2013

A Master’s in Coffee

Vienna

PragueReturning from Easter break, we came back to great spring weather and to receive what I would say is the ‘economic’ part of the Master’s. We have started receiving classes dealing with Macroeconomics and Supply Chain Management. The tables are turned now because all of us with a background in business feel more in our element, whereas others with non-business backgrounds are now striving to grasp all the concepts.  Even though the knowledge we acquired during the agronomy and scientific classes is important and valuable, I have to admit that I am a little relieved that part is over.

During Easter break I had the opportunity to travel with some of my classmates to Vienna and Prague.  What amazing places! While time did not allow us to see everything Vienna has to offer, we were able to see some of the main attractions and experience the Viennese coffee scene when walking through Stephansplatz and the Naschmarkt.

Prague’s coffee scene is lacking a bit, nevertheless, the rich culture, the history, and the beautiful architecture that we were able to presence is incredible.  The beer culture on the other hand, is quite developed. Considering that in the Czech Republic, the birthplace of Pilsner, many places offer beer at a cheaper price than a cappuccino and even water, it is not surprising to see that they have the highest beer consumption per capita in the world.  Of the many cultural and sight seeing tours we took, we also went on a beer tour around some of the main breweries in Prague. It was interesting to learn more about the process of beer and the methods used to create different brews. Thanks to our industrial processing class we had a deeper understanding of many of the processes and reactions beer goes through, some quite similar to coffee.

As soon as we returned to Trieste, we had class with a professor from São Paulo, Dr. Samuel Giordano, who taught us about Green Coffee Markets and Price Formation. I really enjoyed this class as the professor encouraged group discussions and challenged us to develop different strategic plans to address numerous issues that the industry currently faces.  We were prompted to discuss topics related to the improvement and promotion of coffee consumption in producing and emerging countries. We all came up with interesting solutions and approaches, which we discussed in our individual groups, and then presented our ideas to the rest of the class.

We also discussed many other topics regarding the correlation between the commodity markets and it’s reflection on the price of green coffee, and what possible actions we could take to reduce the market risk for the producers. This also resulted in interesting solutions from teaching farmers hedging to reduce risk; to promoting and stimulating direct trade between farmers and roasters in order to develop long term business relationships, while finding ways to reward the farmers for more than just a commodity product. Ultimately, we arrived to the conclusion that the most important thing we must begin to do as an industry is endorsing and building programs to educate individuals in producing countries. This will be the foundation to improve practices, improve quality, promote consumption, and develop solutions to reduce costs and market risks for all of those whose livelihoods depend on coffee.

We have less than two month’s left, and I think the best is yet to come. I am looking forward to enjoying the sunshine, experiencing Trieste in the summer, and continuing the economic side of the Master’s. Hopefully this nice weather doesn’t distract us from our studies!

Ciao,
Ashley

Twitter @Ashleyprentice01

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