Costa Rica Cup ‘O Joe
I’ve been teaching college long enough to know that coffee is the first thing on the mind of most students in the morning. As a scientist, I would hypothesize that out of 16 or so students on the first day of my upper division conservation biology course this fall, there will be at least 50% with a Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts cup. And I can say with 95% certainty that at least one person will come to class late in the first two weeks of school because they were “in the line at Starbucks”. Or they will come to class and immediately ask if they can please go get a coffee and come right back.
Of course, faculty are not exempt from needing the elixir of life in the morning (although I prefer a large iced tea with 4 Splendas and lemon – hint hint). I remember how in the good old days Dr. McLaren would leave his coffee cup sitting around for a few days with the last dregs still in the bottom, and then one day come in and just pour the next cup of coffee over the old stuff. The cup used to get pretty gross, and if you are an alumnus of the Biology Department, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
More recently, I remember going down to Dr. Hall’s office in the Chemistry Department, and he would be making coffee by putting the grounds in a piece of Whatman filter paper inside of a glass funnel, and pouring the hot water (heated over a Bunsen burner) through them and into a glass beaker below. Better living through chemistry, I guess. He would always tell me there was no finer way to make coffee.
I was reminded of Dr. Hall’s method this summer when Dr. Timothy Wooster and I went to Costa Rica. Our itinerary included a day at Armonia Ambiental, an organic coffee farm run by the Mora family. As part of the tour, we learned how the coffee was grown, harvested, dried, processed, roasted, and ground to make the coffee that becomes our morning pick-me-up. And then they showed us their method of making coffee, and I instantly thought of Dr. Hall. They use a device called a chorreador that holds a filter called a bolsita. The ground coffee is placed in the bolsita and the water is poured through it into a coffee pot underneath. You can see a video of how coffee is made traditionally in Costa Rica by clicking on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rprBBqV51S8.
Armonia Ambiental actually refers to living in harmony with the environment, and this is something the Mora family puts into practice on a daily basis as they run their farm. All of the foods that we ate during our stay were grown or made on the farm. No artificial pesticides are used in the growing of these foods. Biodegradable wastes are either composted or decomposed with worms. Husks from dried coffee and other materials are used as biofuels to generate energy for the farm. The bags that the family uses to ship their coffee are made from sustainably grown plant materials harvested from the farm. The list of sustainable practices goes on and on. I think a few of our American businesses could learn a thing or two from this family about how to do things in a sustainable way. Time to get our business students down to Costa Rica to see how things are done, right Dr. Birnstiel?
As you drink your coffee here in the United States, remember to drink responsibly. Not every farm is environmentally sustainable like Armonia Ambiental, and not every coffee farmer gets paid a fair wage. Remember that the choices we make can be helpful or harmful, so when you can, try to buy fair trade, sustainably grown coffee that comes in something other than a Styrofoam cup. Pura vida!