A hot hybrid: Coffee-leaf tea packs antioxidant punch
Published Sunday, January 20, 2013 7:00AM EST
Last Updated Sunday, January 20, 2013 6:41PM EST
We all know that ground-up coffee beans make for a tasty drink with lots of health benefits, but it turns out that ground-up coffee leaves might be even better.
Researchers from England and France have discovered that a tea made from coffee leaves packs even more antioxidants and healthful compounds than either regular tea or coffee.
Registered dietician Leslie Beck, who was not involved in the research, says while coffee-leaf tea has been popular in Indonesia and Ethiopia, no one until now has really assessed its health benefits.
“The surprise finding was that the leaves had such a high concentration of antioxidants – higher than regular tea or coffee, which are well-known for their antioxidant content,” she told CTV News Channel earlier this week.
The researchers from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London, and the Institute for Research and Development in Montpellier, France found that coffee leaves also contained a natural chemical found in mangoes called mangiferin.
Mangiferin has been shown to fight inflammation, reduce cholesterol and even keep blood sugar levels stable.
Interestingly, mangiferin appears to be found only in the leaves of the coffee plant-- not the beans.
The results of their analysis are published in the Annals of Botany.
Beck says it’s important to remember that just because the leaves contain these healthful compounds doesn’t mean that drinking the tea on a regular basis would offer any protection from things like diabetes or heart disease.“That research on that still has to be done,” she says.
So why hasn’t coffee-leaf tea ever caught on in popularity? Well, it doesn’t seem to be for lack of trying.
The Royal Botanic Gardens says that in the 19th century, there was an attempt to make coffee-leaf tea as popular as black tea in the U.K. and Australia. It was even displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851. But somehow the drink made from the ground pits of coffee cherries – what we call coffee – is what people wanted.
Beck says from what she’s heard, coffee-leaf tea tastes pretty much like tea.
“I’ve not tastedit, but I’ve heard it has a fresh earthy flavour, much like green tea but not as bitter. It doesn’t taste like coffee at all. And what else is interesting is that it has much less caffeine than regular tea or coffee,” she says.
But if you live in Canada and want to try coffee-leaf tea, you’re probably out of luck. It’s not readily available here, though there are likely websites that offer it.
“In the meantime, coffee and tea have been shown to have lots of health benefits in human studies,” Beck says.
But in order to reap the health benefits, Beck advises keeping the drink low in calories: “Just add a splash of milk and skip the sugar and the cream and all those rich lattes. Keep it simple.”