With his team at the Coffee Excellence Centre they have produced the Water Quality Handbook and the Coffee Freshness Handbook for the SCA. Since the founding of the Coffee Excellence Centre (CEC) at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) in 2008, Professor. Yeretzian has developed the CEC into a world leader in coffee research.
If you have been following the news on developments in coffee research at any time in the past 20 years then the name Chahan Yeretzian needs little introduction. He has co-authored over 90 peer reviewed articles in addition to conference papers and books. With his team at the Coffee Excellence Centre (CEC) they have produced the Water Quality Handbook and the Coffee Freshness Handbook for the SCA. Since the founding of the CEC at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) in 2008, Professor Yeretzian has developed the CEC into a world leader in coffee research. We caught up with Prof. Yeretzian to talk about the future areas of research and the importance of education.
One of the elements that makes the CEC unique is the scope of research across the length of the coffee value chain. To do justice to the complexity and breadth of coffee, the CEC is structured in five pillars of research – Origin, Transformation, Extraction, Flavour, and Sustainability. Each of the pillars is headed by leaders in the field. Respectively these are Sebastian Optiz (Origin), Samo Smrke (Transformation), Marco Wellinger (Extraction), Sara Marquart (Flavour), and Sabine de Castelberg (Sustainability). In addition, Sabine de Castelberg jointly with Martina Vaculikova, are heading the postgraduate education programs of the CEC. They bring expertise and knowledge of the latest developments in coffee relating to their pillars. This structure attracts industry partners and leads to innovative projects because a broad range of expertise as well as a holistic approach can be applied to specific projects.
Prof. Yeretzian highlights that industry is moving from coffee as a commodity to innovations in technology, green coffee sorting, and improving quality and witnessing a transition from volume to value driven growth. While coffee has long been considered a low-tech commodity, the situation has evolved over the past 10 years. Both the transition from volume to value driven growth on the consumption side, and the urgent need for effective solutions to address the risks on the production side, will heavily rely on research and innovations. Growth in the coffee sector and securing its future will increasingly depend on investing in research and innovation.
At the CEC they work on technologies in soluble coffee, capsule packaging, sustainability, new product development and ultimately on quality in the cup. They also use their facilities to independently evaluate equipment or act as consultants. More recently, they have collaborated with innovative start-ups to drive grassroots and disruptive innovations.
The CEC conducts research, delivers education and works closely with industry. In fact, research, education and industry are inter-dependent and synergistic. Industry is both an investor in research and a practical application for research. Research helps drive innovation in the coffee industry. Research findings become the basis of courses for education. Education further develops coffee professionals to fill roles in industry and conduct more research.
For many organisations, to establish and maintain state-of-the-art research infrastructures and create an expert scientific team capable of bridging from science to craft is very challenging and resource intensive. It is often not justifiable as an ongoing investment. This makes outsourcing the research for specific projects an increasingly attractive option for agile and adaptive companies.
Professor Yeretzian stresses that while there is much research still to be done, there is already a huge body of knowledge that has been created. Offering education programmes and reviewing the existing literature can save time and money, particularly for individuals and small businesses. Over the past 10 years, the CEC has created several post-graduate degrees on coffee designed at the highest level of the coffee training path. They are created to complement and not to compete with existing education programs e.g. from the SCA or the many excellent courses offered by the industry. In addition, the coffee experts from the CEC disseminate their insight via lectures and workshops.
As the coffee industry moves towards more scientific knowledge creation and dissemination, new career opportunities are arising. The most important message however, is to apply yourself to learning, whatever you choose to do. Prof. Yeretzian says “Educate yourselves, get out of your comfort zone, get out of the bubble, really learn.”
On 26 May, Professor Yeretzian is delivering a course on Extraction for the Coffee Knowledge Hub. It will be the first in a series from the Coffee Excellence Centre. The course covers the science of extraction, giving details of the latest research conducted at the CEC.
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