All you need to know about coffee to be covered at Vanderbilt conference; Free tasting at event’s conclusion

Coffee, an enticing beverage that is one of Latin America’s most prized exports, will be the focus of a conference and tasting at Vanderbilt University on Friday, Oct. 26. The event will be from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center and is free and open to the public.

“Coffee has played a major role in shaping the economy, history and social structure of much of Latin America,” said Edward F. Fischer, director of Vanderbilt’s Center for Latin American and Iberian Studies. “This conference is open to anyone interested in learning more about coffee – from the farmers’ cultivation of the beans to the complexities of trade.”

A panel of experts will discuss many aspects of the coffee, including its history and production, the health effects of coffee and the role of fair trade coffee. There will also be an opportunity for the audience to ask questions.

The panelists are: Peter R. Martin, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology and director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Coffee Studies and the Division of Addictive Medicine; Jim Lang, professor of sociology at Vanderbilt; Diego Pizano, director of Café de Columbia, the nation’s National Federation of Coffee Growers; Daniel Reichman, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Rochester; Sarah Lyon, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Kentucky; and Bob Bernstein, owner of Bongo Java Roasting Company and several Nashville coffee houses. Bongo Java will offer a tasting of its popular roasts at the conclusion of the conference.

The Institute for Coffee Studies, now housed within the Center for Latin American and Iberian Studies, was established by a grant from a consortium of coffee-producing nations. It was formed under the auspices of the Association of Coffee Producing Countries, the National Coffee Association of the USA and the All Japan Coffee Association.

The institute conducts biomedical research on the actions of various compounds found in coffee, seeks to identify potential therapeutic uses of coffee based on the understanding of the pharmacology of its chemical components, disseminates research findings and promotes educational exchange with partnering nations. It also recently expanded its focus to include the cultural aspects of coffee, including its history, sociology and economic development potential for coffee-producing nations.

“Many of us have worried that something that tastes as good as coffee must be bad for you,” Martin said. “However, the latest scientific evidence indicates that in moderation (two to four cups a day) not only is coffee not bad for you, it may actually offer some health benefits.”

Other events associated with the conference include a professional development workshop with a coffee theme for middle and high school teachers on Oct. 26 from 9 a.m. to noon. In addition, the film Black Gold will be shown on Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. in Buttrick Hall, Room 101.

For more information, contact the Center for Latin American and Iberian Studies at 615-322-2527 or email Sarah Birdwell at

Media Contact: Ann Marie Deer Owens, 615-322-NEWS