Home UK Poor quality beans found in a tenth of 100% Arabica coffee

Poor quality beans found in a tenth of 100% Arabica coffee

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Poor quality beans found in a tenth of '100% Arabica' coffee

100% Arabica may not be all it seems (Picture: PA)

High-quality coffee labelled Arabica may not be all it seems.

A study has shown that inferior beans were mixed into a tenth of products labelled 100% Arabica.

Scientists used a new and more accurate method of testing coffee quality on samples on sale at shops and supermarkets.

They found significant levels of inferior and cheaper Robusta beans in the premium products.

Arabica coffee trades at twice the price of Robusta because of its superior taste.

At some point, this means that the premium beans were fraudulently swapped with the cheaper ones.

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Arabica coffee being grown in Brazil (Picture: Getty)

Robusta coffee is higher yielding and easier to grow, so this has always been a potential problem.

But finding rogue Robusta in a sample labelled Arabica is not easy, especially after grinding and roasting.

The standard technique detects the fingerprint chemical 16-OMC, which is only found in Robusta coffee, but is costly and takes three days.

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This makes large scale surveillance impractical.

The new method takes only 30 minutes and is sensitive enough to detect just 1% Robusta in a blended coffee.

More: UK

Lead scientist Dr Kate Kemsley, from the Quadram Institutec, said: This is an important milestone for detecting fraud in coffee, as 1% is the generally accepted cut-off between trace contamination, which might be accidental, and more deliberate adulteration for economic gain.

For the study a total of 60 different coffee samples were purchased in consumer countries around the world, including 22 from the UK.

Two of the samples flagged as suspicious were bought in the UK. One contained 1.6% Robusta and the other 21.7%.

Other UK samples had notable levels of 16-OMC but fell below the suspicious threshold.

Suspicious samples were also obtained from the US, Italy, France and Estonia. One US sample was a third Robusta, despite being labelled 100% Arabica.

A spokesman for the Quadram Institute said it was not possible to name the brands involved.

The findings not only affect consumers, but also undermine efforts to ensure that smallholders in developing countries are paid a fair price for the coffee they grow, said the researchers.

The research, published in the journal Food Chemistry, was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and had no support from the coffee industry.

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