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Up To 50% Of Coffee Contains This Toxin: How To Brew A Cleaner Cup


Emma Loewe

November 14, 2023

mbg Sustainability + Health Director

By Emma Loewe

mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of “Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us.”

Image by Darren Muir / Stocksy

November 14, 2023

We carefully vet all products and services featured on mindbodygreen using our commerce guidelines. Our selections are never influenced by the commissions earned from our links.

The average American drinks three cups of coffee a day—that’s over 1,000 cups a year and 10,000 a decade. Given the sheer volume of coffee we’re consuming, it’s worth knowing exactly what’s in your cup, sip after satisfying sip. Buying your beans from a transparent, health-conscious company can mean the difference between a pure, polyphenol-rich brew and a moldy mess.

Here’s why mycotoxins from mold are more common in coffee than you may think, and why mindbodygreen set out to create a java that lives up to a higher standard.

Wait, why is there mold in my coffee?

Before coffee makes its way to your cup, there are a few opportunities for mold to cling to it. If the conditions are warm and damp enough, mold can form directly on the coffee bean crop or emerge during storage and transportation. Most mycotoxins are chemically stable and survive food processing, which is why proper handling of coffee is key. If left unchecked, mold and fungi can form mycotoxins—toxic chemical products that are invisible to the naked eye.

The most common mycotoxin found in coffee is ochratoxin A (OA). A sampling of 60 coffees from Brazil found ochratoxin A in 20 of them (33.3%), while other studies have identified the mycotoxin in nearly half of the beans analyzed.

Seeing as it’s so common, ochratoxin A is considered “one of the most important mycotoxins of worldwide concern for human health.” As the World Health Organization explains, “Large doses of aflatoxins can lead to acute poisoning (aflatoxicosis) and can be life-threatening, usually through damage to the liver.” Research has also linked high amounts of ochratoxin A exposure to chronic kidney disease. It also seems to negatively affect immune health in some animals, though more research on humans is needed.

Before you chuck out all the beans in your house and switch over to tea, know that the amount of ochratoxin A typically found in coffee is unlikely to be enough to carry any meaningful health risk. Even if you drink upwards of six cups a day, it should still fall below the EU Committee for Food’s safety limit of 3 mg/kg of OA from coffee day. The roasting process can further reduce the amount of ochratoxin A in contaminated beans.

Still, we couldn’t blame you if you don’t love the idea of sipping moldy coffee. That’s why mindbodygreen set out to create clean coffee+—a new type of morning brew that has been tested for mold, mycotoxins, and more.

The clean coffee+ difference

If you’ve ever tried our supplements or personal care line, you know that mindbodygreen is committed to creating the most transparent, rigorously vetted products out there. With coffee, that means using beans that have been grown, stored, and handled in a way that reduces the risk of fungal growth and contamination. We also put our beans through comprehensive, third-party lab testing. The final product has tested negative for mold, mycotoxins, heavy metals, and over 300 pesticides.†

The organic (third-party certified organic by Oregon Tilth) whole-bean blend contains coffee from three global regions including Africa, Central America, and South America. All of our beans are shade-grown in mountainous terrain with rich, biodiverse soil. This helps the beans develop a more complex flavor than those grown on conventional large-scale farms that are largely void of life. This more sustainable, regenerative approach to growing also lends a more nutrient-dense product (read: plenty of polyphenols).

Our four types of beans are handpicked at peak ripeness and then carefully hand-sorted before being roasted and blended into what you see in a bag. We know from laboratory testing that the finished product is rich in certain native polyphenols. The plant compounds in our product have been shown to have inflammatory-balancing actions and antioxidant effects in preclinical trials. These add to the already impressive health perks of coffee. When consumed responsibly, research on caffeinated coffee shows that it can offer protection against cardiovascular issues, type 2 diabetes, and late-life dementia, and it’s been associated with a lower risk of death overall.

Of course, the flavor has to be top-notch too. Chocolate, hazelnut, and winey fruit are just a few of the notes you’ll pick up in our rich, complex brew. The beans are also low in acidity and easy on the stomach, and they have a superior and premium taste that works just as well in a drip coffee as it does an espresso or pour-over. We may be a little biased, but we’d say our Arabica blend is the cream of the coffee crop.

The takeaway

†Not detected or below detectable limits. mindbodygreen’s clean coffee+ undergoes comprehensive, third-party lab testing in the USA for hundreds of purity, potency, and sensory tests. Rigorously tested for caffeine, theobromine, polyphenols, heavy metals, yeast, mold, bacteria, mycotoxins, acrylamide, pesticides, solvents, acidity, and more—our premium, whole coffee beans exceed industry-leading quality standards for potency, purity, and taste experience.

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