United Kingdom

Smells like bean spirit? Your next latte could be made from coffee grown in a lab

Scientists have produced the first ever lab-grown coffee, which could be the answer to deforestation.

The pioneering bean-less coffee may provide an eco-friendly solution to various problems associated with our flat whites and lattes.

Rainforests and vegetation must currently be cleared due to the plants’ need for sunlight, as well as the ever increasing demand for the beverage. It is believed that the average Briton consumes 3kg of coffee every year.

Studies have also revealed that coffee will be significantly impacted by climate change as it will reduce the area suitable for coffee growth by 50 per cent.

However, researchers at the VTT research institute in Finland, the country which drinks the most coffee per capita, have brewed a batch with “smells and tastes” like the conventional drink.

Using the leaves from a plant, Dr Heiko Rischer, the head of plant biotechnology at VTT, and his team formed cells which were then propagated and multiplied.

He added: “The experience of drinking the very first cup was exciting. Growing plant cells requires specific expertise when it is time to scale and optimise the process.

“Downstream processing and product formulation, together with regulatory approval and market introduction, are additional steps on the way to a commercial product. That said, we have now proved that lab-grown coffee can be a reality.”

Dr Rischer predicts that in four years, production of lab-grown coffee will be approved and would have increased.

The idea that coffee cells could be used to make the beverage was first realised in 1970.

He said: “The idea is to use biotechnology rather than conventional farming for the production of food and, therefore, provide alternative routes which are less dependent on unsustainable practices.

“For example, these solutions have a lower water footprint and less transport is needed due to local production. There isn’t any seasonable dependency or the need for pesticides either.”

After going in a bioreactor, which carries out biological reactions, the coffee cells are then harvested before they are dried and roasted.

Dr Rischer continued: “At VTT, this project has been part of our overall endeavour to develop the biotechnological production of daily and familiar commodities that are conventionally produced by agriculture.

“For this, we use many different hosts, such as microbes, but also plant cells. In terms of smell and taste, our trained sensory panel and analytical examination found the profile of the brew to bear similarity to ordinary coffee.

“However, coffee making is an art and involves iterative optimisation under the supervision of specialists with dedicated equipment. Our work marks the basis for such work.”

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