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Decaffeinated - not decapitated.

Over the years, mankind has utilized alkalis, acids, even tried charging coffee with electricity in an effort to decaffeinate it. Leaving an acceptable coffee flavor in the cup was another matter. More often than not, the resulting beverage tasted decapitated, as well decaffeinated. Benzol, chloroform, ether, alcohol, carbon tetrachloride, acetone, ammonium hydroxide, and sulfuric acid have all been used during this century to decaffeinate beans, and assault your taste buds. In recent years, trichlorethylene had been a favored solvent for decaffeination. Its coffee tasted O.K., but it had other problems. Methylene chloride was safe, but a public relations effort, led in part by the Public Citizen Litigation Group, succeeded in putting a question in the mind of the public concerning its probity.

Ferdinand Runge first discovered and isolated caffeine in the late nineteenth century. Ludwig Roselius developed the first decaffeinating process for coffee in Germany in 1900. In 1912, Roselius founded Kaffe Hag, the original commercial decaffeinated coffee. Later he founded Sanka (from the French, "Sans Caffeine") in the U.S.

A decaffeinated coffee solvent scare in the early 1980's galvanized public fear about the solvents used to decaffeinate coffee. It was only the introduction of Swiss Water [TM] Decaffeinated, and other "Naturally Decaffeinated" types that saved the day for decaffeinated coffee. They have gone on to lead the way in the past 14 years. This has been particularly so in the specialty coffee segment, though "Naturally Decaffeinated" has changed the end-aisle displays and shelf-talkers in the supermarket as well.

New York is a Swiss Water [TM] town for specialty coffees. Swiss Water was introduced to the American market in New York in 1979, and has received reinforcement in the medias periodically throughout the years for its fine taste qualities. Swiss Water, produced only of Arabica specie varieties, is a product of Nabob Foods, Ltd. Vancouver BC, Canada. Because Nabob's Swiss Water [TM] set the standard of excellence in "Natural Decaffeinated" products, it is available in many varietal types from specialty roasters throughout the land. Unfortunately, not much Swiss Water [TM] makes it to foodservice customers due to price considerations.

Green coffee importer, Cofinco in New York, introduced French Water Decaf [TM] in 1992. It is currently available in Columbian coffee only and is decaffeinated using only "the purest underground water from Provence, France," according to the company's literature. Supercritical [CO.sub.2] decaffeination has become a major player in specialty coffee decaffeination with support of prestige roasters such as Coffee Connection, Massachusetts, doing "the Decaf switch" to this decaffeination type. Green coffee importer, Excelco Trading, New York New York, markets CR3 method [CO.sub.2] decaffeinated coffee processed by M. Hermsen GMBH & Co, Bremen, Germany. Sparkling Water Decaf [TM], another water/ [CO.sub.2] product, is marketed by Klein Brothers International, San Francisco, California. The price point for these products is generally about $0.25/lb below that of Swiss Water [TM].

In the grown-up coffee world, Kraft-General Foods products including Sanka, Brim, and Yuban have been decaffeinated using the water/carbon dioxide process (the "natural effervescence" mentioned in their early commercials) since December, 1986. Maxwell House Rich French Roast introduced in 1989 also benefits from the [CO.sub.2] process. It is expected that the new K-GF whole bean line, with the working title "Burlap" will sport decaffeinated coffees of the ethyl acetate type when it rolls-out later this year.

Ethyl acetate decaffeinated is a proocess that may derive its solvent from natural sources. It is found naturally in large quantities of fruits such as bananas, apples, and pears. It may also be produced synthetically from petroleum sources. Among the processors of ethyl acetate decaffeinated coffees, ORV-Werk, located outside of Bremen, Germany, has confirmed through their American agency, "that the ethyl acetate used in the decaffeination of coffee processed by ORV-Werk is derived from natural food products by a combination of fermentation and distillation which yields a pure form of ethyl acetate."

Cafiver in Orizaba, Veracruz, Mexico, markets ethyl acetate process Mexican coffee in the U.S. and Canada, as do several other European and Southern Hemisphere American decaffeinators.

Proctor & Gamble continues, I believe, to favor natural source ethyl acetate decaffeination for Folger's Crystals, and High Point production. Ethyl acetate decaffeinated coffee is the typical decaf to be labeled "natural" on a specialty coffee list. It has good taste qualities, is available in various varieties, and is approximately $0.50/lb less costly than Swiss Water [TM].

