SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Coffee, chocolate, cheese and wine are all big business, and a group of Wofford students is spending the month of January exploring the historical, cultural and aesthetic appeal of these luxury comestibles.
Wythe Hunnicutt, a senior art history major from Augusta, Ga., enjoys all four so she and a friend enrolled in the class taught by Dr. Mark Byrnes, professor of history and chair of the department, and Dr. Cecile Nowatka, professor of psychology.
"So far I've learned a lot about coffee, the one I knew the least about," says Hunnicutt. She especially has found fascinating the class's time "proving and disproving myths about coffee and caffeine, learning the economics of the industry and discovering the importance of atmosphere and people when consuming foods and how they can make something feel finer."
In early January the group met 1985 Wofford graduate Gervais Hollowell, owner of Little River Roasting Co. He toured the group through his Spartanburg warehouse and roasting site and talked about his upcoming trip to Nicaragua to meet farmers, inspect the product and buy coffee.
"The more I learn about the process of getting coffee from the farm to what we drink, the more I'm amazed," he says.
Hollowell talked about production, what it means for coffee to be organic or fair trade, the commodities market and the relationships that he clearly values with the farmers.
In addition to traveling to farms, vineyards and businesses involved in the production and sales of coffee, chocolate, cheese and wine, the class also has watched films, read books and articles, enjoyed tasting events and created presentations.
Interim, Wofford College's January term, frees students and faculty to spend the month focused on a single topic designed to expand the walls of the traditional classroom, explore new and untried topics, take academic risks, observe issues in action, develop capabilities for independent learning and consider different peoples, places and professional options. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Interim at Wofford.