The Texas A&M Center for Coffee Research and Education at Texas A&M University in College Station was recently recognized as one of the top 20 graduate research centers “making a real difference” by was created to help students seeking higher education navigate choosing the graduate degree or academic institution best for them.  

“We appreciate this recognition of the Center for Coffee Research and Education,” said Roger Norton, Ph.D., center director, Bryan-College Station.  “We strive to assist small farmers in coffee growing countries and to meet research needs of the coffee industry through our projects in the field and by research on critical issues along the coffee value chain from producer to consumer.”

Norton said they also provide training for those interested in coffee and coffee-related work, and are continually expanding their educational efforts.

This year the center is collaborating with the university to establish a new certificate program in coffee, which would be the first academic degree in coffee in the U.S.

About the Center for Coffee Research and Education

 The center is located on the Texas A&M campus within the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, and its mission is associated with the Borlaug Institute since coffee is a major crop for production in the developing world.

Norton, who also serves as regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Borlaug Institute, said many of the center’s efforts are implemented in collaboration with the institute.

The center also benefits from the support of coffee industry partners, and continues to develop additional relationships with industry stakeholders, he said.

Store shelf with bags of a variety of gourmet coffees
An objective of the Center for Coffee Research and Education is to show smallholder coffee farmers how to increase their income by growing higher-quality specialty coffees that will command higher prices. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Michael Miller)

“The livelihoods of coffee farmers and those along the coffee supply chain face a variety of challenges related to climate change, diseases and pests, low crop yields, low prices and barriers to quality,” said Eric Brenner, assistant center director, Bryan-College Station. “We collaborate with coffee farmers and industry partners to find sustainable solutions that allow both the coffee supply and the coffee farmer to thrive.”

Brenner said the center’s efforts support the rapidly growing specialty coffee industry by providing training and education for the next generation of coffee agronomists, business leaders, researchers and consumers.

“Our goal is to help create a pipeline of experts in all areas of the coffee industry – people who can apply their expertise to each link of the coffee value chain,” he said.

How the center benefits smallholder coffee farmers

The Center for Coffee Research and Education seeks to elevate the lives of smallholder coffee farmers in some of the most important coffee-producing regions of the world, including Central and South America and Africa.                                                                 

“At the center, we are continually developing initiatives to improve the quality and supply of coffee globally through research and capacity building,” Brenner said. “Center initiatives, such as identifying and developing more disease- and pest-resistant coffee trees with higher yields, can benefit many of the world’s smallholder farmers.”

Educational efforts by the center also help the smallholder farmer. These include introducing them to new coffee genotypes, showing how to better market their products, and demonstrating how new technologies and practices can improve operational efficiencies.

Group of people tasting a number of different coffees
The Center for Coffee Research and Education also educates consumers about the aroma, taste and overall quality of specialty or premium coffees. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Shelby Dittman)

“We approach education from the point of view of both the coffee farmer and consumer,” Brenner said. “Center efforts also include educating consumers about the differences in coffees, emphasizing the better aroma, flavor and quality of specialty or premium coffees. By extension, helping smallholder farmers produce a better-quality coffee will, in turn, fetch them a higher price and increase their profitability.”

Recently, Brenner led a group of Texas A&M students in a study abroad program in Costa Rica to give them a firsthand look at the challenges and opportunities for smallholder coffee farmers in that country.

“When possible, as part of our educational efforts, we feel it’s important to give young people interested in the coffee industry the opportunity to meet with and learn directly from those involved in various aspects of the industry,” he said.

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