By Diego Huaman
Langson Library saw the opening of its fall exhibit “From Bean to Brew: Coffee and Culture” last Wednesday.
Featuring talks by Steven Topik, a UC Irvine history professor, and Martin Diedrich, founder and master roaster of Kéan Coffee, the event drew approximately 140 attendees.
“The UCI Libraries wanted to showcase the evolution of coffee as a widely marketed and consumed beverage using our diverse holdings. The exhibit was also inspired by the unique coffeehouse culture of our community here in Orange County,” said Lorelei Tanji, the University Librarian.
Topik commenced the event by giving a lecture about the historical origins of coffee, as well as its expansion as a global phenomenon.
“It has always been there. We think of it as being a cup of joe, something inherently American, but in fact it should surprise you that the global spread of the coffee bean to your coffee cup encountered steep geographic, social, religious and cultural barriers,” Topik said.
“Coffee had to ride the tides of world history all over the globe to get to you.”
Topik pinpointed coffee’s beginnings to Ethiopia and explained how Islamic practices, as well as Yemen’s position as a major center of trade, resulted in the spread of coffee on a global scale.
Rounding out the event, Diedrich and Topik displayed a coffee tree. Diedrich shared with everyone the significant role coffee has played in his family history, beginning on a small Guatemalan coffee farm. Ultimately, he came to establish Kéan Coffee in December 2005, with coffeehouses in Newport Beach and Tustin.
“People never really give a lot of thought to where coffee comes from and how it comes to be, yet we all have contact with it every day. It has such a rich story and history,” Diedrich said.
“The reason I brought a real life coffee tree was to illustrate how people don’t give it a thought whatsoever, especially the seed and fruit of the coffee tree. Farming is a crucial but truly difficult aspect of the overall process, which involves a lot of hard work. By delving into the considerable depths of coffee, we obtain a better sense of the product we consume every day and that we all collectively consume so much of.”
It is Tanji’s hope that the exhibit will allow visitors to connect with the process that a coffee berry undergoes in order to reach drinkers’ cups, and how enjoying a cup of coffee at a local coffeehouse shapes cultures and communities.
The exhibit will be open for the public from November until April in the lobby of the Langson Library.