, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 63-76
Date: 07 Jul 2009

Decaf and the Steeplechase Towards Decaffito—the Coffee from Caffeine-Free Arabica Plants

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Unquestionably, the popularity of the coffee beverage relies on its alerting attribute caffeine. However, susceptibilities to this purine alkaloid, quite frequently associated with health concerns, encouraged a significant market for decaffeinated coffee. The beans of Coffea arabica render the best beverage and a decaffeinated coffee has to preserve the desired organoleptic characteristics of this species. Consequently, besides technical removal of caffeine, the endeavors to attain a decaffeinated Arabica coffee range from traditional studies on genetic variability to advanced techniques to produce genetic modified coffee. The aim of this review is to recover part of this subject focusing mainly on the natural genetic variation for caffeine content in Arabica. We also present historical information about caffeine discovery and briefly discuss molecular approaches to reduce caffeine. We introduce here the term decaffito for coffee derived from Arabica plants with beans naturally low in or almost devoid of caffeine. In the near future, coffee drinkers avoiding caffeine will have the choice between basically three Arabica coffees, namely decaffeinated by (a) selection and breeding, (b) genetic modification and (c) industrial extraction. Although only the last decaf coffee is available for the consumers, we believe that the size of the market of each type will occupy in the future depend on the price and health aspects related to the way the decaffeinated coffee beans are obtained.

Communicated by: Ray Ming
The term ‘decaffito’ is composed of ‘decaf’ and the suffix ‘fito’ (from Greek phyto) signifying plant or vegetable. Thus ‘decaffito’ is decaf naturally grown on the coffee plant. Moreover, ‘decaffito™’is a trademark of Brazil.