From Bean to Cup

Coffee Ecology, Economics, Production, and Consumption

A new summer course at ISDSI!

Coffee is both global and intensely local. This course examines coffee at both levels — from the local production in smallholder agriculture to production, trade, and consumption.

Throughout the course we will tracing how coffee moves from “bean to cup” — examining the ecology, economics, production, and consumption of coffee. Building on almost 20 years of teaching about smallholder agriculture in Thailand, this course will experientially study coffee growing in the small upland farms of Northern Thailand, and then moving into the production of coffee beans, roasting, and brewing. We will also be examining the social and economic context of coffee production, and the business of coffee and cafes.

The course will be based in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. Chiang Mai is emerging as an important center for coffee in Southeast Asia. Northern Thailand, in particular, has a long history of coffee production, including crop substitution projects as well as Royal Projects to assist the hill tribes to move out of opium production and into alternative and sustainable crop production. While initially coffee grown in Thailand was of low grade, over the last few years the quality of the coffee is increasing alongside an explosion of cafes in Chiang Mai and the region.

As a small but cosmopolitan city, the 700 year old city of Chiang Mai brings together ancient history with very diverse cultures and traditions, with long term residents from around Asia and the rest of the world. The course will be based at ISDSI’s Chiang Mai campus, with excursions into the surrounding hills and coffee farms, as well as the numerous cafes and business involved in coffee growing, production, and consumption.

In addition to the theory and practice of coffee agroecology, a unique aspect of this course will be integrating studies based on the leading educational program from the international Specialty Coffee Association.

Learning Outcomes

  • Understand the agroecology of coffee production in upland agroforests
  • Understand the key issues surrounding sustainability and coffee, especially in regards to the impact of climate change on coffee production
  • Understand the specific social and economic constraints and opportunities with small holder farmers in upland Southeast Asia
  • Have a working knowledge of the biology and ecology of coffee trees and beans
  • Be able to identify and explain each stage of coffee production, from harvest to drying to consumption
  • Understand the chemistry and practice of coffee roasting and brewing
  • Understand global economics of the international coffee trade
  • Understand the requirements for certification as “organic” and “fair trade” coffee and agricultural production more generally
  • Have a working knowledge of how cafes work as a business, and their role in coffee promotion and consumption
  • Understand the economics of coffee from farm purchase through to retail sales of beans
  • Have a practical understanding and skills in coffee roasting, cupping, brewing, and espresso preparation

Readings

We will be reading selections from some of the following books:

Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World, Basic Books, 2010,
Mark Pendergrast

Coffee Agroecology: A New Approach to Understanding Agricultural Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Sustainable Development, Routledge, 2015, Ivette Perfecto and John Vandermeer

Beyond Fair Trade: How One Small Coffee Company Helped Transform a Hillside Village in Thailand, Graystone Books, 2015, Mark Pendergrast

The Coffee Dictionary: An A-Z of coffee, from growing & roasting to brewing & tasting, Chronicle Books, 2017, Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood

The World Atlas of Coffee: From Beans to Brewing — Coffees Explored, Explained and Enjoyed, Firefly Books, 2018, James Hoffmann

Course Details

  • 4 credits
  • 4 weeks long
  • Based in Chiang Mai city with visits to coffee growing villages
  • Hands-on experiential learning
  • Training in processing, roasting, brewing, barista, and other aspects of coffee

Dates

  • Classes: June 2-29
  • Participants should arrive June 1 and depart June 30

Cost

  • $5,000 per student
  • Fees cover all food, lodging, excursions, and activities.
  • Fees do not include airfare.

Applying

  • Email us at [email protected] with the subject line “Bean to Cup” to receive a link to the application.

Selected Field Studies

  • Visits to artisanal roasters
  • Case studies of world class cafes
  • Field studies of coffee farms
  • Service project planting coffee seedlings
  • Home stay with coffee farmers

Syllabus

Learn More

Semester Deadlines

Fall Semester: March 15 |  Spring Semester: October 12

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