Decaffeinated coffee has a bad rep. Part of coffee’s delight is the caffeine, a powerful drug that wakes us up in the morning and keeps us awake when working to deadlines and the to-do list is growing. The coffee plant is naturally caffeinated. Best guesses as to why plants have caffeine is to protect it from pests such as insects and fungi, but clearly not us humans.
The higher the altitude of the plants the less caffeine plants produce and this is where some of the best coffee in the world is grown. Plants grown at or higher than 1600 metres are often called natures decaffeinated. Robusta coffee is grown at a much lower altitude, has a high yield, and mostly goes into instant coffee but has the highest amount of caffeine of all coffee. Some coffee blends include Robusta for the very reason of upping the caffeine levels. However, if it was all about the caffeine then we wouldn’t be growing Arabica at all; caffeine has a very bitter taste. Good quality coffee is clearly about more than just the caffeine, it’s about the flavour. Decaffeinated coffee isn’t typically known for its flavour, however this has changed.
Unlike more commonly used methods of decaffeinating coffee, The Swiss Water Process by Ten Peaks Coffee doesn’t use chemicals such as methylene chloride or ethyl acetate to get the caffeine out of the beans. Instead it uses a process of washing and filtering to leave coffee beans 99.9% caffeine free. The lack of chemicals also means the taste isn’t altered radically. It does taste differently but not like chemicals or of anything you may have experienced years ago. The swiss water processed beans that we have tried have been only slightly mellower in taste than its caffeinated equivalent.
Reasons to drink decaf
Many of us have felt the effects of too much caffeine so we enforce rules on ourselves such as no caffeine after midday; pregnant women are advised to stay away from caffeine due to possible birth defects; and Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, and IBS sufferers find the toxic nature of caffeine hard to digest. Caffeine increases the heart rate which is great just before exercise and studies have shown coffee decreases the chance of developing heart disease, but will adversely affect those with existing heart conditions.
Addiction to caffeine is very real and headaches are a very common side effect if you haven’t had your fix. Insomnia affects a large part of the population at some time in their life, and since caffeine suppresses the breakdown of adrenaline, being stuck in the ‘fight or flight’ state will not help you to sleep.
Just like with caffeine, a lot of us want to cut down alcohol for health benefits; decaf in the evenings gives you your favourite morning drink but without the caffeine side-effects. Swapping a high calorie drink such as beer (180 calories) or wine (85 calories in red wine) for black coffee which has only 2 calories is also great for weight control along with no alcohol side effects but still allows you to have something more enjoyable and indulgent than sipping water all evening.
Very soon, having great decaf coffee in will just be like you would have caffeinated coffee on offer. Many companies are recognising that clients coming in to their office want a choice of beverage, and visiting friends and relatives (especially over the upcoming festive period), having a decaf coffee alternative impresses. You no longer have to say sheepishly ‘is instant OK?’.
So many great things are happening with coffee at the moment, including improvements in the quality of decaf after an increase in demand. It’s not the inferior ‘I’ll drink it because there is nothing else’ beverage any more.
There are a range of beans that work well with all brewing methods. A decaf espresso will open your eyes to a whole new world of coffee for any time of the day and we highly recommend it.