Coffee Leaves: A Whole Different Cup of Coffee

By Jerry Baldwin
Baldwin Mar2 leaves.jpg

Photo by Jerry Baldwin

A whole different cup of coffee. Don't bother to try this at home.

Traveling to coffee origin countries challenges my assumptions, often in unexpected ways. Walking among the merchants at the edge of the main market in Harrar, Ethiopia, I noticed some familiar green leaves laid on a vendor's burlap display. Yes, they were coffee leaves, and they were to be brewed into a tea, called quti (or kuti).

Out on the trail of coffee beans, we're usually looking for the best coffee beans; we're not looking for other beverages from the coffee tree. Quti is the first I've encountered, but it's only because I wasn't looking.

The first reference I find for a beverage from coffee leaves is from London in 1854. My tasting advice: don't rush out to get some. If you want tea, choose tea from camellia sinensis. If you want coffee, choose beans. Coffee leaves as a beverage is not widespread, even in Ethiopia.

Apart from the insipid brew, there's another good reason for the non-proliferation of this drink. Coffee is an evergreen, so plucking the leaves from coffee trees would certainly inhibit their ability to produce good beans. It's interesting, though, to think that this very poor country -- the origin of coffea Arabica -- has a way to use the whole plant and all the fruit.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2009/03/coffee-leaves-a-whole-different-cup-of-coffee/1100/