Not only is coffee leaf tea delicious and nutritious, but it also offers a more stable source of income for coffee growers in Latin America.
Two young entrepreneurs have come up with an idea that could revolutionize the coffee industry. Max Rivest and Arnaud Petitvallet were grad students in France when they realized there’s more to the coffee plant than just its wildly popular beans. The leaves can be turned into a delicious, clean-tasting tea that is low in caffeine (on par with decaf coffee) and surprisingly high in polyphenols and antioxidants – higher even than green tea. The two are so hopeful about their discoveries that they've launched a new company called Wize Monkey, based in Vancouver, Canada.
Coffee leaf tea offers a much-needed alternative production model for the coffee-producing countries of the world. Coffee is the second most traded global commodity next to crude oil, but it’s harvestable for only three months out of the year, usually December to March/early April. This creates tremendous economic instability in coffee-producing regions, where 90 percent of a farm’s employees are left without work for the remaining 9 months. Many migrate to the cities in search of employment, but this does not break the cycle of poverty.
Harvesting coffee leaves, by contrast, is an ongoing and permanent job that’s not limited to a specific season. It provides a secondary option for farmers who want a regular source of income that’s less volatile and susceptible to fluctuating global coffee prices. Armando Iglesias is a farmer from Nicaragua who has been producing coffee for 18 years. He has been working with Rivest and Petitvallet since 2013 to find the best way to make tea from coffee leaves and is a big supporter of the start-up. He says:
“We producers have had the same cultivation methods for hundreds of years. We were simply focused on the bean. Now we have an alternative from the same plant.”
Coffee leaf tea does require dedicated production, which means that a farmer cannot harvest leaves and beans from the same plant, but Wize Monkey’s founders believe that many farmers would be willing to make that switch, provided the market is there and they could make a higher profit.
It remains to be seen if tea and coffee drinkers are willing embrace the new beverage on the block but so far reviews are positive. “Refreshing,” “no aftertaste,” “pure,” and “not tannic” are some of the descriptors used by people who were given samples in Wize Monkey’s Kickstarter campaign video, now over. The tea's nutritional profile is impressive, with antioxidant content expressed below in ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) values:
Samples are currently available for purchase online, and the first major batch of loose-leaf tea will be shipped out this spring, once Armando has finished harvesting in March and the product has been shipped to Vancouver for milling and packaging. You can preorder on the Wize Monkey website.