Here's to coffee: Preventer of diabetes, protector of the heart, improver of memory and guardian of the liver.
Studies over the past few years have many consumers believing coffee can do just about anything, and this has been a boon for roasters who formulate and market their coffee selections toward these health-minded shoppers.
In 2005, Austin, Texas-based Caffe Sanora introduced beans specially processed to retain the maximum amount of antioxidants, credited with subduing free radicals and aiding oxygen flow to the brain and heart. Dubbed the “HealthyRoast Process,” beans are soaked before and after roasting — in keeping with the theory that heat can destroy antioxidants.
“Our goal is to offer the coffee lover a cup that tastes and smells just like gourmet specialty coffee, but provides antioxidant benefits similar to green tea,” said Loretta Zapp, CEO of Applied Food Sciences, the company that developed Caffe Sanora.
Another company entering this arena is Gano, which creates brews that are a mixture of gourmet beans and herbs. The company claims that its blends can, among other things, help you sleep, balance your weight and strengthen your immune system.
Health-formulated coffees such as those offered by Caffe Sanora and Gano are still on the periphery of the industry, according to Marcia Mogelonsky, a senior research analyst with Mintel, the Chicago-based trend-tracking firm. Although there has been a glut of media coverage, she believes that the science isn't yet solid enough for mainstream companies to buy in. Not only that, but consumers may still be confused by the sudden sunny outlook. After all, coffee was stigmatized for years for its supposed heart-straining caffeine content.
“These healthy coffee companies are getting in early, but it may be too early,” said Mogelonsky. “I don't think a lot of people believe this yet. It's like all of a sudden saying scotch is good for you.”
Nevertheless, whole-health adherents are always on the lookout for products that contribute to their well-being, and those who are coffee drinkers might find there's much to savor as scientific evidence continues to emerge.