Good news for those who need a cup of coffee to get their day started. Food scientists have developed new probiotic coffee and tea beverages containing over 1 billion units of gut-friendly live probiotics. These plant-based and non-dairy beverages can be kept chilled or at room temperature for up to 14 weeks.
The two doctoral students who worked on these two new beverages, who were supervised by Associate Professor Liu Shao Quan from the Department of Food Science and Technology at the NUS Faculty of Science, claim that their drinks have a great taste and can be stored chilled or at room temperature for more than 14 weeks without compromising their probiotic viability.
Traditional probiotic carriers, such as yogurts and cultured milk, are dairy-based. The rise of veganism, as well as common health issues such as lactose intolerance, high cholesterol, and dairy protein allergies, has fueled the trend in non-dairy probiotic food and beverages.
“Coffee and tea are both plant-based infusions and are two of the most popular drinks in the world. As a result, they serve as an ideal vehicle for transporting and delivering probiotics to consumers. The majority of probiotic coffee and tea drinks on the market are unfermented. Our team developed a new line of these beverages using the fermentation process, which produces healthy compounds that improve nutrient digestibility while retaining the health benefits of coffee and tea “Assoc Prof Liu elaborated.
The probiotic tea tastes like fruit tea with a hint of acidity and a mouthfeel similar to the original tea. Drinkers can customize their drinks by adding sweeteners, milk, or cream to their liking.Ms. Wang Rui
A new probiotic tea
Ms. Wang Rui, a doctoral student at NUS Food Science and Technology, created the new probiotic tea by incorporating nutrients into a tea infusion, followed by a careful selection of specific probiotics. The tea mixture is fermented for two days before it is ready to drink. Any type of brewed tea can be used in this process, and the original flavor of the tea is largely retained throughout the fermentation process, with fruity and floral notes introduced.
“The probiotic tea tastes like fruit tea with a hint of acidity and a mouthfeel similar to the original tea. Drinkers can customize their drinks by adding sweeteners, milk, or cream to their liking” Ms. Wang stated.
Many of tea’s health benefits, such as its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, have been linked to the presence of ‘polyphenol’ molecules. The polyphenol content of the tea is retained by using the patented fermentation process, and an additional antibacterial agent — phenyllactate — is produced after fermentation. The drink also contains live probiotics, which are beneficial to gut health.
A new probiotic coffee
Ms. Alcine Chan, another Department doctoral student, developed a new probiotic coffee by combining specially selected nutrients with brewed coffee, followed by carefully selected probiotics. Following probiotic fermentation, the coffee mixture is left to ferment for a day before being refrigerated. Following this, the chilled probiotic coffee is ready to drink. If desired, sugar and milk can be added before serving.
“The formulation is difficult, particularly in terms of the type and amount of nutrients added, as well as the probiotic combination. Not all probiotics can grow in coffee brews. Too few nutrients will prevent probiotic growth, while too many nutrients will result in an unpleasant taste” Ms. Chan agreed.
Ms. Chan created several prototypes of probiotic coffee, and the flavor varies from one to the next, but they all have a distinct coffee flavor. “Some of the probiotic coffees have better-balanced acidity, better mouthfeels, deeper smoky flavors, and some can retain the coffee flavor better after long-term storage,” she explained.
Because the caffeine content is preserved, people who drink coffee for caffeine can still get their fix. The chlorogenic acid content of the probiotic coffee was also preserved, which has been linked to many of coffee’s health benefits.
Refining recipe and commercialization plans
Each serving of probiotic tea or coffee contains at least 1 billion live probiotics. This is the number of probiotics and prebiotics that the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics recommends for daily consumption.
Both doctoral students are working to improve the taste and flavor of the two beverages. The NUS team has also filed a patent for the probiotic coffee recipe and hopes to commercialize it with industry partners.