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September 2021

Food/ Javaholic

Before the Bean: The story of coffeefruit

September 12, 2021
coffeefruit, coffee fruit, coffee berry

The coffee bean: the universal symbol of java. Logos, coffeeshop names, cheesy puns (ahem, I certainly never make bean puns). But the iconic bean has rather stolen the spotlight from another member of the coffee family: the coffee berry. Yes, coffee is a fruit. Er, sort of. While the health effects of coffee have been debated ad nauseam, the coffee berry has been garnering attention recently as having health creds to rival even the most touted superfoods. Is this news to anyone else? I was casually sipping a Bai (like Gatorade’s Whole-Foods-born sister) when I skimmed the back of the bottle and saw a blurb on the “secret ingredient” of the drink: coffee fruit. Say what? My curiosity was (of course) piqued, and I had to do a bit more research. So what’s the deal? Read on for the 411 on the coffee bean’s neglected sister.

 

coffeefruit, coffee berry, coffee, antioxidants

 

What is this?

Just as it sounds, the coffee berry is, well, a berry. The bean part used to make our fav brew is actually the seed at the center of a round red berry known as the coffee fruit, coffee berry, or coffee cherry. Picture a bush with jasmine-like flowers and cranberry-esque berries (can I get a coffee bush in my apartment?). The berry itself has a crisp skin layer, similar to a bell pepper, and a sweet, sticky pulp. Full disclosure: I haven’t actually eaten a coffee cherry (believe me, I would pick some up at Whole Foods if I could), but the taste apparently varies according to the type of bean and can have notes of berry, watermelon, jasmine, and hibiscus. If you’re curious, cascara — a tea-like drink common in coffee-growing regions that’s made from infusing dried coffee cherry husks in water — has a similar taste.

Anyway, the berry pulp is separated from the bean and used as fertilizer, while the bean begins its journey to your cup. That’s usually the end of the story for the coffee berry, but thanks to recent studies and a few enterprising products, coffee fruit may have a new role as the next big superfood.

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Graphic courtesy of Studentshow.

 

Superfood credentials, please. 

Coffee fruit’s main claim to (health nut) fame is that buzzword: antioxidants. I know, I know, everything is a new antioxidant-hoard superfood. Hear me out and decide for yourself about the hype. So, antioxidants. According to dermatologist Dr. Debbie Palmer, coffee fruit pulp has higher levels of antioxidants than tea, vitamins C & E, raspberries, strawberries, pomegranate, and blueberries, and the US Department of Agriculture states that coffee fruit extract provides 30 to 40 times the antioxidant power of superfood celebs açai and pomegranate. Antioxidants are well-supported by science to have notable health benefits: They help protect against cell damage from free radicals that can lead to memory degeneration, cancer, heart disease, and more. They boost the immune system and have anti-inflammatory properties. They grant eternal life. Ok, maybe not that last one. But good stuff, in any case.

In addition, studies associate coffee fruit extract with increased levels of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a protein that  aids in nerve growth, cognition and mental processes. Decreased BDNF has been linked to depression, Alzheimer’s, OCD, and dementia. In other words, coffee berry extract could boost BDNF levels, aiding in neurological health.

And to top it off, coffee fruit extract provides a boost of natural energy with only 4.4 mg of caffeine per gram versus the 100-150 mg of caffeine in a typical brewed cup of coffee.

 

coffeefruit, coffee berry, coffee, antioxidants

 

Seeking out the magic berry

So how do you get this stuff? The actual fruit is a bit difficult to find unless you live in a coffee-growing region (and it’s not really a pop-in-your-mouth snack anyway), but extracts and powders are becoming trendy ingredients in skincare products, supplements, juices, and more. A company called FutureCeuticals took the lead here, creating a patented process for preserving coffee fruit, as well as a coffee fruit extract, NeuroFactor, and a line of powders and concentrates, Coffeeberry.

Then you have my introduction to coffee fruit: Bai, a series of coffee fruit-infused drinks in a variety of exotic fruit flavors. The drinks taste like fruit juice or fancy Gatorade (not coffee berry itself), and Bai focuses on the exotic fruit aspect rather than marketing the coffee fruit element, though they embrace the idea of a “secret” ingredient (i.e., coffee fruit).

Playing up the tropical and superfood angles, KonaRed creates juices and drink powders using Coffeeberry’s drying/extraction processes and highlights its Hawaiian origins and health benefits as “Hawaiian Superfruit Antioxidant Juice.”

