Coffee leaf tea purveyor Wize Monkey officially launched its new Coffee Leaf Powder in July. This Coffee Leaf Powder is one in a collection of innovative products from a company that sets an ethical example.
Arabica Coffee leaves have been prepared and consumed as a tea for hundreds of years in Ethopia, where it is called “Kuti” and in Indonesia where it is referred to as “Kawa Don.” Now, it is available for the modern consumer as a versatile powder.
“[Coffee Leaf Powder] is something that we’ve always wanted to do because it’s really convenient,” said Max Rivest, CEO of Wize Monkey. It tastes smooth, is neither grassy nor bitter, and adds a nice note to smoothies, baked goods and other culinary items, added Rivest. “You can add it to anything and it adds this really nice lightly sweet tea taste.”
Rivest and his co-founders decided to produce the Coffee Leaf Powder because customers had already been incorporating the company’s coffee leaf tea into cooking for several years, and a powder makes doing so easier.
When prepared with water as a tea, the flavor has been described as having an earthy base with subtle notes of roasted honey and chocolate and a touch of sweetness without any tannins. Coffee Leaf Tea powder contains 20 milligrams of caffeine per teaspoon and does not induce jitters.
It is healthy, too. Coffee leaves are packed with antioxidants such as the polyphenolic bioflavonoid rutin and rare polyphenols mangiferin and chlorogenic acid, all of which have anti-inflammatory properties. It is also rich in amino acids leucine and lysine.
At Wize Monkey’s Vancouver crafting center a Japanese matcha grinder grinds the coffee leaves into a fine powder. All blending, packaging and shipping direct to consumer is also done at the facility. Their Coffee Leaf Powder is currently sold exclusively on Wize Monkey’s website.
Wize Monkey prides itself on its vertical integration practices. All of the coffee leaves used are sourced from a farm in Matagalpa, Nicargua. Owner Enrique Ferrufino, who is the third generation to manage his family’s farm, became a co-founder of Wize Monkey in 2015 and has collaborated with Rivest and co-founder Arnaud Petitvallet to uphold sustainability standards and achieve innovation goals. The three work together as a team, each bringing their own strengths and knowledge to the business. “I think we’re probably the only coffee or tea company in the world where the farmer is actually a co-founder with an equal equity stake and who’s a director of the company and a major shareholder. It’s pretty rare,” Rivest said.
The co-founders ensure there is integrity in every step of production and that workers are treated well. “The ethics [at the farm] are beyond all standards that you can even pay for certification for,” Rivest said. Ferrufino built accommodation for his employees and meals are provided; there is a playground, a school, water fountains and social areas on the premises. The property runs on hydro-electric power. Ferrufino’s ethical practices and devoted long-term employees stand out in a region in which agriculture is largely commoditized and workers are usually transient. When consumers purchase Wize Monkey products, they are directly supporting sustainable and socially responsible production practices.
“The big thing for us is to change the industry for the better,” said Rivest. “We’re interested in doing good work and making a direct tangible difference.”
“We are experimenting with other ways of creating coffee leaf tea,” said Rivest. “There is such a huge spectrum.” He explained that coffee leaves can be processed in the same manner as Camellia sinensis, in that green, white, oolong and other processing methods can be employed. Wize Monkey currently uses a black tea style of processing for its base in their loose-leaf teas, tea bags and coffee leaf powder. They have experimented with creating Chinese smoked teas and Japanese style green teas and each had a different flavor profile. “[The Japanese green tea’s] flavor profile is totally different. It’s super nice, exquisite and refined and very smooth—so there is a whole lot to discover,” said Rivest.
Wize Monkey will be at the at the Northwest Tea Festival in Seattle Sept. 28-29 and at the Los Angeles Coffee Festival Nov. 8-10 where attendees will be able to sample the Coffee Leaf Powder and other Wize Monkey products.