Skip to main content

Coffee Equity Lab

The Coffee Equity Lab is a new experiential learning and research lab housed in the Wond’ry’s Social Innovation Practice Area. The lab offers inspiring pathways for students to examine the pressing issues shaping our world–climate change, global trade, equity and justice–through the lens of the global coffee industry. Pilot programming for the Lab begins in the Fall 2020 semester with a lecture and workshop series in partnership with the Robert Penn Warren Center’s Scholarship of Everyday Life: Coffee series.

Opportunities to get involved

Fall 2020: Speaker Series (open to the public)

Beginning in September 2020, join us for the first annual speaker series on various topics in the coffee sector. The speaker series is open to the public.

September 17, 2020 @ 4pm Central Time (Virtual), Register here.
Third Wave Coffee, Maya Farmers, and the Creation of Value with coffee scholar & Vanderbilt University Faculty, Ted Fischer.
Dr. Edward (Ted) Fischer is the Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Latin American Studies at Vanderbilt University. He is also the founder of Maní+, a social enterprise in Guatemala that develops and produces locally sourced foods to fight malnutrition. His research focuses on values, wellbeing, and the cultural contexts of health and economic development. He has authored or edited a number of books, including most recently The Good Life. He is currently completing a book on Coffee and Values: Third Wave Tastes, Maya Farmers, and Determinations of Worth.


Alicia Adams
Phyllis Johnson

October 15, 2020 @ 4pm Central Time. Register here.
On Being Black in Coffee
with Phyllis Johnson and Alicia Adams
Phyllis Johnson is the co-founder and president of BD Imports, an award-winning social enterprise focused on responsible sourcing of specialty coffees.  Under her leadership, BD Imports serves as a trusted supplier to small discerning coffee roasters, as well as, large customers with a national and international presence. In her work at BD Imports, Phyllis demonstrates a strong commitment to social responsibility and gender equality.
In June 2020 in wake of racial unrest she penned an open letter to the U.S. coffee industry on racism and more recently founded the Coffee Coalition for Racial Equity. Alicia Adams is originally from Connecticut and left a career as a clinical laboratory scientist in 2009 to live in California. She entered the coffee industry as a barista in Oakland 10 years ago, and has since become a certified Q Arabica grader while working as the Director of Coffee at Red Bay Coffee. She also regularly judges regional, national and international coffee competitions. Her personal missions in coffee revolve around sustainable direct trade sourcing, empowering women’s groups, and finding new ways to disrupt and reform the coffee supply chain.


November 5, 2020 @ 4pm Central Time: Coffee’s Cross Disciplinary Intersections with an interdisciplinary panel of VU scholars, stay tuned!


Fall 2020: Experiential  Workshops (accepted students)

The Coffee Equity Lab is partnering with the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities to offer a pilot 3-part experiential workshop series. These workshops will feature coffee tasting, brewing, and sensory activities that introduce students to the vast world of coffee as a beverage. At this time, these workshops are reserved for accepted VU students. In the future, we hope to be able to open this workshops to a broader audience.

  • Workshop 1: Tasting Regional Differentiations in Coffee with Dr. Ted Fischer
  • Workshop 2: Stay tuned, with Phyllis Johnson and Alicia Adams
  • Workshop 3: Home Brewing Methods & an Intro to Origin Sourcing with Tom Valentine, Crema Coffee

Spring 2021: Designing for Coffee

In Spring 2020, participating students will have the opportunity to complete a semester-long  project or internship that advances their knowledge about the global coffee industry. Students may also have the opportunity to work alongside an industry partner to support their ongoing efforts to achieve meaningful social or environmental change in the industry. Students will be encouraged to identify a project opportunity of personal and professional interest. The Wond’ry will provide participating students with mentorship, guidance, and industry connections.


Interested in Partnership? 

Are you a coffee industry professional, organization, or business interested in partnering with the Coffee Equity Lab? Contact hanes.motsinger@vanderbilt.edu.