The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has approved the sale of coffee leaf tea in the 27-country European Union.
The decision to recognize coffee leaf tea as a traditional food product comes centuries after Ethiopians and Malaysians began drinking the lightly caffeinated beverage and years after North American-based Wize Monkey began marketing the tea for its health benefits.
“Approval has been a bit of a sticking point, we didn’t think it would take that much time but now that has opened up it will present business opportunities,” said Wize Monkey co-founder Max Rivest.
His company is pursuing deals with several European distributors, according to Rivest. “Consumers in the UK and France, some in Germany and Scandinavia and a few in Spain and Portugal,” have shown interest.
They are attracted to a delicious tasting tea, that is lightly caffeinated, healthy and does not get bitter during steeping, he said. European buyers prefer to deal with companies that have embraced transparent sourcing and help people at the production level.
“Ultimately taste is what sells the product,” he said. There are now several coffee leaf manufacturers in Southeast Asia and a couple in Australia. He predicted there will be more in Europe now that the product has cleared regulatory review.
The approval, at the request of Danish firm AM Breweries, states, “The available data on composition and history of use of the TF (traditional food from a third country) do not raise safety concerns.”
Copenhagen-based AM Breweries, which markets its tea as Twisted Leaf, submitted the infusion for analysis in 2018. The EFSA’s 15-page report places few restrictions on the tea. Intake is suggested at below one liter per day with maximum consumption of five liters. “No specific warnings are proposed by the applicant as it is unlikely that a person would drink more than 5 liters of herbal infusion,” according to the analysis. However, AM Breweries set a maximum limit of 100 mg/l for chlorogenic acid, an antioxidant with metabolism-boosting effects.
The drink was first mentioned in Western literature in 1872 by coffee expert JR Hewitt who described sun-dried coffee leaves in Indonesia, Jamaica, India, Java, Sumatra, and South Sudan. Today an estimated five million people consume coffee leaf tea globally. In Ethiopia, where the beverage is thought to have originated, consumption is 4-6 cups per day. The tea is prepared with approximately 20 grams of leaves per liter of water.
Twisted leaf markets bubbly coffee leaf beverage blends sourced in Kenya and packed with antioxidants.
“Together with organic alcohol (4.4% ABV) and organic ingredients such as fresh lime and ripe raspberries, we developed the beverages without compromising on the gentle, undefined and unique taste of coffee leaves,” states the company’s website.
Vancouver-based Wize Monkey launched the segment in 2015 and was awarded Product of the Year at the 2017 Specialty Food Expo. Co-founders Max Rivest and Arnaud Petitvallet based the blends on a 2013 graduate school project. Leaves are sourced in Nicaragua as original and blended to create 10 flavors. The tea is sold in tins, pouches and sustainable single serve wraps at 300 stores including Whole Foods Markets in 40 countries.