Coffea charrieriana, one of 2008’s “most interesting new species discovered by scientists”, is the first known coffee plant that contains no caffeine. It was discovered in Cameroon, where an extremely wide variety of coffee plants exist.
Under the common name Charrier coffee, the plant was named after a scientist who managed coffee breeding research in central Africa’s diverse jungles for 30 years. Scientists posit that the new species could be used for breeding naturally caffeine-free coffees.
There is potential for this plant to replace the methylene chloride chemical extraction process used in most coffee production to remove caffeine (methylene chloride is a potential carcinogen and pollutant). How big is the market for decaf coffee?
Author and coffee broker Tim Castle says that demand for decaf coffee will continue to grow in the U.S. as the baby boomers still want to enjoy the taste of coffee but want to reduce their intake of caffeine.
Caffeine is usually chemically removed from beans during the green bean stage, so that the effect on flavor is minimized. It then must be washed several times to remove most of the methylene chloride chemical residue. An alternative used by some very sustainable coffee roasters is a Swiss Water decaf process, which is chemical free, but which requires excess usage of other coffee beans that end up as waste. Sometimes, roasters attempt to reinject ‘flavor’ into their beans after the decaffeination. The entire process is not very sustainable, no matter how you slice it.
Nature has provided. The potential to eliminate all that waste is inherent in Coffea charrieriana. So when will we see the product come to market?
Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and hopes that someday, the green economy will simply be referred to as…the economy.