Every week, Wendyl Nissen takes a readily available packaged food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents.
I have had several emails from readers wanting to know if this new instant coffee is too good to be true. This is because very prominently on the label is the claim that this coffee "delivers 70 per cent more antioxidants than green tea."
For the people who have given up coffee in favour of green tea for its health benefits, this may come as a bit of a surprise and may have you rushing back to coffee for your morning fix.
Coffee gets a bad rap in the media. If you type the phrase, "Is coffee good for you?" into Google you will get 385 million results. Some studies show that moderate coffee consumption can reduce risks of cancer, gallstones, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, to name a few. But other studies show it can cause cancer, ulcers, increase blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and even cause acne.
So as you sip your cup of morning coffee, you could be excused for being a bit confused about whether it is good for you or not.
Green tea, on the other hand, enjoys an unblemished record. There appear to be few risks involved with drinking green tea except the fact that it contains caffeine, which isn't good in high doses, and that drinking really hot tea could put you at risk of developing cancer of the oesophagus. And the health benefits are many and varied.
Both coffee and green tea have high levels of antioxidants called polyphenols. Antioxidants are seen as being good for us because they neutralise free radicals. Free radicals are produced by the body as a result of consuming toxins and can damage cells (which can cause cancer) and contribute to the ageing process and other health problems.
Our bodies naturally produce some antioxidants but it is believed that giving it a helping hand by consuming more is a good idea.
In coffee, the main type of polyphenol is chlorogenic acid, which is also found in some fruits such as blueberries, plums, cherries and apples. The main type of polyphenols in green tea are catechins, which are also found in cocoa, red wine and some fruits and vegetables.
The only ingredient in this product is coffee beans, so this column takes on a slightly different format this week as I attempt to explain why this coffee delivers 70 per cent more antioxidants than green tea.
How does this instant coffee deliver more antioxidants than green tea?
This claim is supported by a study carried out by the Nestle Research Centre in Switzerland (Plasma appearance and correlation between coffee and green tea metabolites in human subjects) (Renouf, M. et al. British J Nutrition, 2010; 104(11): 1635-40.) The study took a rather small sample of nine people who drank instant coffee and green tea.
The levels of antioxidant polyphenols present in blood samples were measured and compared over 12 hours after consumption of the beverages. The concentrations of antioxidant polyphenols measured in the blood samples were 70 per cent higher after consumption of Greenblend than after consumption of the green tea.
Why on the label are roasted and unroasted coffee beans listed?
Apparently there are more polyphenols found in green coffee beans than roasted coffee beans so some green beans are added into this blend.
But does the process of turning the coffee into instant coffee i.e. freeze drying, alter those levels because of the high temperatures involved in the process?
For this and the following questions, I asked Nestle's chief nutritionist Susan Kevork. She replied: "Instead of roasting all of the coffee beans as done for regular coffee, a proportion of the beans in Nescafe Greenblend are unroasted. This results in a higher level of the antioxidant compounds called polyphenols.
"Except for the use of green coffee in this way, the manufacturing process is the same as the process commonly used in the manufacture of regular soluble/instant coffee.
"Only the roasting of coffee beans significantly alters the level of antioxidant polyphenols.
"Instant coffee is made from 100 per cent natural coffee beans just like any other coffee, nothing artificial is added during this process. Only the water is removed to produce a soluble powder or granules.
"The manufacture of Greenblend and other regular soluble/instant coffee involves first adding water to brew the coffee then simply removing the water by concentration and then drying to make the coffee granules.
"The freeze drying process of freezing removes water at very low (vacuum) pressure and temperature. Other instant coffee is made using very hot air to remove moisture from droplets of the concentrated brew".
Do the levels of antioxidants alter if you add milk?
"The content of antioxidants in a cup of coffee and tea (green and black) is not influenced by the addition of milk.
"Evidence suggests that adding milk to coffee does not affect its antioxidant activity. A clinical trial also showed no difference in the amount of antioxidant polyphenols absorbed by the body when milk was added to a serve of Nescafe Greenblend".
Is the caffeine level altered or is it the same as a standard instant coffee?
"Nescafe Greenblend has a similar level of caffeine as regular soluble/instant coffee".
So, if I was making coffee at home, could I increase the antioxidants by grinding up some green beans and adding them to my roasted beans?
"It would be quite difficult to crush the green beans at home as they are extremely hard. During the regular roasting process coffee beans expand in size and become more brittle. Unroasted (green) coffee beans are very hard and would damage a grinder.
"Using whole green coffee beans without grinding for coffee preparation at home would also not be worthwhile because very little of the polyphenols would be soluble and come out of the beans during brewing/extraction. Also, to get the right coffee flavour profile that people love requires the right combination of green beans.
"This is quite a craft as green beans can vary from having no flavour to quite earthy flavour tones".
What does it taste like?
I can answer this myself. I'm not a big instant-coffee drinker but comparing this with another popular brand, I found little taste difference.