Learning About the Complexity of Coffee From Crop to Cup

coffee beans

Coffee, whether leisurely savored at cafes with friends or downed during a morning commute, is a staple of many people's daily routines.

It's one of the most popular drinks in the world, with more than 400 billion cups consumed each year, and has a global impact as one of the most traded commodities after oil.

As the world celebrates International Coffee Day on Oct. 1, University of Arizona students are learning about the complexity of coffee in a new course, Food 353: Coffee from Crop to Cup. The class, offered as part of the Food Studies major, is open to all students.

Burc Maruflu

Burc Maruflu, an educator, coffee expert, and founder and owner of Savaya Coffee Market, is teaching the new course Food 353: Coffee from Crop to Cup this fall.

Coffee expert Burc Maruflu, an instructor in the School of Geography, Development and Environment, teaches the course with a focus on the coffee supply chain, from farming, processing, exporting, importing and roasting to retail sales. Maruflu is the founder and owner of Savaya Coffee Market, which has five locations in Tucson.

"I'm really passionate about coffee, quality coffee, and providing better returns to people who really put care into this," said Maruflu, adding that he wants to teach students about sustainable specialty coffee practices. "Hopefully, this class will shed light on what's really happening in the coffee world, how it functions, and how quality-conscious consumers can disrupt the supply chain."

Students examine topics including how coffee is involved in global power structures; the history of coffee; the difference between commercial and specialty coffee; coffee taste profiles from different parts of the world; coffee and climate change; consumer health and wellness; coffee-related careers; and more. Maruflu also shows students how to pull the best taste from single-origin coffee beans during field trips to a coffee roastery and a coffee brewery lab.

A Passion for Coffee

Maruflu's love of coffee has been passed down through his family in Turkey.

His many-times-great-grandfather traded coffee and mastered the art of roasting in the mid-1500s, becoming the sole supplier to Sultan Solomon the Magnificent. As a boy in Istanbul, Maruflu grew up learning about coffee from his grandmother, Neriman, an expert connoisseur of the craft.

"I grew up with the smell of it," Maruflu said. "My grandmother's approach to coffee was full of art, care and passion. She did not have the tools we have today. Today we combine that art and passion with science, precision and standards."

Maruflu is a Q Grader, which is like being a sommelier in the coffee world. He also is licensed by the Coffee Quality Institute as an expert taster, or "cupper," and evaluates coffees based on the Specialty Coffee Association guidelines.

During one class, Maruflu handed out the association's cupping form and described the process for evaluating specialty coffee, scoring things such as aroma, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, body and uniformity. He demonstrated the process of cupping coffee with one of the coffee samples he brought in for the class to try.

"You slurp it," he instructed. "This gives you not only the taste, but also the smell; it covers a larger area in your palate."

In addition to coffee, Maruflu has a passion for entrepreneurship. He teaches classes about entrepreneurship and coffee in his shops. Internationally, he consults with groups such as the International Women's Coffee Alliance in Honduras about entrepreneurship and how coffee farmers can differentiate their products. In recent years, he started the Centre for Coffee Excellence to advance coffee research and development.

Sharing Real-World Experience With Students

Students in the class appreciate the depth of experience that Maruflu brings to the discussion.

Alexis Work, a graduate student studying political science, thought the course would provide a great opportunity to learn about specialty coffee, which she enjoys. She also wanted to learn more about gender equality and coffee production, as she studies women's rights in Latin America.

"Burc is a Q Grader, and this is his business," Work said. "It's cool to have someone who's visited the coffee farms – it makes it extra special."

Caroline Kreplin, a pre-business major, is especially interested in learning about the business end of coffee.

"I would like to have my own coffee business, and seeing that Professor Burc has his own, I thought it would be great to learn from him," Kreplin said. "It gives you real-life perspectives and experience rather than just reading from a book."

Cooper Moran, who is majoring in political science with a minor in geography, was drawn to the class because of the title.

"It looked interesting to learn how coffee moves from the farms to the cups that we all drink and love," Moran said. "[Burc Maruflu] is also providing us with unique experiences. He has a couple of field trips planned so we see how they roast the coffee, and we get to taste it. That's always a fun thing to do."