Come smell the coffee at the Science Cafe

Science Cafe New Hampshire is set to resume after a summer hiatus by tackling the remarkably complex subject of “The Science of Coffee.”

Coffee. For many of us, it is synonymous with morning, a Telegraph and the start of a new day. Mild or bold, dripped, perked or pressed; regular, pumpkin, vanilla, hazelnut or just plain black – coffee is the universal lubricant for morning, meetings and friends. But why is this? What makes coffee so ubiquitous in our lives and central to social get-togethers? And how is it that coffee from around the world even gets to our cupboards? Science Cafe once again proudly presents a panel of experts who will help sort this out from the molecular level to the global.

But as Science Cafe enters its seventh season, allow me a few moments to reflect on the progress we’ve made. In 2011, when Sarah Eck, of Hopkinton, and I decided to found Science Cafe New Hampshire, it was in the hopes of establishing a forum that attracted people from across our communities to meet with experts from a wide range of scientific areas to discuss issues that are, or might be, important to people who live in New Hampshire. Over the years, we have organized more than 65 sessions, established a second Science Cafe in Concord and engaged thousands of our neighbors in conversation. Science Cafes explore the world from a foundation of science and inform us interactively about the state of being and actions we might consider. Ultimately, Sarah and I hoped to see Science Cafe NH create a more informed, engaged citizenry.

The past six years have clearly demonstrated the appetite for dialogue that exists in New Hampshire and the appeal of science as a platform for engagement. While Science Cafe New Hampshire was the first to be established, it was not alone for long. Soon after, researchers at UNH established the Portsmouth Science Cafe and Dartmouth Outreach began a Science Pub in Lebanon. Then, a couple years ago, the See Science Center established Science On Tap in Manchester just as SCNH was opening another branch in Concord.

Most New Hampshirites now have easy access to monthly meetings of scientists, geeks and regular people where conversations happen and understanding grows. While formats may vary, these events are universally free and open to the public – if you haven’t checked one out yet, find a topic of interest and give it a try! You can connect with all of these meetings or join our mailing list by visiting the website at www.ScienceCafeNH.org.

But getting back to the present, Science Cafe Nashua is set to delve into the topic of coffee and its essential role in our daily lives. One of our panelists, Professor Glen Miller of the University of New Hampshire, is a professor of chemistry and material science whose main focus is the world of nanotechnology: fullerenes, carbon nanotubes, imprinting techniques and the like, but he also has spent years delving into the characteristics and properties of coffee. In particular, he started a company that offers a unique combination of 100 percent Arabica beans infused with resveratrol, the all-natural, heart-healthy antioxidant found in red wine. “My CoffVee company has been super busy.” he said.

Richard Trubey is an environmental scientist and director of the MesoAmerican Development Institute at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and another Science Cafe panelist who’s approaching coffee from an entirely different direction – global production and processing. In much of the world, coffee drying requires the burning of local resources, but MDI has developed an “Integrated Open Canopy” approach to growing coffee. IOC is a high-biodiversity, land sparing method of coffee cultivation that incorporates forest habitat on individual farms and addresses the critical issue of sustainable coffee production. For those of us who are coffee lovers, it’s reassuring to know that smart people are worried about sustainable production (and hence, sustainable availability).

Once again, it is September and we invite you to “wake up and smell the coffee” at our next Science Cafe Nashua event on Wednesday. This promises to be an interesting, informative and fun session – as always, Science Cafe is a FREE monthly gathering where you can relax, have a beer, wine or a cup of joe and talk science.

Join the conversation! You can learn more about Science Cafe New Hampshire at www.ScienceCafeNH.org.

Dan Marcek is a co-founder of Science Café New Hampshire and can be reached at dan@vetflix.org.