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‘The world in your cup’

Millions need that hot cup of Joe to start the day but don’t think about where it comes from.

That’s one of the reasons the Museum of Natural History and Culture of the University of Washington, Seattle, created the "Coffee: The World in Your Cup" exhibit that will be on display at the Park City Museum from May 19 to Aug. 7.

"Coffee is one of the most widely traded commodities in the world," said Wendy Ashton, curator of collections and exhibits for the museum. "It’s also a little overwhelming when you realize all the work that goes on in the industry. There are hundreds of hands that have worked on each bean before it winds up in your cup."

The exhibit begins with the origins of coffee in Ethiopia.

"While we’re not sure how people came to drink it, one story tells about a goat herder who noticed his goats had more energy after eating the coffee cherries," Ashton said. "We also know it wasn’t until the Middle Ages when they started to grind it up."

The documented history also includes the Turkish traders who first had a monopoly on coffee before it was found throughout the European colonies, Ashton said.

"Now, the No. 1 exporters of coffee are Brazil, Vietnam and Columbia," she said.

The exhibit also gives a comprehensive guide through the process of picking, washing, depulping, fermenting and shipping coffee beans, Ashton said.

"Because the cherries ripen at different times, workers must handpick each bean," she said. "A good picker can harvest 200 pounds a day."

More than 20 million families grow and harvest coffee beans, Ashton said.

"They make about $1 to $10 a day on the coffee crop," she said. "Most families have two crops the food crop and the coffee crop. The coffee is their cash crop, which brings in most of the family’s revenue."

In addition to displaying photos and interactive stations, which include a "perfect blend" wheel, and videos and a weighted burlap bag that gives patrons an idea of how heavy coffee beans can get, the Park City Museum will offer coffee tasting every day.

"Java Cows will provide the coffee from Café Ibis Roasting Company from Logan," she said. "So, we’re hoping to see more and more people coming in each day."

Ashton finds the controversy whether or not coffee is healthy interesting.

"This has been a big debate over the centuries," she said. "In 1657, we are told that coffee helps with coughs, colds and gout, but in 1777 we are told that coffee-drinking soldiers cannot be as dependable as beer drinking soldiers."

During the exhibit run, the Park City Museum will hold activities related to coffee and the coffee culture.

While other activities will be announced later, two have been confirmed, Ashton said.

On May 21, the museum will offer family activities related to coffee.

On June 9, the museum and the Park City Film Series will co-sponsor a screening of "Black Gold," a documentary about the multibillion-dollar coffee industry, which was originally shown during the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.

"There is so much about coffee that we don’t know, but it’s such a big part of our culture," Ashton said. "There are so many coffee houses throughout the United States, and even just here in Park City. We drink it in the morning, we drink if after meals and we even have it in tiramisu."

"Coffee: The World In Your Cup" will open Thursday, May 19 at 10 a.m., at the Park City Museum, 528 Main Street. The exhibit will run through Aug. 7. A museum-member- only sneak peek will be held on May 18. For more information, visit http://www.parkcityhistory.org.


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