Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Coffee Leaf Tea: a health drink of the future?

Coffee branch and leaves.
berries, called cherries, contain the coffee beans

The first detailed survey into the natural compounds in coffee leaves has revealed unexpected health benefits.

Tea made from the leaves of coffea plants was found to be low in caffeine and higher in antioxidants than either tea or coffee. Antioxidants are thought to reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer, although Wikipedia is dubious of some of these claims.

Arabica coffee leaves contain a natural chemical also found in mangos called mangiferin, which has anti-inflammatory properties and is known to reduce the risks of high cholesterol and diabetes.
Great Exhibition, Hyde Park, in 1851 
Coffee leaf tea was first sampled at the Great Exhibition in 1851; the reaction by analytical chemists was good:

“The infusion is of a deep-brown color, and extremely fragrant, its odor, like its taste – resembling that of a mixture of tea and coffee.”

The New York Times of 14 September, 1873, also reported in their most interesting and comprehensive article that coffee-leaf tea was the national drink in Sumatra at the time.

Coffee leaves are brewed in Ethiopia, South Sudan, South America and other coffee producing countries after the beans have been picked: it is much cheaper to drink than coffee.  It is sold in some health food shops, but not even Amazon UK seems to sell it online. The Sunday Telegraph on 13 January 2013 obtained some coffee leaf tea by mail order from the US for sampling by Alex Probyn, a master tea taster. He said he’d like to find a source to use in his own blends as it was “a little bit different. The difficulty may be that coffee growers will want the leaves to stay on their plants so they can produce good beans.”

Coffee beans are second only to crude oil as a commodity, and if coffee leaf tea is to be developed from the leaves, the growth and value of the coffee beans may be affected.

Researchers led by Dr. Aaron Davies, from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, and the Institute for Research and Development in Montpelier published their conclusions in the Annals of Botany.