Coffee has been a part of my life for longer than I care to admit, and a part of my career since 1999. I have fed, clothed, and housed my children through coffee. It is fair to say that I have an emotional attachment to the bean, as well as a practical one. Like many, it is the start of my day, which is filled to the brim (pardon the obvious pun) with life.
I am a career woman, a wife and a mom with four kids, a pack of dogs, and a flock of hand-raised, backyard chickens. My husband and I cultivate a healthy vegetable garden, grow and blend our own herbal teas and hardscape our own yard. You will often find me shedding my heels for my rubber work boots the minute my feet hit the driveway coming home.
The concept of waste holds no charm for me. The idea of using/reusing as much of an item as possible, not only is appealing and speaks to the naturalist in me, but has become a philosophy of responsibility that I try and live by.
That is why I am fascinated by the developing “other coffee” industry that has emerged in recent years. Throughout the food industry, holistic health care products and cosmetics, we see various parts of the coffee cherry being reused for purposes other than my morning ‘nectar of the gods.’
The health benefits of brewed coffee have been debated endlessly, with studies and research both for and against the benefits of coffee. Coffee is, in truth, one of the widest used, naturally grown medicinal plants. Beyond the simulant benefits of brewed coffee, it also known to aid in digestion, increase reflex speed and mental activity.
However great the health benefit of brewed coffee, it is overshadowed by the benefits from the coffee fruit or cherry surrounding the bean. The cherry or fruit on the coffee tree is high in antioxidants, one of the highest on the ORAC rating, in fact. Long term consumption of phenolic acid and plant polyphenols found in the coffee cherry can become a potential power pack that helps with skin regeneration, aids against diabetes, osteoporosis and can even protect against the development of some cancers1. In short, we are speaking about the next super food.
With the emerging new industry of using coffee by-products, it could offer another conceivable and much needed source of income for farmers and their families. There is a potential for selling the cherry for use in herbal supplements, cosmetics, teas, and for use in food and beverage ingredients. This would widen the market and expand sales using already existing supply chains, virtually eliminating any waste.
In fact, most of the companies researched had a focus on helping to broaden the economic opportunity for coffee growers, eliminating build-up of waste going into the soil and streams, and expanding a sustainable supply chain.
Foods of the Fruit
I am a couch chef. Think Monday morning quarterback, only with food. I love watching cooking shows and certainly love eating, but I am more skilled with a shovel and rock bar than I am with a spatula. Regardless, I gobble up recipes and new food ideas thinking that someday, I am going to really learn to cook. When I learned that people were creating food from coffee, for me, it was like the Seattle Seahawks going to the Super Bowl…twice.
A Bouquet of Flours
Life turns in interesting circles sometimes; coffee trees flower, flowers become cherries, and now cherries are becoming flour. Coffee flour is made from the pulp of coffee cherries ground into a flour that is high-fiber, gluten free, with a bittersweet taste. Coffee flour is not meant to be a stand-alone flour, but rather to be blended with other flours to add an elemental richness that enhances food.
High in protein, fiber, iron and potassium, it can be used in any recipe that would call for standard flour or gluten free flour. Even fake foodies like myself are eager to blend, bake, and savor. It will soon be possible thanks to companies like CoffeeFlour®, which hopes to launch the product commercially late in 2015.
Engineer, factory designer, and ex-Starbucks entrepreneur, Dan Belliveau, started CF Global with some commercial leverage help from Intellectual Ventures, ECOM Agroindustrial Corp, and Mercon Coffee Corp. In 2014, The Guardian named CoffeeFlour® top Sustainable Business Story of 20142.
Coffee flour can be used to bake cookies, brownies, most any sweet treat, but will also pair well with red wine creating a new flavor in a red wine reduction sauce for beef.
“Waiter, there is something in my food.”
While coffee flour is not yet available, other companies have certainly discovered the benefits of using the coffee berry fruit in their products to boost the nutritional value and get complexity in their flavor profiles.
Earnest eats™, a company based in Solana Beach, California, specializes in healthy, hearty foods that use whole grains, nuts, seeds, and fruits. Blended together in various ways creating different granola, bars, and oatmeal. Their newest line uses coffee fruit to give the wholesome oats a little extra kick of goodness. Using coffee flour, (dried coffee fruit pulp)3 adds between 15–40 mg of caffeine per serving, giving a little extra something in each bite.
Another feel good food using coffee fruit is Yebo Bars, formerly Cherry Hero. Yebo feel good for good™, tells the story of Ethiopian warriors creating the first energy bar by crushing the fruit and wrapping it in other foods. As an avid traveler for work, I am all about “good food on the go” and bars are easily portable. I want a power-packed energy bar without loads of junk. Yebo Bars is a small start-up company that began in 2012, with a good heart and “works to empower coffee farmers while providing scalable and sustainable nutrition.”4
In addition to good food, David Boyle, owner of Yebo Bars, donates 5% of every bar sold to help fund food security projects for coffee farming families. Now that is feel-good food.
All This Food Has Made Me Thirsty
Food is not the only consumable by-product of coffee cherries. Coffee berry tea is an herbal tea made from the dried, sometimes coarsely ground coffee cherries. Coffee fruit tea, also known as, cascara, tastes nothing like brewed coffee. It has all the pleasantness of a light berry infused tea, and is full of antioxidants. In a tea infusion form, it reportedly works similar to a detox.
If you’re not in the mood for a hot tea, then you can try Kona Red®, a power-packed energy drink created by Greenwell Farms, using the coffee cherries from their farm. Prior to developing the energy drink, Greenwell Farms would use the cherries as a compost for their coffee trees, recycling the “waste” into a wonderful compost. The Kona Red® brand has now developed into a full line of energy drinks, packets, and powders for people on the go.
Using the “unused” portion of coffee cherries seems like a “win” for all parties, but concerned response to a 2014 article in The Guardian raised questions. There are many farmers who use the discarded fruit as a nutrient rich compost, helping to maintain the balance of the soil and in turn, creating a better bean. Monika Firl, of Coöperative Coffees is quoted saying, “If well managed, there is no waste in the coffee fields.
It can all be recycled into very useful composted fertilizers, which the fields need to maintain production levels.”5
The concept of using the whole of the crop and generating additional review to help off-set the lean months between harvests is critical to maintaining a healthy sustainable community. Diversification of the crops, however it comes about, is key in bringing in more revenue. But similarly with the coffee bean, keeping the money local, the farms healthy, and the supply chain transparent, will be key factors in measuring the impact of this emerging new coffee industry. Success that is shared from farm to flour.
By Kelle Vandenberg, Free-lance Writer and VP of Marketing for
Pacific Bag, Inc.
To reach Kelle: firstname.lastname@example.org