“Coffee or tea?” is a question you might not have to answer anymore.
Tea made with the leaves of the Arabica coffee plant results in a brew that is higher in antioxidants than green tea, and a pair of Vancouver-based entrepreneurs are looking to bring the crop to the world’s attention.
“Max Rivest and I were doing our masters of business in France when we found a study praising the health benefits of coffee leaf tea,” explains Arnaud Petitvallet, co-founder of Wize Monkey.
“We couldn’t understand why no one had had the idea of using this leaf before.”
The 2013 study, published in the scientific journal Annals of Botany, found that leaves from the Coffea plant (whose seeds are picked and roasted to become coffee beans) could provide a new, healthy drink to rival your daily hot beverage.
“What was surprising was how many antioxidants are in the coffee leaves. They are much higher in count than those in green tea and black tea,” says study leader Aaron Davies, botanist at Kew Gardens, London.
In the leaves of Arabica coffee plants, scientists found very high levels of mangiferin, a chemical that was first extracted from mangos and has “lots of healthy properties attached to it,” Davies adds.
In the 1800s, there were attempts to introduce coffee leaf tea, a popular drink in African countries including Ethiopia and South Sudan. But it’s the bean of the plant that got all the attention and popularity, triggering a “caffeine frenzy,” say the Wize Monkey founders.
When they started working on the project, Rivest, who had just returned from a visit to coffee farms in Nicaragua, realized that as well as the established health benefits, there were also potential socio-economical gains in a country where 45,000 families depend on the coffee industry.
In August 2013, the two young entrepreneurs went to Nicaragua to find their own coffee leaf provider. After an episode that involved Rivest being bitten by a dog and the lucky find of an English-speaking Good Samaritan, they were introduced to Armando, a Nicaraguan farmer who is now a part of the project – and has a tea blend named after him.
To date, Wize Monkey has just one product for sale, but with the help of Kickstarter, the duo are hoping to diversify.
With coffee on the endangered food list due to climate change, this leaf could soon offer a readily available healthy alternative to your morning caffeine fix.
How to prepare a good cup of coffee leaf tea
Rivest and Petitvallet explain to Metro how to prepare the best cup of the calorie-free beverage: “Just like your cup of tea, the water needs to be at 200°F, so not exactly boiling. Use approximately 2 grams of leaves and let infuse for 3 to 4 minutes. As coffee leaf tea tastes like black tea without the usual tannins that cause bitterness, we suggest you don’t add any milk or sugar to but enjoy it just plain.”