By Roberto Samora
SAO PAULO (Reuters) – A Brazilian coffee research institute has taken a decisive step in a two-decade project to develop varieties of naturally decaffeinated Arabica coffee, a development that researchers say could have significant commercial potential .
The program is developed at the Instituto Agronomico de Campinas (IAC), a leading coffee research center that has provided many high-yielding coffee plants that have helped Brazil become a powerhouse in the global coffee market. coffee, providing more than a third of the trade.
IAC researchers said they are beginning regional field trials of some of the varieties they have been developing for several years by crossing different coffee plants that naturally have a very low caffeine content, using the library of genetic material from their facilities.
If successful, the resulting varieties could find a market niche in major consuming regions such as Europe and the United States with consumers who would prefer them to current decaffeinated brands that are the result of chemical or industrial processes.
Companies that also sell decaffeinated coffee could benefit from reduced costs, as they could skip industrial processes to remove caffeine from regular coffee varieties.
“The results we have obtained so far look promising, we are optimistic,” said Julio Cesar Mistro, a researcher supervising the project at IAC.
Some of the clones developed at the center are planted in different regions of Brazil. Coffee trees usually take two to three years to produce the first fruits, so there are still a few years before researchers can harvest this coffee and test it.
Decaffeinated coffee consumption accounts for about 10% of the market in the United States, according to data from the National Coffee Association (NCA).
Although many drink coffee specifically seeking the energy boost provided by caffeine, some people are intolerant to it or prefer to take a “decaf” later in the day to avoid possible sleep disruptions.
(Reporting by Roberto Samora, writing by Marcelo Teixeira in New York, editing by Sandra Maler)