Where Does Caffeine Come From?
We often assume that caffeine is only found in coffee. What if I were to tell you that not only are there various types of caffeine, but that they all come from different sources? Caffeine is present in various foods, drinks, and non-edible products that you are likely unaware of.
In this brief, informative article, we’ll take a more in-depth look at understanding the sources of where caffeine comes from.
What Is Caffeine Made Of?
Caffeine is made of a chemical structure consisting of 8 carbon, 10 hydrogen, 4 nitrogen, and 2 oxygen atoms in the formula C8H10N4O2, or 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine.
Do you want to know what natural caffeine is and how it’s produced? Let’s take a closer look.
What Is Natural Caffeine?
Natural caffeine naturally occurs in natural ingredients like beans, nuts, tea leaves, and berries. It works by blocking the brain’s adenosine receptors, which prevent the neurotransmitter adenosine from binding to them. This tricks your brain into thinking it’s alert rather than tired or in need of rest. (1)
How Is Caffeine Made Synthetically?
Caffeine is made synthetically in labs as a common artificial addition to packaged drinks, foods, and other products. The FDA states that caffeine must be added to food labels when it has been included in any production processes, whereas naturally-caffeinated items do not need such specifications. It is cheaper to make caffeine than to extract it from natural sources.
What’s The Difference Between Synthetic Vs Natural Caffeine?
The difference between synthetic vs natural caffeine is their mildly different effects on the body.
Food products with natural caffeine are more nutrient-rich, with essential health-promoting vitamins and minerals like potassium and magnesium.
Foods with synthetic caffeine tend to have non-ideal additional components, such as too much-processed sugar, that are health-harming and have non-nutritive stimulants.
Where Is Caffeine Derived From?
Caffeine is derived naturally from over 60 species of plants. Is caffeine natural? Yes, natural caffeine comes from the beans of coffee and cocoa, kola nuts, the buds and leaves of tea and Yerba mate, guarana berries, the guayusa and yaupon holly plants, and the bark of Yoco (2).
The FDA regulates added caffeine in five categories of products: foods, beverages, energy drinks, dietary supplements and over-the-counter drugs.
Synthesized caffeine is commonly found in unexpected sources including gums, flavoured waters, juices, sodas, and medications like pain-relieving analgesics (3).
For more information on caffeine, check out this YouTube video.
You can safely consume up to 400 mg of caffeine daily as a healthy adult. However, if you aren’t aware of exactly where caffeine is found, you may be unintentionally consuming too much caffeine, which can cause discomfort and anxiety-like symptoms.
Caffeine comes naturally from ingredients like beans, berries, leaves, and nuts and synthetically from labs by being added to products such as foods, beverages, sports drinks, nutritional supplements, and over-the-counter medications. Caffeine is found in coffee, teas, chocolates, and surprising products like painkillers.
Caffeine used to be naturally inherent in soda drinks as it is found in kola nuts. Kola nut extract was originally used to make popular sodas like Coca-Cola. Now caffeine is added artificially to replace the original flavour of kola nuts as coca plant extracts are used instead. Despite this addition, there is still a greater caffeine content in drip coffee vs soda. (4)
Caffeine in energy drinks comes from both artificial additions and natural sources with common ingredients such as guarana and taurine. There is a higher level of caffeine and sugar in energy drinks than in sodas. The exact amount of caffeine varies by brand, so check labels. (5)
Coffee has caffeine and is one of the biggest sources of it, but it is not caffeine itself. Is coffee naturally caffeinated? Yes, but the level of caffeine found in coffee varies depending on the beans used, the roasting process, the method of brewing, and the serving size. These factors all dictate which coffee drink has the most caffeine. It is worth knowing that despite what decaf coffee is, decaffeinated, it isn’t entirely exempt from caffeine. (6)
- Petre, A. (2021, October 18). Natural vs. Synthetic Caffeine: What Foods Naturally Contain Caffeine? Retrieved September 24, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/natural-caffeine
- Hu, D. (2018, September 13). Natural vs. Added Caffeine: What’s the Difference? Retrieved September 21, 2022, from https://foodinsight.org/natural-vs-added-caffeine-whats-the-difference/
- Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. (n.d.). Caffeine. Retrieved September 21, 2022, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/caffeine/
- Kumar, K. (2021, September 23). How Much Caffeine Is in a Can of Coke Compared to Coffee? Retrieved September 24, 2022, from https://www.medicinenet.com/how_much_caffeine_is_in_coke_compared_to_coffee/article.htm
- Better Health Channel. (n.d.). Caffeine. Retrieved September 24, 2022, from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/caffeine
- Bjarnadottir, A. (2017, June 3). How Much Caffeine in a Cup of Coffee? A Detailed Guide. Retrieved September 24, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-caffeine-in-coffee