And finally, departing from the juice-crazy crowd a bit: CoffeeFlour. As you might guess, this is “flour” made from dried and ground coffee fruit. I actually did an entire post on it — check out the deets here.

So there you have it. Personally, I have no idea how much benefit you actually get from Bai juice (I just like the taste). I kind of doubt coffee fruit is a miracle superfood, but it certainly seems to have some good credentials, and I’m interested in checking out CoffeeFlour and cascara tea purely for the sake of experimentation. If I’m ever lucky enough to visit a coffee farm, I’ll certainly be plucking a few ripe coffee cherries. What do you think? Will you give coffee fruit extract a try?

 

*This post was previously published on my former blog, Beanopia, in 2016.

Javaholic/ Kansas City/ Wanderings

Coffeeshop Love: Outta the Blue

September 5, 2021
outta the blue made in Kansas City coffee coffeeshop cafe

Anyone still out there? I am, in fact, still alive (I know, you were dying of suspense wondering).

Obviously unnecessary to state, but it has been A YEAR (or two? What is time anymore?) Everything has been a little topsy-turvy for everyone since about 2019, I think, and between public spaces being closed and life just plain being crazy, I’ve completed neglected my little corner of the web over here. In all honesty, the past couple of years have been very rocky in my personal life — I’m not going to go into detail, because that’s not really the aim of this blog, but suffice it to say, I’ve been out of the loop, and for anyone who has been feeling lost and/or hopeless lately (or ever): I feel you. With that said, I’m trying to get back into the swing of things, and it has been way too long since I’ve done some wandering.

So: I have new coffee shops to check out, new places to explore, yada yada. A lot of life/the world is a chaotic mess, but there’s still coffee and getting lost in colorful city streets and discovering hidden gems of art and humanity. I, for one, could use some of all that. Let’s see if anyone is still around to read about my shenanigans, eh? (If not, at least I have an excuse to drink lots of coffee).

First up: a cheery spot in Leawood to grab a java (or cocktail).

*****

Coffeeshop Love: Outta the Blue

5291 W. 116th Place, Leawood, KS

outta the blue made in Kansas City coffee coffeeshop cafe

Despite the fact that I’m currently bemoaning the hot, sticky weather and longing for fall, I have to admit that I love the beach (who doesn’t?). Of course, there are no (ocean) beaches in Kansas, but I’m all for places that let me pretend I’m in a tropical cabana. Outta the Blue dubs itself “KC’s Lil’ Oasis,” and really, the flip-flop fits. There’s (sadly) no ocean and (probably thankfully) no sand, but they do have palm trees, rattan furniture, and colorful surfboards on the wall. With plenty of windows, light colors, and modernistic furniture, the entire place is hip and cheerful. Did I mention there are swings? Probably not conducive to sipping coffee, but they sure are fun.

A recent addition to Leawood’s Park Place shopping center, Outta the Blue is a Made in KC outpost (though interestingly, I didn’t see anything that said Made in KC in the actual café). It’s usually quietly bustling, busy with everyone from people tapping away on laptops to friends catching up to families corralling kids. While I’ve been there, the soundtrack has ranged from mid-2000s nostalgia (think Hillary Duff) to 1960s-80s oldies. It’s a friendly, fun atmosphere, calm enough to get work done yet active enough for good people-watching and a welcome dose of gaiety. A little bit granola-crunchy, quite a bit hip, the café fits into the clean-cut environment of suburban Leawood, but it also adds a touch of style — and a laid-back beachy vibe — in an area mostly filled with a lot of chain restaurants and shops.

outta the blue made in Kansas City coffee coffeeshop cafe interior

If you’re hungry, they have snacks and breakfast sandwiches from Parisi Coffee, pastries from local Scratch Bakery, and vegan breakfast sandwiches from Mattie’s Foods. (Major points, in my humble opinion, for having almond croissants, which are annoyingly difficult to find and obviously the best.) For sips, there’s the usual lineup of espresso beverages and (quite tasty) drip coffee, as well as a selection of teas and cold-pressed juices. And if you need something a bit stronger — or feel like really leaning into the tropical cabana spirit — they have a full bar menu of cocktails, beer, and natural/organic wine.

All in all, it’s not actually the beach, but Outta the Blue is a fun place to work or hang out. As much as I like offbeat, slightly shabby coffee shops, it’s hard not to fall in love with this bright little café. After all, who doesn’t love palm trees and swings?

outta the blue made in Kansas City coffee coffeeshop cafe interior