In hopes of improving people's digestion, food scientists at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have created coffee and tea that contain as much as 1 billion units of live probiotics. Developed by two doctorate students, the drinks can be stored chilled or at room temperature for at least 14 weeks and remain effective. The new beverages undergo different fermentation processes. The probiotic coffee, developed by Alcine Chan, includes specific nutrients and carefully-chosen probiotics. The brewed coffee mixture is left to ferment for a day before refrigeration. Afterward, the coffee is ready to drink. Chan experimented with several prototypes, but all of them retained the "distinctive coffee taste." "The formulation is tricky, especially relating to the type and amount of nutrients added, and the probiotic combination. Not every type of probiotics can grow in coffee brews," Chan said. "Adding too few nutrients will not enable probiotic growth while adding too many nutrients will give an unpleasant taste." The probiotic tea, developed by Wang Rui, includes select nutrients and probiotics. But unlike the probiotic coffee, the tea mixture requires a two-day fermentation process. This process retains the tea's polyphenol molecules, which are linked to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. An antibacterial agent called phenyllactate is also produced. "The probiotic tea tastes like fruit tea with a little bit acidity, and a similar mouthfeel to the original tea. Drinkers can add sweeteners and milk, or cream, based on their preferences," Rui said. Probiotics are typically found in dairy products such as yogurt, raw milk and aged cheese. Probiotic tea and coffee can become new options for vegans and people with high cholesterol, lactose intolerance and dairy allergies. "Coffee and tea are two of the most popular drinks around the world, and are both plant-based infusions. As such, they act as a perfect vehicle for carrying and delivering probiotics to consumers," said Associate Professor Liu Shao Quan, who supervised the doctorate students. "Most commercially available probiotic coffee and tea drinks are unfermented," Liu explained. "Our team has created a new range of these beverages using the fermentation process as it produces healthy compounds that improve nutrient digestibility while retaining the health benefits associated with coffee and tea." The NUS team has filed a patent for the probiotic coffee, and plans of commercialization are already underway. Chan and Rui continue to refine both drinks. Feature Images via National University of Singapore
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