A Big First for 'World's Most Important Beverage'

Coffee is focus at UC Davis Coffee Center, said to be first coffee research hub on US college campus
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 22, 2024 10:30 AM CDT
This May Be the First Coffee Research Hub on a US Campus
Timothy Styczynski, right, head roaster at the UC Davis Coffee Center, shows an industrial coffee bean roaster in Davis, California, on Monday. The center, which opened last month, is believed to be the first coffee-only research facility opened on any college campus in the US.   (AP Photo/Haven Daley)

A college in Northern California is now home to a center devoted to educating students and closely studying one of the most consumed beverages in the world known for powering people through their day—coffee. UC Davis launched its Coffee Center in May with research focused on providing support for farmers, examining the sustainability of coffee, and evaluating food safety issues, among other topics, per the AP. UC Davis also has programs focused on researching winemaking and the brewing industries.

The launch comes about a decade after the university offered its first course on the science of coffee. At the center in Davis, Director Bill Ristenpart said historically there has been much more of an emphasis on researching a beverage like wine, and less so on studying coffee. "We're trying to elevate coffee and make it a topic of academic research and an academic talent pipeline to help support the industry and help support what's arguably the world's most important beverage," said Ristenpart, a professor of chemical engineering.

The 7,000-square-foot Coffee Center facility is the first academic building in the nation devoted to coffee research and education, Ristenpart said. There are other US colleges, including Texas A&M University and Vanderbilt University, that have delved into the study of coffee. But the UC Davis Coffee Center stands out in part because it's focused on many aspects of coffee research, including agriculture and chemistry, said Edward Fischer, a professor of anthropology and director of the Institute for Coffee Studies at Vanderbilt. "Coffee is such a complex compound," Fischer said. "It's really important to bring together all of these different aspects, and that's what Davis is doing."

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Most people in the United States buy coffee that's imported from places such as Brazil, Colombia, and Vietnam, per the US Department of Agriculture. However, California is one of the few places in the country that grows coffee. The US is the second-largest importer of coffee in the world behind the EU, the agency says. Camilla Yuan, a UC Davis alum and director of coffee and roasting at Camellia Coffee Roasters, a coffee shop in Sacramento, visited the Coffee Center in Davis last week, she said. "Having a center and having resources for folks who are interested in specialty coffee or just coffee world in general ... is super fascinating and cool," Yuan said. "I'm glad that something like this is happening." More here. (More coffee stories.)

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