A tall, skinny, genetically modified, decaffeinated latte to go...

Scientists are about to unveil the "naturally" decaffeinated coffee plant in what could be the most significant development in convenience food technology since sliced bread.

Scientists are about to unveil the "naturally" decaffeinated coffee plant in what could be the most significant development in convenience food technology since sliced bread.

The plant will be genetically modified to eliminate a gene that produces caffeine. Its beans will taste as normal but will not create the heart-pounding effects of caffeine.

Tea as well as coffee could benefit. Professor Alan Crozier, of Glasgow University, working with Japanese colleagues, has identified the key enzyme involved in the natural synthesis of caffeine. He believes it would be simple to eliminate this enzyme from a genetically modified coffee or tea plant.

"Consumers concerned about the possible adverse effects of caffeine consumption will welcome this development towards caffeine-free drinks that retain their flavour," the researchers report in the journal Nature.

The caffeine is normally removed chemically from coffee and tea but leaves a residue. "The other problem, is that it removes other components from the coffee that give taste and aroma and this is why decaff coffee tastes like dishwater," said Professor Crozier.

Caffeine raises blood pressure, induces palpitations, gastrointestinal disturbances, anxiety, tremors, hypertension and insomnia.

Selflessly, Professor Crozier will not benefit from his breakthrough. "For me, I'd still prefer drinking a big, black cup of coffee," he says.

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