Scientists are about to unveil the “naturally” decaffeinated coffee plant in what could be the most significant development in convenience-food technology since sliced bread.
The plant will be genetically modified to eliminate a gene that produces caffeine. Its beans will taste normal but will not create the heart-pounding effects of caffeine.
Tea as well as coffee could benefit. Professor Alan Crozier of Glasgow University, working with Japanese colleagues, has identified the key enzyme involved in the natural synthesis of caffeine. He believes it would be simple to eliminate this enzyme from a genetically modified coffee or tea plant.
“Consumers concerned about the possible adverse effects of caffeine consumption will welcome this development towards caffeine-free drinks that retain their flavor,” the researchers report in the journal Nature.
The caffeine is normally removed chemically from coffee and tea but leaves a residue.
“The other problem is that it removes other components from the coffee that give taste and aroma, and this is why decaf coffee tastes like dish water,” Crozier said.
Caffeine raises blood pressure, induces palpitations, gastrointestinal disturbances, anxiety, tremors, hypertension and insomnia.
Distributed by New York Times Special Features