The Mahathir Science Award Foundation (MSAF), the International Science Council, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ISC ROAP), and the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) jointly organised a webinar themed “Black Gold of the Tropics” in conjunction with International Coffee Day on 1 October 2020.
The purpose of the webinar was to celebrate the richness that coffee, a significant trade commodity in the tropics, brings to our lives whilst recognising the plight of coffee growers in the region. Unlike previous webinars, which were recorded live from ASM, this webinar was aptly recorded live from Mukha Café. The webinar was witnessed by several of the patrons of Mukha Café alongside the online audience via Zoom and Facebook Live.
To set the scene of the coffee-themed webinar, Professor Jonathan Morris, a historian from the University of Hertfordshire, took participants on a journey through the history of coffee culture. He gave an interesting overview of coffee’s evolution from its origins in Ethiopia to the establishment of coffee houses in Europe to the commercialisation of coffee. Prof. Morris also described the rise of Asia as a major coffee producer and consumer in the current age.
Next, Edgard Bressani of Capricornio Coffees in Brazil gave an enlightening presentation on the impacts of climate change on coffee. He mentioned that there would be a shift in coffee-growing to higher altitudes due to climate change. As coffee can only be grown under specific climates (not too much rain, not too much sunlight), climate change is a challenge that needs to be overcome. The challenge could be overcome with methods such as collecting climatic data, conservation and research into resistant coffee varieties.
Following Edgard’s session, Trista Chua of Olam International gave a talk on the economics of coffee. All the major exporters of coffee are in the tropics. As a traded commodity, the price of coffee varies due to several factors. Trista explained the factors that could drive the price of coffee in the market. The factors include climatic factors, geopolitical factors, speculator effect, enterprise trading (buying activity of large coffee roasting companies) and the global demand outlook.
During the interlude between Trista’s talk and the panel discussion, a video on a local coffee seller was played. The video featured Ariff Saharudin who owned a unique mobile café called Ariff’s Coffee First. In the video, Ariff revealed what inspired him to sell coffee out of his car and why his mobile café concept attracts customers.