Caffeine-free, off the bush

| 8/3/2004

Want the java without the jolt? Most of the time, that means a cup of decaf down at the truck stop, even though it just doesn’t have the flavor of the real stuff.

But there is hope – according to the scientific journal Nature, Brazilian researchers have discovered a variety of coffee that comes decaffeinated right off the bush.

“We have discovered a naturally decaffeinated coffee arabica plant from Ethiopia, a species normally recognized for the high quality of its beans,” the researchers wrote in Nature. “It should be possible to transfer this trait to commercial varieties of arabica coffee plants.”

Arabica beans are a higher quality coffee frequently found in high-price coffeehouses such as Starbucks. Though they are now grown in many parts of the world, arabica beans originated in Ethiopia, just as the newly discovered variety does.

Although many people drink expensive beverages made from arabica beans for the caffeine, they actually have less of the wake-up stuff than cheaper robusta beans, which are considered far less flavorful but are much cheaper to grow.

Don’t look for naturally caffeine-free coffee on the shelves anytime soon, though. According to WebIndia, the breeding process to create commercially viable varieties of the decaf plants could take 10 years.