Saturday, November 10, 2007

Coffee Tea For Me?

How many times have you walked into a Starbucks or other coffee shop and seen posters of a coffee plant? I know I've seen it before. Those pictures of dark green glossy leaves and rich red berries that leave you wondering why you never actually see these parts of the plant? Well, I recently received some samples from Astral-Natural that shed some light on this.

The package I received contained a number of samples of a product called "CoffeeTea," and a nice ceramic mug emblazoned with the product's logo. As you might have guessed from the name, CoffeeTea is an herbal tisane made from the leaves of the Coffea Arabica plant. The idea seemed interesting to me, and seemed like the sort of thing I should support. It's essentially a way to cut down on waste by using more parts of a plant than would traditionally be used. This seems like a good plan, and triggers my underlying "liberal green-o-meter."

As an enjoyer of both coffee and tea, this idea also seemed an interesting way to bring those two worlds closer together, and to some extent it does. The research offered on their website is interesting, and seems to suggest that the health benefits of coffee leaf are at least as high as those of green tea, as well as having less caffeine. This I was dubious of. Being a skeptic, I generally try to avoid studies that are posted on a product's website, as such studies are certain to have bias and probably false context. The website also claims that CoffeeTea is not an acquired taste, and that people prefer it to green tea from the first cup. This I was also dubious of.

Upon doing some research of my own, I found that pure coffee leaf does indeed have a comparable ORAC (antioxidant) score to that of green tea, however has a much lower ORAC than white tea. Additionally, the antioxidant compounds found within coffee leaf are different than those found in green tea, so although it may be the case that comparable amounts of antioxidants are found (which is how the ORAC is calculated), it's not the case that they are antioxidant equivalents, as specific antioxidants behave differently than other antioxidants, and can achieve specific tasks. One example of this is EGCG, a green tea antioxidant, that has very specific functions towards heart function and neurotransmitter creation.

Regarding the claims that Astral-Natural makes about the taste preference of CoffeeTea, I would say that their test was taken in a bad way. The way their study worked was to have average people off the street sip each beverage (green tea and coffee leaf tea), and recorded their responses. They received a result such that 75% preferred coffee leaf over green tea. It occurs to me, however, that this shouldn't be the only factor. CoffeeTea and green tea are each consumed for different reasons, and taste differently. Green tea might taste better in one situation, and CoffeeTea in another type of situation. Additionally, there are many types of green tea, each of which taste different. Cultural variation might also come into play. I would love to see this test repeated in a larger number of locations (even international), with the assurance that it would be a blind test.

Now, with all this being said, I must say that I give this company an A for uniqueness. This is a product I had simply not seen or heard about before, but it does indeed seem intriguing. Their packaging is attractive and well done (despite the fact that it only comes in bagged form), and their website, aside from the research aspects which I have mentioned (which they are not alone in - most companies seem to do this in one way or another), is very well-designed and easy to

Now, you might be asking "Now, that's all well and good Relz, but how does it taste?!" Very pleasant. This beverage has a similar flavor to "drugstore green teas," meaning the sort of bagged teas you can buy at your neighborhood grocer (lipton, bigelow, etc.) I can see why some sorts of people would prefer it over green tea. It has a nice and mellow flavor with no astringent or bitterness. It has a nice cup color with no cloudiness, and it tastes good both iced and hot. I, however, am not one of those that prefer it over green tea, for several reasons, the primary being that it lacks variation. There are dozens of types of green tea, which each have distinct characteristics. CoffeeTea, however, lacks that diversity, which is not their fault, but which is a good reason why CoffeeTea will not be uprooting green tea from it's comfortable market position.

CoffeeTea is a delightful and unique beverage, and I very much like the flavor. It is very relaxing and very mellow, and I will probably drink it from time to time as I do other herbal tisanes. To suggest that it will be replacing the whole of green tea, however, is an unjustifiable comment.

The bottom line: CoffeeTea is delicious, and makes a great herbal tisane. It's a unique and very ecologically friendly product that encourages us to make more use of what we grow. It's more sustainable than other types of beverages, and it is packed very nicely. However, it won't be replacing green tea any time soon.

I would, however, encourage you to give it a try and see what you think - you might be surprised at just how good brewed coffee leaf can be.

If I could make suggestions to Astral-Natural for this products improvement, I would suggest that they use a larger and higher quality teabag. I would also suggest that they make the product available in loose-leaf format, and would further suggest that they adopt into their product line coffee leaf grown at different elevations, in different regions, etc, to give it more of the variability and versatility that green tea has. I'd also love to see a fair-trade certification displayed on the packaging somewhere.

Thanks, Astral-Natural, for allowing me to review your product, and thanks, readers, for reading my review!

Over and out,
Relznuk Zero Relznuk


Sie Whange said...

Its rarely a nice blog.I like this tea. I received a package of tea contained a number of samples of a product called "CoffeeTea," and a nice ceramic mug emblazoned with the product's logo.

Stephen said...

Interesting article, I'd heard of using coffee flowers to flvour rea but never thought of drinking the leaves.