Discovery of caffeine
Caffeine in the lab
Caffeine and plants
Students and Caffeine

Caffeine and Plants

It is probably significant that the most widespread words in the world - borrowed into virtually every
language - are the names of the four great caffeine plants: coffee, cacao, cola, and tea.

E.N. Anderson, The Food of China, 1988

Left to Right: Tea picking in China, coffee harvest in Ethiopia, and the Cacao Tree (Theobroma cacao)

Worldwide, 120,000 tons of caffeine are consumed annually. Coffee is the source of 54% and tea the source of 43%, with cocoa pods, cola nuts, mate leaves and guarana making up the remainder. This works out at 1.3 trillion cups of coffee and tea per year.

For this reason the link between caffeine and the plants that produce them is of great importance, and this section takes a quick look at a few interesting sections of this complicated and fascinating subject.

Why do plants contain caffeine? It gives humans a buzz... but why did plants evolve the ability to produce caffeine in the first place?

Where do we find caffeine? The major natural sources of caffeine...

Competition? Caffeine is not the only stimulant alkaloid which is produced by plants and consumed for the 'kick'...

Images used without permission from the following sources:
Tea picking in China         xi48.htm
Coffee harvest in Ethiopia
The Cacao Tree              

back to top

Caffeine - Simon Tilling