|Coffee leaf may produce ‘healthy’ tea and other functional products|
|Friday, 18 January 2013|
It has always been a simple question: tea or coffee? Now, after a scientific breakthrough that choice could become rather less straightforward. Tea brewed from the fruit and leaves of coffee plants could be a healthier option than either tea of coffee alone, according to new research.
The study, which is published in the Annals of Botany, reveals that coffee (Coffea) leaves contain high levels of potentially beneficial phenolic compounds including mangiferin and hydroxycinnamic acid esters (HCEs).
Led by researchers from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, UK and the French Research Institute for Development (IRD) in Montpellier, the team analysed the phenolic content of 23 types of Coffea leaf, finding that they contain several beneficial compounds that are not present in traditionally drank teas or coffees. In addition the team found that coffee leaves possess far higher quantities of antioxidant compounds than are present in green of black tea.
“The potential health benefits of coffee-leaf ‘tea’, and beverages and masticatory products made from the fleshy parts of Coffea fruit, are supported by our findings on the basis of high accumulation of phenolic compounds in coffee leaves,” said the researchers. However they noted that the accumulated influence of these compounds in the human body “would require further research”.
The researchers believe the leaves of Coffea plants have been largely overlooked due to high value placed on coffee beans, which are actually seeds inside cherries produced by the small green shrub. These contain far fewer of the healthy compounds.
They believe coffee leaves could provide a new, healthy drink to rival coffee and traditional green or black tea, containing low levels of caffeine, with an earthy taste that's neither as bitter as tea nor as strong as coffee.
Dr Aaron Davies, a coffee expert and botanist at Kew Gardens who helped conduct the research, said coffee leaf tea was popular among some locals in places like Ethiopia and South Sudan and there had even been an attempt to market it in Britain in the 1800s.
He said: “In 1851 people were touting it as the next tea and there were all these reports at the time about its qualities. I spent some time in Sudan and met a village elder who made it every day – she would hike for a couple of hours to collect the leaves to make tea.
“What was surprising was how many antioxidants are in the coffee leaves. They are much higher than those in green tea and normal black tea.
“There were also very high levels of a substance called mangiferin in the leaves of arabica coffee plants. This chemical was first extracted from mangos but has had lots of healthy properties attached to it.”.....
The Telegraph: Read the full article
Journal Reference: Annals of Botany