
Dean Cycon is a roaster and coffee activist based in Orange, Massachusetts. His book Javatrekker is one of the main texts used in this course.

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.