At the convention, both experienced and inexperienced coffee drinkers alike had the opportunity to taste coffee from around the world. Hosted by PA Coffee Club and sponsored by an Abbot Academy Grant, the Coffee Convention ran from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the Underwood Room and included coffee samplings, panel discussions, and a keynote speaker presentation.
“There’s also nothing quite like coffee, if you think about it. It’s a drink, like many other [drinks], and it’s something that people have at meals, but there is a culture behind it that not a lot of foods or edible things have…I think it was interesting to show people that they don’t have to participate in the culture, but just understand it and how it’s different in different places around the world,” said Klang Jatusripitak ’20, Coffee Club board member.
The convention aimed to call attention to the other aspects of coffee beyond daily consumption.
“It is not just a beverage…[There are] social implications, environmental implications, economic implications…As students who are living in this privileged community and have coffee available every single morning, I think it’s important for us to advocate for change in the coffee industry,” said Harry Shin ’20, Coffee Club Board member.
Head of School John Palfrey was a special guest at the event and spoke about wages in the coffee industry and how the economics affect the Merrimack Valley specifically.
Coffee Club also invited Rachel Apple, a George Howell Coffee employee, to engage in a discussion about the economic and environmental impacts of coffee.
Apple, a barista and coffee enthusiast, explained that the coffee industry has been experiencing difficulty due to declining prices on the New York stock exchange. Over the past five years, these drops have significantly impacted coffee-producing countries in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and East Africa.
“Right now is the lowest point in the last 15 years that coffee has ever been on the stock exchange, which is, as of Friday, I think 94 cents a pound. The farmers need about $1.50 a pound to even break even. So right now, farmers are going to have to start quitting and stopping producing coffee because they can’t afford to. In producing countries…one in ten producing farmers has lost a child to starvation, because they can’t afford to feed their families,” said Apple.
Apple works closely with George Howell, founder of George Howell Coffee and Cup of Excellence, to implement fairer prices for coffee farmers. Through the Cup of Excellence foundation, they score farmers’ coffee anonymously and pay for it in an auction-style.
“What’s unique about the Cup of Excellence is that any farmer in any country can submit their coffee to be judged blind and unbiased, graded, and then scored…What that does is remove a barrier for entry. You don’t have to be a huge farmer with a lot of money and a lot of recognition already to be paid fairly for your coffee if your coffee is really good,” said Apple in her talk.
Apple continued, “That really changed the dynamic of how coffee was purchased, and how people were paying attention to the fact the coffee is a produce. It is being farmed, there are humans producing it. It is not just this magical brown liquid that shows up in your morning.”
According to Jack Murphy ’20, Coffee Club board member, Apple and Palfrey highlighted unique aspects about coffee consumption and its underlying effects.
“Mr. Palfrey [brought] in an interesting point at the end about the Merrimack Valley and the economics and how it all relates- specifically wages and how much is paid in the New York trading…and Ms. Apple has actual experience in the coffee world…both of them were able to bring things that would have been difficult to bring otherwise. It’s something that we wouldn’t have been able to do at a place that isn’t like Andover,” said Murphy.
Following the presentation, there was a panel discussion on the environmental effects of coffee, personal experiences drinking coffee, and the economic impact of coffee. Shin especially wanted to touch upon themes of sustainability due to the timeliness of Earth Week and the temporary removal of paper cups in Paresky Commons last week, which aimed to promote reusable dinnerware.
“We are all students here, and we can’t do a lot. We can’t donate to charity, or donate to this fair trade organization or whatever, but what we can do is little steps. Using our own mugs, not using paper mugs, or not using straws and what not. I just thought that it might be a good opportunity for us to raise that type of awareness,” said Shin.
Editor’s Note: Harry Shin is a Digital Editor for The Phillipian.