The Center for Coffee Research and Education — a program of the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture of Texas A&M AgriLife — has announced the 12th Man Coffee project. The project involves three Texas A&M University-branded roasts. The roasts honor Aggie traditions and support small coffee farmers in Central America and the coffee center itself.

A white cup of black coffee sits in the middle of the foreground. Beside it is a white and maroon bag of coffee labeled "12th Man Blend" with Texas A&M branding. The bag additionally lists the coffee as grown at an altitude of 1600 meters, using a whole bean variety of Caturra-Catimor, with a roast level of 2 out of 3 bean icons (i.e. medium), and has tasting notes of "dark chocolate, brown sugar, nutty finish." Out of focus in the background is a glass French press with coffee grounds in the bottom. All of the items are sitting on a pine-topped table.
The 12th Man Coffee project includes the medium roast 12th Man Blend, the medium-dark Midnight Yell Blend, and the light Howdy Blend. (Laura McKenzie/Texas A&M AgriLife Marketing and Communications)

“The 12th Man Coffee is a way to help support small coffee farmers, pursue the Borlaug Institute’s mission to help elevate small-holder producers out of poverty, and help the coffee center continue its research into sustainable coffee,” said Eric Brenner, program coordinator for the Center for Coffee Research and Education.

The 12th Man Coffee project coffees will be available in 9 oz. bags in select Texas retailers beginning in June. Texans can purchase the coffee at H-E-B, Brookshire Brothers and the Stella Hotel in the Bryan-College Station area, as well as some H-E-B stores in Houston.

Coffee center’s dedication to the Aggie Spirit

The Center for Coffee Research and Education focuses on research into improved coffee genetics and processing. In recent years, the program has helped disseminate a vigorous hybrid coffee plant that produces disease-resistant high-quality coffee beans with higher productivity and resistance to higher temperatures.

The center also focuses on educating students about coffee, including through the development of coffee-centered undergraduate classes and outreach to agricultural communities of coffee-producing countries to find solutions to their problems. The 12th Man Coffee project will not only help directly fund partner coffee farmers, but also help financially support the center to continue its work.

The 12th Man Coffee project is a partnership between the Center for Coffee Research and Education, What’s the Buzz Coffee Company in College Station and several small coffee farmers in Guatemala. The offering includes medium roast “12th Man Coffee,” medium-dark roast “Midnight Yell” and light roast “Howdy Blend.”

The “12th Man Coffee” roast includes beans sourced from 12 different small farms to represent the spirit of the Aggie tradition of the 12th Man.

Helping small coffee farmers around the world

All three roasts are made from specialty Arabica beans sourced from small farmers in Guatemala. Project partner Rodrigo Chavez, owner and roaster of What’s the Buzz and former manager of the Borlaug Institute’s Resilient Coffee Project in Central America, hopes to expand the farmer partnerships to include more small farms in other coffee-producing countries.

“Coffee is in crisis right now because of low prices,” Chavez said. “This is part of why we see a lot of migration from places like Guatemala; farmers are leaving their coffee on the tree without being picked because the prices are so low. But by raising and selling high-quality specialty coffee, which costs a little more but is much higher quality, we are able to pay the farmers more money for their crops.”

According to the Specialty Coffee Association, specialty coffee is any green, or pre-roasted, coffee that grades 80 points or higher on its 100-point grading scale and abides by certain standards. In general, this includes beans being grown at or above certain elevations, being free of certain kinds of defects like insect damage and mold, and being highly consistent. This higher standard results in a more expensive — but better quality — cup of coffee for consumers and greater economic stability for small coffee farmers.

“You can do a lot of good with buying a cup of this coffee,” Brenner said.

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