Tucson partnership percolates to protect coffee from climate change

Coffee served up at Tucson's Savaya Coffee Market
Coffee served up at Tucson's Savaya Coffee Market(KOLD)
Published: Nov. 28, 2022 at 6:57 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -Climate change is coming for your coffee. Difficult growing conditions have already driven up prices. Starbucks, for example, raised its six percent this year. But right here in Tucson, researchers are teaming up with a coffee shop to make sure your cup stays full. A partnership is percolating at Biosphere 2.

In less than 30 years, rising temperatures could eliminate half of the land on Earth that’s suitable for growing coffee beans.

“”It means your cup of coffee is going to get a lot more expensive,” said Dr. Joost van Haren, Interim Director of Rain Forest Research at Biosphere 2.

Coffee has been growing at B2 for years. As the world’s largest controlled environment dedicated to understanding climate change impact, the domed rainforest is a prime location - with its manmade mountain, which mimics prime coffee-growing locales around the world.

The research team learned temperature isn’t the only thing stressing the plants.

”It looks like in the real world, if crops are in trouble, that it’s not just temperature, but it’s other factors - such as pests. With increased temperature, they become more prevalent as well,” Van Haren said.

Enter Tucson’s home-grown Savaya Coffee Market, which uses Biosphere beans.

”We’re able to put our coffee together with their research to put out papers to come up with findings that directly support the global production of coffee,” said Memi Maruflu, in charge of quality control at Savaya.

Burc Maruflu, Savaya’s owner, also teaches a coffee class at the University of Arizona. Field trips are the highlight.

“Coffee is a very popular drink among students - but in this class, we cover the coffee supply chain, so how the coffee ends up in our cup,” Maruflu said.

The students have a vested interest: they love coffee.

”So, I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon, but definitely think it’s something to be concerned about,” said UA student Alyssa Crawford.

They choose to see the cup half full.

”If they realized it’s important to watch where the coffee comes from and how it’s grown, there’d be much more appreciation and time put into trying those kinds of things,” said Joshua Fischer, also a student.

With changes in climate come changes in quality. Savaya and Biosphere2 are finding new methods and hearty strains that will survive warming. The clock is ticking on solutions to a global problem that could cripple smaller coffee economies - without the benefit of this research.

”They’re going back to the places where it’s grown and they’re showing them what they want here - so everyone’s kind of pushing up to the next level,” said Savaya customer Jason Morris.

”We’re trying to promote people to drink coffee as a pure substance, knowing that what they’re having in their cup is a product that’s helping people around the world and you’re able to enjoy that here in Tucson,” Memi Marufluc said.

From crop to cup, the hope is you won’t just enjoy your joe - but appreciate it more, too.

“There’s just a whole world of flavor that most people haven’t unlocked,” said Crawford.

If you’d like to sample the fruits of this labor, Savaya has five locations around Tucson. Biosphere2 is open for tours every day from 9:00 - 4:00, except on Thanksgiving and Christmas.