Herbal infusion, fruit tea, rooibos tea notwithstanding, most of our favourite cup of tea comes from Camellia sinensis varieties, be it black, green, oolong, puh er or white tea. But around 1870’s there were a couple of small articles published about delicious, thirst-quenching, stamina enhancing and immune boosting roasted coffee-leaf tea prepared by the people of Eastern Archipelago (Indonesia). The people in Latin America who apparently drank the very same tea, claimed unlike normal tea, this concoction exuded no jitters. These small articles appeared first in Chamber’s Journal, Queenslander weekly newspaper, and Society of Art Journal before they were mentioned in New York Times (September 14, 1873) and The British Medical Journal (November 25, 1876) respectively. More than a century has passed, why this health harmonizing tea isn’t a common beverage among all of us?
There seems to be more current studies on various species of coffee leaves done by researchers and scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London and the Institute for Research and Development in Montpellier, France. Both discovered the same constituent – mangiferin, a very potent antioxidant that is also exist in mangoes, rhizomes of winter-blooming Algerian Iris (Iris unguicularis) and the rare anemarrhena (Anemarrhena asphodeloides). So far tests have shown Coffea Arabica leaves possess the most abundant amount of mangiferin as compared to other coffee species, or even when compared to normal tea or coffee beverages. Apart from mangiferin, the foliage is also teems with other beneficial antioxidants.
Studies on mangiferin, the bioactive xanthonoid from other sources like mango has displayed anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral and antibacterial effects. It has proven to stabilized blood sugar level, therefore reduces the risk of diabetes. Apart from that, it might even cut the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and dementia as it protects neurons in the brain. Other health benefit includes cholesterol lowering and anti-cancer effects. As for other antioxidants, they have shown potential to fight against heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.
Despite originating from the same tree that produce natural caffeinated beverage, the coffee leaves contained only small of the stimulant, proving the claims made by the Latin American people back in the late 19th century. Yet, scientists discovered the brew can induce instant satiety and clarity and well as rejuvenate the body, acting some sort of energy elixir to the people whose life depended on hard, physical labor.
As to why this apparently holistic coffee-leaf tea is not an international hit despite evidence of attempt to popularize it in United Kingdom and Australia, there were a number of factors; the switch from coffee arabica to coffea canephora (robusta) due coffee leaf rust in South-east Asian coffee plantations in the late 19th century. The natives obviously just did not prepare the drink using robusta leaves. Then, there was a big probability the people in United Kingdom and Australia dislike the very first taste of the coffee-leaf tea they encountered. Though there were different ways to prepare the brew, thus giving off variety of tastes, the first impression had set, and the tea failed to garner any follower in the western world.
Hopefully, with new studies on its health benefits, this tea will gain popularity and give us all the chance to try and reap the benefit too.
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The British Medical Journal, access December 20, 2013
The New York Times Archive, access December 20, 2013
CTV News, access December 20, 2013
The Telegraph, access December 20, 2013
news.com.au, access December 20, 2013