Last spring break, 14 University of Wisconsin Oshkosh students made an impact by working directly with the nonprofit organization “As Green As It Gets” to witness and participate in the Guatemala coffee making process.
The students brought back more from the trip than shared experiences.
They are helping make available to students, faculty and staff As Green As It Gets coffee right in the luxury and comfort of the Titan Underground within Reeve Memorial Union at UW Oshkosh.
“I’m a big fan of buying locally. And we know the farmers, we know their names, we’ve picked coffee with them. So, it’s cool to be able to be back and still drink the coffee,” said Mike Lueder, UW Oshkosh program adviser who has led the trip the past three years.
While the group was in Guatemala, they hiked about a mile and a half up the side of Vulcan de Agua, a Guatemalan volcano, to spend a full day learning the coffee making process: picking, shelling, drying, sorting, roasting and tasting the coffee.
The rest of the time they spent helping the artisans of different small businesses, doing everything from making soaps to woodworking projects and helping build a local school. Lueder said he and the students connected with the farmers and their families in just one week’s time.
“The best part of the trip is always the people,” Lueder said. “Meeting them and connecting with them. They speak Spanish, but you are able to break down the barriers by getting to know them and when you leave you miss them and care about them.”
And even though Lueder misses them, he is able to support them at the Titan Underground through purchasing Americano, Latte and Cappuccino espresso drinks with a variety of flavors, which gives students an opportunity to try the coffee without going to Guatemala.
Senior sociology major Addela Marzofka had an eye-opening experience in Guatemala and hopes everyone will be able to understand the perspective that she was able to gain from helping the Guatemalan farmers.
“Their way of life is so different than ours,” Marzofka said. “They are very focused on family and they eat lunch together every day. They get by with so little and are happy with it, while we complain with having so much more.”
Marzofka encourages everyone to try the coffee at the Titan Underground and vouches not only for its sourcing but also for its quality.
“Another cool thing about working with As Green As It Gets is that it is a direct trade system established, so we know that almost 100 percent we spend on coffee goes back to them and that is seldom the case. At the store it is around 10 percent, so buying from them we are able to put money into the hands that made it,” Lueder said.
Revamps to the Titan Underground
Along with adding Guatemalan coffee, the Titan Underground has also undergone some other menu changes for the 2013-14 academic year. Deep fried items have been replaced with wholesome and flavorful paninis, ballpark-sized stuffed pretzels, a popcorn bar and ice cream.
“We revamped the whole menu in order to give students a variety. The Titan Underground moved away from the fried foods because they didn’t want to compete with the B&G Grill,” said Kelly Kramp, the Reeve Union marketing manager.
The Titan Underground space has been altered as well. In reaction to students saying it was “cold and dark,” the space has been painted warmer colors, computers and new furniture has been added and brighter lighting was added to make it seem more like home.
Another new aspect to the Titan Underground is the extended hours. It is now open all seven days of the week from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., in order to make it more convenient for students to hang out with friends and find an escape from the hustling and bustling Reeve Union.
“There are so many new opportunities for students. They can play pool for free now. Xbox360, Nintendo, Wii, a variety of card and board games are available anytime when the Titan Underground is open,” said Olivia Hess, a senior studying communications studies and student marketing and human resources manager at Reeve.
Hess has played a large part in the revamp of the Underground and plans on continuing to make changes that will bring students in. Most students know that the Underground hosts shows and events, but she wants the campus and community that the Underground is more than that.
She wants others to realize how people’s passion for their work is making the world a better place. Having the Guatemalan coffee available on campus is just one opportunity for customers to show their support for that ethic.
“It is instilling a chance to make a living out of a passionate life,” Hess said. “We care about ourselves and our hard work ethic, and I feel like there is more than just going to work each day. It is seeing people be recognized for the work that they are doing. It is a good feeling supporting people following their passion.”
Kramp, who has worked on many similar projects to the revamp of the Titan Underground, said it is great to support academics through a study-abroad programming integrated into a campus hang out spot.
“For the students who have travelled on the Guatemala trip, it is neat for them to see it come full circle. This gives students the opportunity to see an impact by not just bringing back photos but by now seeing it one step further at the Titan Underground,” Kramp said.