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Coffee Leaf Explained

With coffee leaf being so new we're answering the big questions so you can learn all about it.

What is coffee leaf?

The coffee plant looks like a lush leafy tree. Going back at least to the 16th century the Harai people of Ethiopia picked those leaves to process and brew. The Harai submerge the leaves in boiling water for a long steep which creates a lightly sweet and aromatic herbal tea. Called Kuti the golden and green looking brew is the oldest known way of brewing coffee leaf.

Coffee Leaf

Ethiopia isn’t the only place where the brewed coffee leaf exists. In Jamaica and India people have been brewing leaves for hundreds of years in a similar way to the Harai. In Indonesia they make their own brewed coffee leaf called kahwa daun.

Is coffee leaf a tea?

The short answer is no. For a drink to be a proper tea it has to be a brew of the leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant. Like chamomile or hibiscus coffee leaf is called a herbal tea or an infusion.

How do you make coffee leaf?

After the coffee tree's fruit is harvested the pickers at the farm prune the plant which motivates new growth. Our coffee leaf starts its life after the coffee harvest

but before the pruning. Pickers select 100g of younger pristine leaves from each tree. Harvesting young leaves is important because they have the highest concentration of antioxidants and taste the sweetest. They are then rinsed to get rid of dust and sand before sorting to remove any damaged leaves.

We then have a unique procedure for oxidising the leaves which gives them the black tea flavour. Once the oxidation is complete the leaves are dried for up to 2 weeks. The dried leaves get one last sort before we have them tested to ensure they are free of any bacteria and safe to consume. They're then vacuum packed to retain freshness and sent to the UK.

Coffee farm

Is coffee leaf good for you?

Peer reviewed articles published in the The United States National Library of Medicine (NIH) and the Institute of Food Science Technology show how coffee leaf is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. What makes coffee leaves so good is the high concentration of chlorogenic acids and mangiferin.

Here is a breakdown of all the research the NIH has about coffee leaf.

What is an Antioxidant?

In your body there are free radical atoms which are atoms that have an unpaired electron. Free radicals enter your body through certain foods, smoking, alcohol, and from pollution. High concentrations of these atoms cause damage to cells. These damaged cells can lead to health decay and disease. Antioxidants come from food and neutralize free radicals by giving up an electron to them without in turn becoming one.

What does coffee leaf taste like?

When you go to the grocery store you’ll see lots of different kinds of apples like pink lady or granny smith. These different kinds of apples are known as different varietals or cultivars. There are thousands of different coffee cultivars. Many are quite similar and others taste and look quite unique.

At Headstand we tend to use two different cultivars, Castillo and Red Bourbon. These cultivars are two of the most common for coffee producers to grow. This means we can grow Headstand to work with new producers without changing the flavour.

We've experimented with different cultivars to taste how it affects the flavour. From Pacamara to gesha (also called geisha) we found there were a lot of flavour similarities across the different coffee cultivars. The important differences was how the cultivars affected producer profitability. For example coffees like gesha don't produce enough leaves so harvesting them could risk the health of the plant.

The most important influence on how the coffee leaf tastes is the processing. Our leaves are created to have a cozy, black tea flavour with a soft sweetness, and a light green tea note.

Does coffee leaf have caffeine?

The leaves from different kinds of coffee cultivars have different concentrations of caffeine. The leaves we use for Headstand does not have caffeine so completely safe to drink when you're settling down for the evening.

How does coffee leaf help farmers?

Like a lot of farming, growing coffee is difficult and often not that lucrative for producers. For example if we look at El Salvador where our leaves come from we can see a difficult situation. Using data from a white paper published by the Latin American coffee producer and exporter Caravela and a paper published by the United States Department of Agriculture we can see the average gross profit for a farm in El Salvador is 4% with an average yield of 1,259kg.

We currently buy coffee leaf for $5 USD per-pound and on average there is 100g of coffee leaf picked per-tree. The difference with coffee leaf is producers have a much higher gross profit. This means we double the value of every tree we harvest.

Have a question about coffee leaf we missed? Drop us a line at


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