If going to a mainstream school to learn about coffee seems like a far-fetched idea, think again. The world of coffee research could be opened up to the masses at the University of California at Davis, which already operates a Coffee Center that “brings scientific inquiry to the quality, health, and sustainability of coffee,” as spelled out on its website.
Even though there are plenty of people who partake in the coffee industry, according to J. Bruce German, who works at UC Davis, there’s still a lot to be learned about our favorite beverage.
As an NPR article pointed out, “Given how much coffee people all over the world chug, there’s a surprising lack of academic research on the topic… There’s a lot we still don’t fully understand about coffee… What’s the best way to treat the beans while they’re still green? What’s the most environmentally friendly way to roast them? And why are we so obsessed with how it smells?”
Enter education, science, and research in the field of coffee. According to NPR, UC Davis offers a seminar called “Design of Coffee,” which interestingly enough was masterminded by the chemical engineering department. The course grew to over 300 eager students.
As it stands, you’ll only be able to take classes about coffee at UC Davis, as opposed to getting a full-blown degree. However, we could soon see an actual major in coffee emerge in the not-too-distant future. According to NPR, “For now, the center will offer classes, but not degrees. The next step is to reach out to the coffee industry and raise funds to expand the program… If all goes well, Davis might start offering a major in coffee science within the next few years.” Davis will apparently focus on processing coffee.
The university’s Coffee Center looks pretty involved. Its website details that its points of interest include coffee genetics, fermentation, sensory aspects, metabolic ramifications, and social features. It has over 10 scientists on staff and is fresh off a one-day Research Conference that was held on March 11. If you love coffee, then you would have probably been in Heaven with a few of these seminars held during the conference:
“Attracting Students to Science and Engineering with Coffee: A New Freshman Level Design Experience”
“What Can Coffee Genetics and Genomics Bring to the Cup?”
“The Microbiology of Coffee Production”
“From Wine to Coffee: The Role of Sensory Evaluation”
“Assessment of Host-Microbial Interactions to Enhance Our Understanding of Nutrition and Health”
“Enabling Technologies for Measure of Bioactive Compounds”
“Analytics for the Discovery of Bioactive Compounds in Agricultural Products and By-products”
You can see that the conference extended beyond coffee specifically in scope, but stuck true to its roots by offering two coffee breaks during the day. This conference was the first for the Coffee Center and we’re guessing it won’t be the last.
NPR added that the Coffee Center is not the only game in town when it comes to coffee research, which could mean more interest exists in the academic study of the drink than you might think. For example, Texas A&M runs the World Coffee Research program, which, according to NPR, “focuses on the agricultural aspects of coffee.”
A Sacramento Bee story quoted one gourmet coffee roaster who compared the coffee industry to the wine industry of many years ago: “I remember my parents buying jugs of wine. Now it’s down to farms and estates. There will always be generic coffee produced, but for coffee to evolve, it needs to get to that level – and to do that, science needs to be involved.” A small-scale coffee grower added, “There are a lot of issues in the coffee industry that really need to be addressed.”
Davis is located outside of Sacramento and has an enrollment of 34,000.