Monday, June 25, 2012

Coffee Leaves vs Tea Leaves.

I have a new-old beverage to remind you about today. A beverage made from an infusion of roasted coffee leaves. We have considered it before, in a previous blog post (here), but I have a little more to add to the story. 

There may be some of you who have tried to grow your own coffee, but are in the wrong climate, or have poor gardening skills, and cannot get your trees to fruit well enough - this story is especially for you.

The source for the previous blog post on ‘coffee leaf tea’ was dated 1854. It appears that the concept was still a novelty a decade and a half later. A new monthly publication appeared in London in 1871, with the aim “to treat of food in every possible aspect and variety, and particularly in its national bearings …”. It was called, simply, The Food Journal.  The following extract is taken from an article entitled Coffee Leaves vs Tea Leaves, in Volume 1.

“Of the hot drinks that form the daily refreshment of the human race, infusions of leaves stand pre-eminent, and especially those derived from one or other of the various tea plants, which are consumed by more people than all the others united. … Somewhat akin to tea is mate, the leaves of the Ilex Paraguayensis, or Brazilian holly. Although not consumed over such a wide area as tea proper, it is as much the universal beverage of the southern American republics as China and Assam tea are of Europe and Asia…
It must be evident even to the most desultory reader that any new product capable of use as tea or maté, and containing a fair proportion of the same chemical constituent which distinguishes them [theine and caffeine], is entitled to a niche in popular favour. Such position we claim for prepared coffee leaves. So far back as the year 1845, Professor Blume, of Leyden, who had spent much time in Java, pointed out that an infusion of roasted coffee leaves had from time immemorial been a favourite beverage amongst the natives of the Eastern archipelago. In Sumatra, especially, it formed the only drink of the entire population. Mr Ward, resident many years at Pedang, in Sumatra, thus wrote to the Pharmaceutical Journal (vol. xiii, page 208): “As a beverage, the natives universally prefer the leaf to the berry, giving as a reason that it contains more of the bitter principle [theine or caffeine], and is more nutritious.” This is borne out by analysis, it being found that roasted coffee leaves contain about 1.25 per cent of theine or caffeine (the same amount present in mate), prepared coffee beans only yielding from 0.117 to 1.08 per cent. The same author continues: “In the low lands, coffee is not planted for the berry, not being sufficiently productive; but for the leaf, people plant it round their houses for their own use. It is an undoubted fact that everywhere they prefer the leaf to the berry. While culture of the coffee plant for its fruit is limited to particular soils and more elevated climates, it may be grown for the leaf wherever, within the tropics, the soil is sufficiently fertile.”
If you have tried this beverage, do let us know. Is it prepared and sold commercially anywhere? If not, why not? As the above writer indicated, there is always room for another leaf beverage.

As the Recipe for the Day, I give you a nice coffee cake from the 1870’s.

Coffee Cake.
The ingredients are: one cupful of coffee (left cold from breakfast), one cupful of butter, one cupful and a half of sugar, one cupful of molasses, five cupfuls of flour, one teaspoonful of soda, some raisins, and whatever spices you prefer.
Arthur’s Illustrated Home Magazine (Philadelphia, 1870)

Quotation for the Day.

Resolve to free yourselves from the slavery of the tea and coffee and other slop-kettles.
William Cobbett, 1829, Advice to Young Men.


W. Jacobson said...

Closer to home - Brisbane Courier, 14 Apr 1877.

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks, W! It is all grist to the mill!