Ethyl acetate has been approved for decaffeination of coffee by U.S.. Food and Drug Administration since 1982. Unlike the guidelines for methylene chloride, there is no government set limit to the residual amount of ethyl acetate that may remain in the beans. In a March, 1989 interview in World Coffee & Tea magazine, a Folger's spokesman addressed this concern saying. "For perspective, you may have to drink at least 500 cups of Folger's fresh brewed decaffeinated to consume the amount of ethyl acetate found in one banana."

The Nestle Company, manufacturers of Nescafe, MJB, Hills Bros, Chase & Sanborn roast ground decaffeinated coffees, Taster's Choice, High Point instant decaffeinated for the mass market, and Sark's brand specialty coffees, treats its products with, "a substance naturally occurring in coffee," according to a spokesperson for the company quoted in a New York Times interview. The solvent utilized is thought by industry experts, according to the article, to be some form of tryglycerides or oils.

Methylene chloride has been a commercial solvent of choice for some years. Methylene chloride is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which permits 10 parts per million residual Methylene chloride to be left in the green beans after decaffeination. Methylene chloride has a low boiling threshold and coffee is roasted until the beans reach temperatures in excess of 400 [degrees] F. I have never seen a test in which there was any measurable methylene chloride in a cup of brewed methylene chloride process decaffeinated coffee. Methylene chloride is well known for producing an "unleaded" product with excellent taste characteristics.

Methylene chloride continues in favor among several decaffeinators and many American roasters. Due to its price advantage, often 75 cents per pound less than Swiss Water [TM] or other "Naturally Decaffeinated" varieties, roasters continue to roast methylene chloride-decaf where price sensitivity may be an object to the prospective customer. Still others continue with it because they really prefer the taste.

In my coffee lexicon "light" is defined as a synonym for "put in lots of cream." It also means a light bodied brew versus a heavy bodied brew, and Light City-Roast versus Full City Roast. Though I spent many years behind a retail counter, I don't remember a customer ever asking for a "light" blend of coffee, and meaning something other than light in taste, body or color. There were customers who asked for regular and decaffeinated coffees to be blended together. They said, "May I have a half-pound of Colombian, and a half-pound of Columbian Swiss Water [TM] decaf, and please blend them together." But now, as old Davy Crockett would have said, "I have been persuaded," I have seen the 'lite.'

A leading decaffeinated coffee trend is in the fringe market for half-caff blends. Coffees that are neither decaffeinated by definition (97% caffeine reduced in the U.S.) or "high test." These "lite" coffees are appearing all over the place. Tiffany Gourmet marketed a blend of caffeine and decaf coffee called "Tiffany Lite" over 10 years ago. It is still marketed by Tiffany successor, Barrie House Gourmet.

Gloria Jean's Coffee Bean, the largest retail coffee store franchiser in the U.S. introduced a "lite" version of its best-selling Gloria Jean's Special Blend in 1990. It is a product with half the caffeine of the "regular" version. A fully decaffeinated version is also sold in the stores. The franchiser, who favors methylene chloride decaffeinated coffees for their taste, is said to have additional "lite" items in development.

Nestle's Hills Bros division inaugurated Perfect Balance ("all the taste-half the caffeine") in roast ground and instant during 1991. Perfect Balance is the first nationally distributed coffee product sporting this claim. McLaughlin's, of a decade ago, made a stab at the brass ring with this type of an item and has not been heard from since. If Nestle's competitors consider Perfect Balance a triumph, we should see the other majors. Kraft-General Foods, Folger's, and Eight O'Clock up to their ears in "lite" before the flowers that bloom in the spring.

But "lite" begs the question of taste appeal. Whether the process is French (Avez-vous du cafe decafeine?), Mexican (Tienen cafe dascafeinado?), or German (Haben sie koffeinfrein Kaffe?) the answer for Canada, and the United States is "Yes, we have decaffeinated coffee. And it tastes great."
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Title Annotation:coffee
Author:Schoenholt, Donald N.
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Feb 1, 1993
Previous Article:Clearing up the decaf confusion.
Next Article:Foodservice tea sales continue to increase.

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