In January, Hanna Talvioja, Paulig's R&D Manager, Coffee, travelled to Trieste, Italy, to gain new insights and ideas from an international Master’s level programme organised by the Ernesto Illy Foundation. Now the face-to-face education is over. What thoughts did the studies bring up and what did Talvioja learn during the studies? Read her latest update.

Now it’s over—five months of face-to-face education in the Master in Coffee Economy & Science programme in Trieste. The programme intensified towards the end. We worked in groups with company projects, completed final exams and finalised our assignments. I was surprised that the May weather in Italy offered suitable conditions for studying inside. The temperature remained well below 20 degrees and almost the entire month was rainy. This was a lucky “weather benefit” since the continuous heatwave of 30 degrees that hit Trieste in June and the long hours of sunshine combined with the insufficient air conditioning in our classroom was rather challenging when it came to studying.

Our main themes in May–June focused on the global coffee trade. In our exercises, we studied futures and options in depth as well as risk management from both the seller's and the buyer’s point of view. We had a great variety of teachers: Trieste Business School teachers with a more theoretical approach as well as coffee trade professionals from Italy and South and Central America. An interesting world!

Hanna Talvioja class photo3

The world of coffee is developing at a brisk pace

We were privileged to attend several workshops in which the Master in Coffee Science and Economy alumni told us about their work with coffee. Juan AlfredoPacas from El Salvador told us about the innovation path that their family-owned company has taken. Cafe Pacas has systematically developed the traceability of coffee for several years by investing in the possibility to process crops from different farms and even farm parts as separate batches. By optimising the processing conditions, it has been possible to develop the quality of coffee, and these “micro batches” have enabled the production of special coffees as well as more precise optimisation of the entire production chain.

The passionate attitude towards coffee and sustainable operations shows how the family-owned company has aimed at concretely improving the conditions of its employees. El Salvador is one of the most violent countries in the world and the population is still suffering from post-civil war trauma. Cafe Pacas launched together with a local charity organisation a project that offers the employees of the farm or community the possibility to address their trauma and learn non-violent ways to solve conflicts, and also offers talk therapy, when necessary. The results of the project have been promising and almost all the employees have been willing to participate in voluntary group discussions, which have resulted in improved atmosphere and well-being at work.

Master Coffee alumnus Olivier Rodriquez from Honduras led our extensive coffee processing and tasting workshop. Olivier has organised financing for the industry and also established a group concentrating on coffee research in connection with the Honduran Zamorano Agricultural University. We had an opportunity to enjoy the tasting of exciting coffee samples and heard about the work that his group is doing to research and develop the processing conditions of coffee. They aim to continue systematic networking and promote the production of coffee in its country of origin through research.

These were just some examples of the many interesting visits we had the pleasure to enjoy. These visits from alumni and other innovative and enthusiastic operators from the world of coffee were the highlights of the Master in Coffee Economy & Science programme. The world of coffee is developing at a brisk pace. Although coffee is grown in countries whose administrative infrastructures are not the best, these countries have an incredible amount of desire, skills and willingness to pursue matters and develop coffee as a product as well as the work around coffee. The enthusiasm of these operators is contagious. This at least strengthened my beliefs: coffee has a future and it is a joy to be part of the international network of the world of coffee!

Hanna Talvioja class photo4

Sustainability at the core of the final assignment

My stay in Trieste ended at Midsummer. I have studied coffee extensively, ranging from genetics, botany and farming methods to processing, quality assurance, innovations, marketing, sustainable development, climate change, strategies and risk management and the global coffee trade. These five months have included an incredible number of teachers, unforgettable moments, site visits, cultural encounters, discussions, how the make world a better place, laughter and nostalgia as well. When I started this journey in January, I wondered if this is adventure was worth separating myself from my family and team for half a year. Now I can say that it was definitely worth it. I still have to complete my final assignment, which will address the sustainability theme in coffee production in detail. This is an important theme for Paulig and I really look forward to getting my hands on the study material. Let the journey continue!

Hanna Talvioja class photo5

Read also:
An international perspective on the life cycle of coffee
Spring greetings amid coffee studies!

Header photo:
We rehearsed green coffee quality assessing and cupping with different teachers. This photo portrays the “Grand old man” Dr Aldir Alves Teixeira who is responsible for Café Brazil’s purchasing and local quality assurance.  

Photo 2:
Master in Coffee Economy & Science class 2019. Twenty-one students from fifteen countries, all sharing a passion for coffee. Photo together with alumnus Pedro Paulo de Faria Roncan (back row, light shirt). Pedro is a Brazilian coffee farmer and business consultant who operates with sustainable development farming methods. 

Photo 3:
One of the most interesting site visits took place at the Port of Trieste. There we had an opportunity to listen to an introduction on international port operations and visit the port area to watch how a large container ship is loaded. 

Photo 4:
Coming to the end, but with nostalgic and warm feelings. Five intensive months together, full of experiences and learning, made us a close “family” of students. We had lots of memorable discussions and overcame many prejudices on all sides during the spring. 

Hanna Talvioja
R&D Manager
Paulig