Students learn about coffee supply chain from "seed to cup" in Costa Rica


Coffee "cupping" at the Co-op El Dos, is an important process in determining the quality and price structure for Costa Rican coffee.

A group of 12 Appalachian students started off the New Year in Costa Rica learning what goes into a good cup of coffee. This collaborative program, led by CIS professor Dr. Ken Corley and local businessman Don Cox of Bald Guy Brew, gave students firsthand experience of the coffee supply chain from "seed to cup."

Students visited coffee farms on a variety of scales, beginning with Doka Estate, a privately owned coffee plantation and mill near Alajuela where students learned about large scale coffee harvest, processing, roasting and sale. At Copey de Dota, a family-operated coffee farm and conservation area, students learned about different varieties of coffee and varying cultivation methods and had the opportunity to put their hand to harvesting themselves. At Eco Coffee Don Fernando, a small-scale farm, the students saw the harvest in process.

IMG_0496_3.JPGMissy Bagley, a marketing major, commented on the impact of this experience.

"[At Copey de Dota], our group helped pick coffee cherries; however, we did a terrible job and did not last very long. Collectively, the twelve of us would've made ten cents for the half hour of manual labor...[At Eco Coffee Don Fernando], I saw Nicaraguan women and children helping pick ripe coffee cherries. One of the women appeared to be about three months pregnant; I cannot imagine doing manual labor while pregnant and earning dollars a day."

Students also had the opportunity to learn more about the science of coffee cultivation at the Center for Tropical Agronomy Research and Education (CATIE). CATIE has the largest coffee seed collection in Latin America and the second most important collection in the world for Arabica Coffee. In addition to coffee, students learned about cacao, tropical fruits and endangered flora and fauna while visiting CATIE's research gardens and conservation areas.

In addition to the coffee-centered activities, students planted seedlings at the Sarapiqui Conservation Learning Center Horse and Cattle Ranch, hiked Arenal National Park, at the base of the iconic Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna, visited the Monteverde Cloud Forest, and relaxed on Tamarindo beach.

Carolyn Blough, a marketing major, reflected on her time in Costa Rica:

"I learned a lot more than I thought I would about coffee and supply chain. I am fortunate to have gone on this trip because I realize what a great opportunity it was for my individual experience and education. [Ken and Don] were great trip leaders and they taught us so much... This trip was a wonderful experience and I highly recommend it to future students."

This program is the third Walker College of Business program to Costa Rica and the first to focus on supply chain. A repeat program is scheduled for the 2013-2014 academic year. For more information, contact Dr. Ken Corley at Click to see a photo gallery from the program.

Published: Feb 28, 2013 1:06pm