New Coffee Tasting Event
It was a brisk morning in October as students lined up by the three coffee servers in Hagan Campus Center for a warm drink. The scent of fresh coffee filled the air while the room was chatty with students contending on their favorite brew and placing their votes in one of the three ballots next to the samples. Dean Cycon, the founder of Dean’s Beans, stood proudly as he chatted with students and faculty, gazing upon the success of his business. “It’s about personal taste,” he explained to two students debating on their samples, “One person may say that one blend is weak while another says ‘oh, it’s strong to me.’”
The AC Micro-loan program held a coffee tasting event on Thursday, October 19, to help decide which Fair Trade coffee blend would be named after Assumption College. Students had the choice to pick between three anonymous flavors blended by Cycon himself. “I love the idea. I love coffee, so if we had our own brand, that would be great,” Gianna Procaccini, a senior at Assumption College, said.
For Cycon, the primary focus of Dean’s Beans, a company that has received the Oslo Business for Peace Award and that is partnered with Fair Trade, is providing great quality coffee with a dose of progressive change for crises around Asia. How can there be a crisis revolving around coffee? “In the world of coffee, indigenous people are physically, socially, and politically marginalized, even within their own countries,” he explained. These indigenous people, who make up about 85 percent of all coffee farmers, are practically slaves, receiving low wages in harsh conditions due to lack of concern by big businesses and farms.
This has been happening for quite a while in the coffee business. Many farms depend on coffee beans to make ends meet, but it’s practically impossible to rely on this one factor due to climate change and crop disease. Not enough coffee can be produced in order to sustain a farm financially, because coffee is sold at too low a price. “Coffee is a poverty crop, so it’s in an eternal state of crisis in terms of coffee farmer’s abilities to better their lives and better the lives of their children.” Cycon’s coffee bean company is a member of the Fair Trade Organization, in which fair prices are paid to indigenous people.
What Dean’s Beans and Fair Trade companies do is make a better economic relationship with the farmers. They use their activism, advocacy and developmental programs that are farmer driven and farmer managed to improve not only the physical qualities of people’s lives, but also their sense of self. They enable farmers to get a fair price for their harvest. “True social change only occurs when people change what they think about themselves,” Cycon explained, “You could give them a school. You can give them all sorts of things, but that’s simply charity, and charity is not change.”
Why an Assumption College blend? Professor LeBlanc wanted the opportunity for students to engage and learn that they can still make a significant difference if they live their values. “We’re in a micro-lending program with LeBlanc, who is doing this to support the indigenous people in the Philippines by lending out loans to them so they are able to start a business and get out of poverty one step at a time,” said Christine Kang, senior at Assumption College who is a student in the Micro-Lending Program and helped during the event. He came up with the idea of selling “Assumption College” coffee around campus and using the profits to fund social enterprise in coffee villages. Students will have the opportunity to provide help to indigenous people stricken with poverty in economic crisis.
Lauren Chapdelaine, a sophomore at Assumption College who was testing the blends, agrees with the campus’ advocacy. “This is a good way to help their business. College students drink a lot of coffee and it will help get the word out. I think it’s really cool what they’re doing.” This event gained much popularity from the campus, and students are looking forward to drinking their own blend while contributing to those in need. Kang also added, “We have our own blend that Dean mixed up for us personally, and no other college can say that.”