Caffeine-free herbal coffee
It’s a wonderful ritual to enjoy a cup of a dark, smooth, warm, and aromatic beverage. For those individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) that have made the decision to stop drinking coffee due to its potential adverse effects on their digestive health, Teeccino®, a caffeine-free herbal beverage, offers to provide, “all the satisfaction with no caffeine reaction”. So how does Teeccino® compare to coffee? Let’s find out.
The aim here will be to review the organoleptic (smell and taste) properties and product claims. This review will deal strictly with the product and will not examine or compare the effects of regular and decaffeinated coffees in patients with IBS, IBD, or GERD.
Many of us, at one point or another have questioned whether we are taking in too much caffeine. How we define too much depends on a range of individual variables. Health Canada recommends no more than 4 cups (250 ml/cup) of regular coffee per day. One litre of coffee a day may sound excessive but, to my surprise, I once counseled a patient who drank 2-3 litres each day. With its 14-day withdrawal program, the manufacturers of Teeccino® offer an easy way to kick the caffeine habit without experiencing any withdrawal symptoms. They suggest you slowly substitute the coffee you drink with Teeccino®, and in two weeks, you are caffeine free! I completed a similar program a year ago, using decaffeinated coffee, and can personally confirm that the two-week tapering method is effective.
So now you’ve stopped drinking coffee and decided to try Teeccino® – are your senses fooled by the alchemy of Caroline MacDougall, the founder of Teeccino® Caffe Inc? The Teeccino® website, www.teeccino.com, states that Teeccino® herbal “coffee” is formulated to “brew and taste just like coffee” and it does – you can use a French press (bodum), drip coffee maker, or a filter cone.
In order to determine if it tastes like coffee, let’s examine the aroma, colour, body, and flavour, as any true aficionado would with a new coffee. All ratings are comparing the product to coffee and are on a scale of 1 to 5, where one is not pleasing, and five is highly pleasing.
- As soon as you open the package, a pleasant aroma escapes, but it does not smell like coffee and you can easily pick out the sweet smell of the ground dates and figs (aroma rating: 3).
- The colour, brewed at various strengths is excellent (colour rating: 5).
- Teeccino® has a wonderful consistency and is very smooth (body rating: 5).
- Before I proceed, I would like to make the reader aware that I recruited numerous co-workers, friends, and family members to draw on a variety of taste preferences for this review. My only requirement when selecting my subjects was that each is an experienced coffee drinker. Teeccino® Caffe Inc. mentions that you may want to use less sugar, and indeed, there was an overwhelming response to the sweetness of the product. After the third batch, I stopped using sugar altogether. Most testers found Teeccino® an enjoyable beverage, but none considered the taste on par with coffee. I suspect this is largely due to the fact that coffee is acidic and it is the organic acids in coffee that are largely responsible for the unique flavour that is difficult to replicate. Teeccino® boasts its alkalinity. One group of testers found Teeccino® to have minimal taste and experienced an unpleasant, burnt-chocolate aftertaste. This was the only group that had Teeccino® prepared in a drip coffee machine. It could very well be that the machine was not properly cleaned, or that the temperature was too high, therefore producing the mentioned aftertaste. Those using a French press to make Teeccino® have not commented on any unpleasant aftertaste. (flavour rating: 3 ).
- Overall product acceptance rating when compared to regular coffee: 4.
A look at Teeccino®’s claims
Teeccino® advertises that drinking this herbal product will:
- boost energy, due to the 65mg of potassium in each cup;
- enhance digestion and elimination;
- help stabilize blood sugar and appetite; and
- support beneficial microflora responsible for strengthening the immune system, fighting harmful bacteria and fungus like Candida, creating B vitamins, and absorbing essential minerals (such as calcium).
A literature review of a variety of scientific indices (e.g. Ovid, Web of Science) produced no results when using the search words herbal coffee, Teeccino®, or natural coffee. On its website, Teeccino® provides a variety of ‘scientific’ papers intended for the health professional. The papers cover a variety of health topics, such as women’s health, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, weight loss, IBS, Crohn’s, colitis, and GERD.
According to the information on the site, three registered dietitians have reviewed all of the website articles; however, there is no clear author identified. Each article, covering a range of different health conditions, uses about two pages to describe the deleterious effects of coffee with respect to each particular chronic condition. All of the papers conclude with a similar recommendation such as, nutritional professionals can support people with variable chronic conditions who are changing their coffee drinking habits through the process of substituting a non-caffeinated, soothing, alkaline herbal coffee that brews and tastes just like coffee.
Claim: Boosts Energy
It is unclear how the 65mg of potassium in each cup of Teeccino® boosts energy. Potassium is a cofactor in many reactions, supports cell integrity, and assists in nerve impulse transmission and muscle contractions, but has no nutritive value; hence, it cannot provide energy alone. The dietary recommended intake (DRI) for potassium is 4,700mg (120mmol)/day1. It is much easier to acquire this amount of potassium by consuming whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, meats, and milk, than it would be by consuming 72 cups of Teeccino®.
Claim: Enhances digestion and elimination
I decided to conduct a search focused on the prebiotic properties of inulin, a soluble fibre found in chicory root and on the proposed benefits of barley on gastrointestinal health. I have not assessed carob, almonds, figs, and dates since a quick search did not identify any adverse effects of these four ingredients contained in Teeccino®.
Inulin is a prebiotic, a food substance that probiotic organisms consume. Probiotics are friendly bacteria that have proven health benefits for many gastrotintestinal diseases and disorders. Probiotics are shown to regulate bowel function. A cup of Teeccino® yields 355mg of inulin. This amount may seem insignificant since the recommended supplemental dose of inulin is 8-13g/day2 and reviewed clinical trials studying its effects have used this dosage.3,4 However, since most people don’t consume enough inulin as it is, this small addition may be beneficial, especially if more than one cup of Teeccino® is consumed per day. (However, if you consume too much Teeccino®, or any other non-nutritive beverage – even water – nutritional deficiencies may ensue).
Studies dealing with barley also seem promising, but one study involved only rats5 and another had only 10 human subjects6. The conclusions of these studies are suggestive only, and the authors encourage further research to demonstrate barley’s efficacy on gastrointestinal health.
I must point out that while Teeccino® contains small amounts of some potentially beneficial compounds that may add to the nutritional content of a healthy diet, it does not claim to be a nutritional supplement.
It is always a challenge to introduce a new product into the marketplace and manufacturers need to come up with strategies to set their product apart from the competition. However, claiming that a product is beneficial in certain ways without solid evidence can be misleading if misunderstood by an unsuspecting consumer. Some of the claims made by Teeccino® Caffe Inc. are vague and lack relevant clinical evidence; consumers interested in maintaining good health may do so by enjoying a variety of whole foods and regular physical activity.
If individuals choose to eliminate coffee from their diets, Teeccino® is a good substitute as it provides many of the sensations that regular coffee-drinkers might crave, without potential caffeine side effects.
Teeccino® is a pleasing beverage, enjoyed on its own or mixed with milk or soy beverage. For best results, I recommend a French press coffee maker. The ingredients in Teeccino® – carob, barley, chicory root, dates, almonds, and figs – should be safe to consume for those with digestive conditions, unless a known adverse reaction to any ingredient is present. You can buy Teeccino®, in a variety of flavours, directly from the company’s website, or at your local health grocery outlet for around $10/240g package.