From Bean to Cup

Coffee Ecology, Production, and Consumption

Spend your summer diving into studying coffee at a cafe and roastery in Chiang Mai!

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 trace how coffee moves from “bean to cup” — examining the ecology, economics, production, and consumption of coffee. Building on 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 move into the production of coffee beans, roasting, and brewing. We will also examine the social and economic context of coffee production, and the business of coffee and cafes. The course is in partnership with Rx Cafe Chiang Mai.

Participants in this course will also have the option to be certified in professional course modules through the SCA Coffee Skills Program.

To apply, go to our BEAN TO CUP APPLICATION page. Applications are due April 1.  After April 1, applications will be considered on a space available basis.

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 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 with hands-on roasting, processing and production in a cafe.

You will emerge with both theory and practical experience. This is a GREAT way to start off a career in coffee or just become a more educated consumer of coffee!

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


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
  • 6 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
  • NEW! Optional professional certifications with the SCA!


June 7 – July 16 (6 weeks)

Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions we are reviewing dates and the start of the program on an ongoing basis. Email us right away at [email protected] if you want to be kept informed on what we will be doing!


  • $5,000 per student
  • Fees cover all food, lodging, excursions, and activities.
  • Fees do not include airfare, COVID-19 quarantine and testing, and related expenses. If COVID-19 quarantine is required the approximate cost is $1,500.


To apply, go to our BEAN TO CUP APPLICATION page.

Applications are due April 1.  After April 1 applications will be considered on a space available basis.

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
  • Hands-on internship


Learn More

Semester Deadlines

If you are interested in Spring 2022, you can apply now.

Spring Semester 2022 application deadline: October 15

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