Tea and coffee are two of the most consumed beverages in the world. Many people feel they need to declare themselves in one camp or the other. What if you could have the best of both worlds? Coffee leaf tea is an herbal tisane created from the leaves of Coffea Robusta or Coffea Arabica.
That’s right, tea made from the very same plant that produces beans used for ground coffee, espressos and lattes. This tasty infusion has been consumed in Ethiopia for over 200 years. Sumatrans also drink coffee leaf tea rather than roasting beans because they believe it to be more nutritious.
Processed coffee leaf tea closely resembles yerba mate and brews up an attractive amber color. The good news is that it doesn’t taste like coffee at all. I found the taste to be herbaceous and earthy with sweeter grassy notes in the background. You are likely to enjoy drinking coffee leaf tea if you are a fan of green tea or herbal teas like tulsi. While it can have a slightly bitter tinge, I believe this could change as processing techniques are improved.
Sweeteners such as a honey or agave would work just fine but I don’t recommend using milk or creamer. Coffee leaf tea isn’t full bodied enough to support them. There is some caffeine content but only around 12g. That is about as much as decaffeinated coffee. Most tea drinkers will only mildly feel the effects at those levels. It may not be a good nighttime alternative for those who suffer from sensitivities to the stimulant however.
Some studies have shown coffee leaf tea may have an even higher concentration of antioxidants and other healthy components than some true teas (those made from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis). Antioxidants are polyphenols which have the potential to aid the body with removing free radicals. The Arabica variety of the coffee plant appears to have more of these substances than the Robusta. Coffee leaf tea is also rich in calcium and other vitamins.
British and French scientists have discovered that coffee leaf tea contains mangiferin, a natural substance normally found in mangoes. It has been shown to fight inflammation, reduce cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels. Studies using diabetic rats have shown some promising results but more research is needed. Just as is the case with most tea, coffee leaf tea should not be relied on solely as a nutrient source but it makes a great addition to a healthy lifestyle.
I spoke with Max Rivest, CEO of Wize Monkey, to find out more. His company is working to promote coffee leaf tea in an effort to help the coffee producers of Nicaragua. I was very surprised to hear that coffee beans are only harvested three months out of the year.
Compounded with an extremely volatile world market, coffee growing regions suffer from high unemployment and a large portion of their populations live below the poverty line. Banks have even gone bankrupt when the value of coffee fluctuates.
If the popularity of coffee leaf tea continues to rise, it would provide a meaningful source of income for these farmers. They would be able to harvest leaves year round rather than turning to other crops and industries. Seasonal workers would no longer need to migrate, helping to stabilize the local economy.
An added bonus is that coffee leaf tea would require organic farming methods. This agricultural shift would benefit the farmers and their workers as well as the surrounding environment. I believe that we will be hearing more about coffee leaf tea in the future.
In the meantime, try some!
Photos by wizemonkey.com.