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Coffee and Tea Reports from the Front Lines

Naturally Decaf Coffee Plant Discovered,
Stirs Controversy

Brazil - A naturally decaffeinated coffee plant has been discovered. Coffee from the new strains could taste better than existing decaf brews, which can lose flavor compounds when caffeine is extracted with solvents, reports NewScientist.com. The discovery has caused controversy between Brazil, where the strains were discovered, and Ethiopia, where the trees were originally from.

“This is the first report of a decaffeinated variety of Coffea arabica,” says Paulo Mazzafera, head of the team at the University of Campinas, Brazil, which isolated the strains. The coffee plants discovered have a caffeine level of only 0.07%. Normal varieties of commercially cultivated Arabica coffees possess levels of 2% caffeine. Mazzafera announced his discovery in the prestigious science journal Nature last month.

“This should be a step forward in terms of getting high quality decaffeinated coffee,” says Pablo Dubois, head of operations at the International Coffee Organization, in London, UK, not least because extraction of caffeine with solvents would no longer be necessary. “There’s always a risk of losing flavor compounds, although there are examples of very good flavor in today’s decaffeinated products.”

Mazzafera and his colleagues discovered three naturally decaffeinated varieties after screening 3,000 Ethiopian coffee trees, representing 300 strains. Experiments on the plants demonstrated that they lacked caffeine synthase, the enzyme in leaves that converts a compound called theobromine into caffeine.

But in an industry which the International Coffee Organization, ICO, estimated in 2002 generated some $70 billion in global retail sales, the stakes are high as Ethiopia challenges Brazil over the ownership of plants collected from the East African country's forests, reports Reuters.

International conventions regulating the ownership of indigenous plants seem to favor Ethiopia, one expert said, but the caffeine-light plants appear to have been collected well before the rules came into effect.

"The convention is not retroactive, so the Brazilians may not be bound by it," the legal source said.

Women Growers Top Cup of Excellence Auction

El Salvador - The Arabica coffee grown by Lya de Castaneda, Alicia Cristina Alabi De Schuck, and Maria Antonieta Dominguez De Arnesen captured three of the top four price-paid-per-pound spots in the 2004 Cup of Excellence Internet Auction in El Salvador, its second annual countrywide coffee quality competition, held in San Salvador.

Ms. de Castandea’s coffee was the day’s top price/pound winner, earning $6.89/pound for 20 bags of green beans (at 69 kilograms each) for a total of $20,670 from bidder Taylor of Harrogate. De Schuck’s coffee captured second place, earning $6.70/pound for 22 bags and a total of $22,110 from buyer Stumptown. And De Arnesen’s coffee was 4th place, earning $4.80/pound for 15 bags and a total of $10,800 from buyer Times Club Inc.

The green beans grown by 35 Salvadoran coffee growers, all chosen on May 14 as winners of the 2004 Cup of Excellence, were offered for sale to 83 registered international buyers. During the four-hour auction, buyers purchased all 880 bags of coffee offered, spending a total of $291,277. The average price paid was $2.44/pound, or almost three times more than the recent average New York market price of Arabica beans. (For a complete list of coffee growers, buyers, and prices paid, visit: http://www.cupofexcellence.org/haauctions.aspx.)

For El Salvador’s 2004 Cup event, a total of 403 Arabica samples were submitted by coffee growers from around the country. Later, a 20-member international jury cupped the 153 semi-finalists and on May 14 selected 35 winning coffees to receive the “Cup of Excellence” award and be offered for sale to international roasters during today’s Internet Auction.

The Cup of Excellence is a nationwide tasting event created by the Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE) to identify, promote and earn better prices for quality coffee. The 2004 El Salvador Cup was organized by TechnoServe, Chemonics, Consejo Salvadoreño del Café, the Cooperative League of the United States (CLUSA), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

White Tea Beats Green Tea in Fighting Germs

United States - New studies conducted at Pace University have indicated that White Tea Extract (WTE) may have Prophylactic applications in retarding growth of bacteria that cause Staphylococcus infections, Streptococcus infections, pneumonia and dental caries, states the Science Daily Researchers presented their findings to the 104th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

“Past studies have shown that green tea stimulates the immune system to fight disease,” says Milton Schiffenbauer, Ph.D., a microbiologist and professor in the Department of Biology at Pace University’s Dyson College of Arts & Sciences and primary author of the research. “Our research shows White Tea Extract can actually destroy in vitro the organisms that cause disease. Study after study, white tea extract proves that is have many healing properties. This is not an old wives’ tale, it’s a fact.”

White tea was more effective than greeen tea at inactivating bacterial viruses. Results obtained with the bacterial virus, a model system; suggest that WTE may have anti-viral effect on human pathenogenic viruses. The addition of White Tea Extract to various toothpastes enhanced the anti-microbial effect of these oral agents.

Studies have also indicated that WTE has an anti-fungal effect on Penicillium chrysogenum and Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast cells were totally inactivated. It is suggested that WTE may have an anti-fungal effect on pathenogenic fungi.

Several findings in the new study are of particular interest. The anti-viral and anti-bacterial effect of white tea (Stash and Templar brands) is greater than that of green tea.

The anti-viral and anti-bacterial effect of several toothpastes were enhanced by the addition of white tea extract.

White tea extract exhibited an anti-fungal effect on both Penicillium chrysogenum and Saccaromyces cerevisae.

White tea extract may have application in the inactivation of pathenogenic human microbes, i.e. bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Duty Slash to Help Indian Tea Industry

India - Pakistan has reduced duty and sales tax on imported tea, much to the excitement of the Indian industry hoping to export 25 million kgs to its neighbor, states the Calcutta Telegraph.

Pakistan has reduced the import duty on tea from 20% to 10%, sales tax from 18% to 15% and the income tax levied on imported tea from 6% to 2%. Therefore, the total duty and tax incidence has come down to 28% from 52%.

The Indian tea industry has welcomed the move by Pakistan. Gautam Bhalla of Warren Tea said, “We got the news from Pakistan Tea Association secretary K. N. Farooqi. Importers can now pay better prices for Indian tea. Moreover, it will help to reduce smuggling of tea to Pakistan.”

Pakistan consumes 150-155 million kgs of CTC tea annually. The country’s official imports stood at 118 million kgs last year. Around 35-40 million kgs was smuggled through Dubai.

Indian tea industry officials feel that following this move, smuggled tea to Pakistan will not remain attractive.

Price had been a major factor for Pakistan not buying Indian tea. Pakistan pays Rs 75 per kg for CTC tea produced in Kenya, which constitutes 75% of Pakistan’s imports. But the same quality of Indian tea would cost Rs 85 per kg. Since the Assam CTC matches Kenyan tea, Pakistan was not ready to pay more for the Indian variety.

“Pakistan being our neighbor, we would like to increase our exports to that country quite substantially,” said tea industry officials.

In July 2003, the Indian tea industry had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Pakistan Tea Association for exporting 10 million kgs in a year. In the first nine months, India has been able to export 7 million kgs of tea.

Tea & Coffee - July/August, 2004

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