According to the study published in the Nature journal a naturally growing caffeine-free coffee plant has been found in Ethiopia
The story started when scientists in Brazil found three arabica coffee plants that do not produce caffeine in their leaves or beans among a batch of 6,000 wild specimens originally collected in the late 1980s.
The scientists believe the wild plants could be cultivated to produce their own caffeine-free beans, or could be cross-bred with other varieties of arabica coffee to introduce the natural caffeine-free trait into commercial crops.
About 10 per cent of the coffee consumed in the world is processed to remove caffeine, a natural chemical linked with heart palpitations, raised blood pressure, anxiety, tremors, gastrointestinal upsets and insomnia. But the decaffeination process also removes organic compounds that can affect coffee's taste and aroma.
The wild plants that lack caffeine were found by a team led by Paulo Mazzafera, professor of plant physiology in Brazil, whose study is published in the journal Nature. "We have discovered a naturally decaffeinated Coffea arabica plant from Ethiopia, a species normally recognised for the high quality of its beans," he said.
It is not known why coffee plants normally produce caffeine, which is also produced in the leaves of unrelated plant species such as tea and cocoa.
"We can find it in more than 60 species of plants in nature. We don't know why it's there, it does not seem to be a simple waste product of plant metabolism, nor does it protect against insect pests," Professor Mazzafera said.
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