London: Pistachio nuts could provide a caffeine-free and healthy alternative to the popular hot coffee, say researchers.
The search for a caffeine-free coffee has often proven less than fruitful, with versions of the drink which lack not just caffeine`s kick, but flavour. Now, a team at University of York claims to have found a possible solution in a type of pistachio nut.
The researchers claim that carefully roasted, the fruit of the Pistacia terebinthus tree, which is much smaller than normal pistachios, could offer all the flavour of coffee, with none of the kick -- as well as being significantly cheaper.
According to them, pistacia has the same chemical "signature" as real, caffinated, coffee -- meaning it can be made to have the same taste and aroma.
The researchers found that when they roasted the P. terebinthus nuts for 20 minutes at 200 degrees they started to show a volatile chemical profile similar to roasted coffee beans, `The Daily Telegraph` reported.
The roasting produced high amounts of chemicals that give the nuts a caramel and burnt sugar smell along with a slight citrus and pine flavour.
The researchers now hope to fine tune the roasting method while also reducing the oil content of the ground P. terebinthus nuts so they can be sold commercially.
Dr Mustafa Ozel, who led the team, said work could now be done to perfect the coffee alternative -- opening the way to passing the espresso test.
"The roasting process can be manipulated to bring out different flavours and minimize any deleterious compounds produced. While the overall chemical composition is not similar to coffee beans, the final roasted product has a similar volatile composition," he said.