Exhibit Explores ‘The World in Your Cup’ of Coffee

Coffee — after water, the most popular beverage on the planet — is the focus of an exhibition opening on Saturday, May 29, at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.

More than 500 billion cups of coffee are served worldwide each year, and the United States is the biggest importer of the caffeine-laden beans. Titled “Coffee: The World in Your Cup,” the Peabody exhibit will explore the history, production, roasting, economics, environmental and social issues, and even the flavor of coffee.

The exhibit, created by the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle and sponsored by Willoughby’s Coffee & Tea, will remain on view through Sept. 19.

Ruth Pelz, coordinator of the exhibit at Burke, said the idea for the show began brewing 15 years ago when she attended a lecture about how shade-grown coffee protects the diversity of migratory bird species. To illustrate this impact of coffee, the Peabody has augmented the exhibition with 19 specimens of migratory birds, representing 17 species, which rely on shade-grown coffee plantations for habitat.

Believed to have been discovered in Ethiopia 1,000 years ago, coffee is grown and produced by 25 million people (by some estimates, 75 million) in more than 50 countries. Coffee is one of the most widely traded commodities in the world; it is the second biggest export in developing countries, with most coffee grown on tiny subsistence farms where laborers work furiously to handpick and de-pulp beans the same day.

There is a wide disparity between the high price of the end product and the wages of the people who grow coffee — an issue currently confronting the industry. Yet coffee plays an important social role in the generation of rural employment and income. “Coffee: The World in Your Cup” addresses this socioeconomic issue as well as the botany of coffee, the effects of caffeine on human health, and the art and science of producing the perfect cup.

The Peabody and Willoughby’s will join forces to host a “Coffee Tasting” at the museum on Saturday, June 5, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Coffee experts will be on hand to share their knowledge of the various brews. The event is free with museum admission.

“Coffee: The World in Your Cup” can be viewed during regular museum hours: Monday through Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday noon-5 p.m. Museum admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and $5 for children ages 3-18. Children under age 3 are admitted free. The Yale Peabody Museum, located at 170 Whitney Ave., will be open on Memorial Day and Labor Day but will be closed on July 4. For additional information, visit www.peabody.yale.edu.

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