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A new trend is brewing where coffee meets wellness

The specialty coffee market is serving up wellness coffees that are tasty and infused with the goodness of herbs

Coffees infused with cinnamon, moringa and medicinal mushrooms are popular today
Coffees infused with cinnamon, moringa and medicinal mushrooms are popular today (Unsplash/Joanna Kosinska)

Coffee is great for health is a message that all caffeine freaks would love to hear. Several studies have shown time and again that coffee, with its fair share of vitamins and antioxidants, can be great for the body, mind and soul when consumed in moderation. There is, however, a disclaimer—coffee loaded with sugar, milk, whipped cream or artificial syrups does not count. 

“Anyone in the specialty coffee market will tell you that the best way to have coffee is black,” says Ganga Prabhakar, co-founder and co-owner of the experiential Coffee Mechanics Roastery & Tasting Room, which recently started Kana, a quaint café that also offers a host of coffee options, in Bengaluru. “We recommend medium roast and not the super dark roasted commercial blends that you get in the market,” she adds. 

Hailing from the plantations of Chikkamagaluru in Karnataka, Prabhakar recollects her childhood days when black coffee was always kept on the stove, so that coffee-lovers, whether it was family members, guests or plantation workers, had their fill. “It gets very cold in the hills so there was always coffee for everyone. We would have it with a bit of jaggery and grated coconut and it was just the best,” she reminisces.

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Plain good quality black coffee has a lot of benefits, says Ashish D’abreo, Q grader, coffee roaster and co-founder, Maverick & Farmer Coffee in Bengaluru and Goa. “Coffee has high levels of antioxidants, and there are studies that show that it helps reduce the risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes, a few types of cancers, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and stroke.” “A cup of plain black coffee has zero calories,” says Shibani Murlidhar, a coffee expert and co-owner of the much-loved Nerlu Café, Bengaluru, which specialises in black coffee with the brewer of choice being the pour-over Hario Switch.

Beyond the black brew
Those who aren’t big on black coffee don’t have to feel disappointed. There are plenty of ways to pump up your cup of joe with goodness and enjoy it sans guilt. Wellness coffees are gaining popularity, not only for their taste but also health benefits. 

“There are different types of wellness coffees such as alternatives without caffeine, coffee with plant-based milk options and coffee with ingredients like spirulina, ashwagandha, moringa and ground medicinal mushrooms. While vegan coffee options are great for those with lactose intolerance, the ones with wellness boosting ingredients can improve immunity and reduce anxiety,” says Swati Upadhyay, co-founder, Conçu, a popular patisserie and café chain in Hyderabad and Bengaluru.

What is it about wellness coffee that is piquing the interest of coffee lovers? “We are always looking at ways to supplement nutrition in our diet and if it’s through a beverage that we are drinking once or twice a day, then why not?” asks Murlidhar. “Coffee tends to mask many flavours so adding wellness boosting ingredients to it is like adding a spoonful of sugar to medicine to help it go down,” she jests.

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D’abreo’s coffee chain Maverick & Farmer Cafe serves healthy coffees like Coffee Cherry Soda and Clarified Cappuccino. During the recent monsoons, the brand chose to launch a seasonal coffee menu that had them experimenting with traditional and indigenous spices. The Shoonti Kaapi, for instance, was a soothing flat white that featured organic palm jaggery and dried ginger from a coffee estate in Pollibetta, Coorg. The Kallu Hoovu Cappuccino saw them blending the aromatic spice called kallu hoovu, or stone flower, with their single estate fruity Arabica-Modur naturals.

According to Upadhyay, wellness coffees are also a good option to overcome caffeine addiction in addition to staying fit. “Wellness coffees may be good for those who find the regular beverage working against their wellness goals or dietary preferences. For others, wellness coffees are a great way to overcome their coffee addiction,” she says. Moreover, they just taste delicious. “Coffee actually goes great with plant-based milks like oat milk,” says Prabhakar whose cafes serve a range of vegan coffees that are a hit with vegans and non-vegans alike. “Although we have a large vegan following, our offerings like Litchi Coconut coffee and Millet Jaggery latte are popular because of their flavour play.”

Future trends
It’s just the tip of the iceberg, believe experts, when asked about the trends they foresee in the world of wellness coffees. “I see less dependence on sweeteners, dairy and artificial flavouring ensuring that a conscientious coffee consumer gets to experience all the goodness of coffee with more sensitivity and clarity on the palate,” says D’abreo. He also foresees inventive baristas and coffee beverage designers using plant milks or dairy alternatives to create new formulations, recipes and presentations. 

Upadhayay sees the trend for “collagen creamers for coffees and ’shroom coffees catching up in the coming months.” “Hopefully, the trend of pumpkin spiced lattes and heavy coffees with large doses of sugar and whipped cream will die and people will realise that coffee is indeed healthy and the best when drunk in moderation on its own,” Murlidhar says.

Deepa Natarajan Lobo is an independent journalist based in Bengaluru.

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