Christina Kazanjian

Coffee can function as a wake-up call, a lunch date or an after-dinner treat, but to Robert Thurston, Shriver professor of history at Miami University, “coffee is a tremendously important aspect of the Western world.”

According to Steven Topik’s book, “The Global Coffee Economy in Africa, Asia, and Latin America,” coffee is the second most valuable product legally traded in the world. He wrote that coffee plays a central influence on globalization and a massive role in shaping social lives in the Western world.

To address these issues, Miami will hold “What is Good Coffee? A Conference on Moral, Economic, and Social Life of Coffee” from Oct. 31 to Nov. 1 in the Heritage Room of the Shriver Center.

Major players in the coffee business including Topik will be making speech appearances during the two-day conference.

Thurston said he is especially excited about the keynote speaker of the conference, Sidney Mintz, as he is one of the world’s most famous anthropologists. He is the author of “Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History” and plans to speak on how and why consumers choose to buy what they buy, especially in terms of coffee, according to the conference Web site.

“A lot of the people who are coming are absolutely the best at what they do in their particular field,” Thurston said. “The point of this conference is to bring together people from different levels and areas of the coffee business and with academics to try to get a more broad conversation going.”

Thurston said he hopes the conference will open the floor to anyone who has an interest in coffee and the way it affects global issues and everyday life. This conference is relatable to students on campus, many who drink coffee regularly.

Sophomore Courtney Quilty said she’s avid coffee drinker.

“This is an interesting topic,” Quilty said. “I drink coffee every day, whether I’m studying or just hanging out, but I never thought about all that it could influence.”

Sophomore Hannah Deck agreed that the topic of the conference is interesting.

“Even though I don’t drink coffee all the time, I respect the importance of it to our society,” Deck said. “It’ll be interesting to see all of the ways coffee plays into our day-to-day life on a local and global scale.”

Thurston said there was a trial run on campus last year in April to see whether the topic of coffee would or wouldn’t work with an audience.

“It worked,” Thurston said. “(The idea came) strictly from my head to try to get people together for what I think is going to be a unique conference.”

The conference is free to attend for all Miami students and faculty. For residents of Oxford and all others, registration is $75. For more information, visit