(Editor’s Note: I first met Dr. Shawn Steiman at the Association for Science and Information on Coffee (ASIC) conference last year in Campinas, Brazil (Click Here for Conference Link). A coffee scientist and consultant based in Hawaii, his The Hawai‘i Coffee Book: A Gourmet’s Guide from Kona to Kaua‘i is the first comprehensive overview of Hawaiian coffee available to the public as well as an excellent source for coffee knowledge in general (Click Here for Amazon.com link and Here for Hawaii Books Link). I asked him to write an entry for our Casa Brasil blog and was delighted when he accepted. More biographical information on Dr. Steiman and links to his own blog and consultant practices are found below. – Joel Shuler)
Invariably, when I tell people my occupation, the response is “what exactly does a coffee scientist and consultant do?” A lot, I tell them. In the simplest of terms, I try to help folks in the coffee industry produce better coffee, sustainably.
I earned a PhD in Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences from the University of Hawai‘i. Realistically, though, I ended up studying several sub-disciplines of coffee science (horticulture, ecology, physiology, chemistry, and sensory science). To keep true to my academic roots currently, I stay abreast of the scientific literature and I have my hands in a number of research projects. Most of my time, though, is actively spent in the coffee industry. I work with farmers, roasters, and retailers, helping them with production, quality, education, or solutions to problems. I also do a lot of consumer education. I give seminars as often as possible and I offer tastings and cuppings to help people understand that good coffee is worth spending the time and effort to find.
So, why am I telling you all of this on a blog for a Brazil-focused coffee roaster? Because it is this history that first took me to Brazil. I went to Brazil to attend the biennial conference of the Association for Science and Information of Coffee (ASIC). If I weren’t an avid coffee geek and coffee scientist, I’d never have seen the world’s largest producer of coffee. More importantly, I wouldn’t have discovered how alike Brazilian coffee researchers are to the ones in Hawai‘i. Certainly, there are different challenges and conditions to deal with in each origin. Nonetheless, the underlying passion and interest for coffee is the same in both places. At the end of the day, most of us scientists just want to help coffee folk make better coffee.
Few people realize how much scientific work and exploration goes not just into producing, but enhancing the coffee experience. While some coffees taste great quite by accident, many of them are the result of implementing results from careful experimentation and interpretation. Brazilian scientists are on the forefront of such efforts. In fact, there are probably more people researching coffee in Brazil than anywhere else. Brazil is one of the few coffee origins that is a major consumer as well as producer. Hence, the research going on there covers the whole coffee gamut- from seed to cup. Nary an area of coffee research is left out. Brazil justly earned its right to host the most recent ASIC conference.
The next time you sip some coffee from Brazil (or elsewhere), take a minute to think of all the farmers, processors, roasters, and retailers that helped bring that coffee to your mug. Then, take an extra minute to appreciate the scientists who, working even more behind the scenes, helped get that coffee to you.
About Dr. Steiman
Shawn Steiman, PhD, is a coffee scientist and consultant based in Honolulu. His company, Coffea Consulting, works with all members of the coffee industry, all over the world, to promote sustainability and quality. He is also the author of The Hawai‘i Coffee Book: A Gourmet’s Guide from Kona to Kaua’i, published by Watermark Publishing.
The Hawai‘i Coffee Book: A Gourmet’s Guide from Kona to Kaua‘i