Caffeine: The Ultimate Truth
5 Surprising Facts About What’s Really In Your Coffee
We all look forward to our morning cup to give us that little boost of energy to help us through the day, but how much do you really know about caffeine, the potent ingredient that powers our coffee?
Coffee has been enjoyed since around the fifteenth century, when it was reportedly brewed in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen. By the 16th century it had reached the rest of the Middle East, Persia and Turkey. Coffee drinking then spread to Italy and the rest of Europe, and before long coffee reached the Americas, transported there by Dutch merchants.
Caffeine is a crystallizable substance found in coffee, and was first discovered in 1819 by the German chemist Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge. Ever since its discovery, scientists have studied caffeine to try to understand why it affects us the way it does.
Keep reading to learn 5 interesting facts about the origins, characteristics and effects of caffeine:
Caffeine is not just found in coffee and tea
We know coffee and tea plants contain caffeine, but it actually also naturally occurs in the seeds, nuts, or leaves of over 60 plants native to South America and East Asia. Its bitterness helps to protect these plants against predatory insects, as well as to prevent the germination of nearby seeds. Caffeine is found in coffee beans and tea leaves, but it is also commonly found in kola nuts, which are used to flavor soft drink colas, and cacao pods, which are used to make chocolate products.
What does caffeine actually do to us?
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that reduces fatigue and drowsiness. It also generally improves reaction time, wakefulness, concentration, and motor coordination. The amount of caffeine needed to produce these effects varies from person to person, depending on body size and degree of tolerance. You can usually begin to feel the effects of caffeine approximately one hour after consumption, and they generally wear off after about three or four hours. Caffeine can also improve athletic performance, including sprinting, cycling, and endurance sports. A word of warning to those of us who love coffee but are sensitive to caffeine: decaf coffee still contains small amounts of caffeine.
Caffeine is not just for drinking
Caffeine is present in some unusual everyday products. It can be found in some over-the-counter pain relievers and cold medications, as well as in diet pills. These products can contain as little as 16 milligrams or as much as 200 milligrams of caffeine. In fact, caffeine itself is a mild painkiller and increases the effectiveness of other pain relievers. It has also been added to shampoos to purportedly thicken hair and stop hair loss, although there is not yet enough scientific evidence to fully substantiate this.
Caffeine can have side effects
Because it is a stimulant, consuming caffeine later in the day can interfere with sleep. However, you shouldn’t be affected if you don’t consume caffeine at least six hours before going to bed. Your sensitivity may vary depending on your metabolism and the amount of caffeine you regularly consume, so try switching to decaf in the evenings when the coffee urge hits you!
You can be ‘addicted’ to caffeine
Some people may feel that they can’t function before their first coffee of the day, and it is true that regular use of caffeine does cause mild physical dependence. If you stop consuming caffeine abruptly, you may have symptoms for a day or more, especially if you drink two or more cups of coffee a day. Symptoms of withdrawal from caffeine include headache, fatigue, anxiety, and irritability. However, most experts don’t consider caffeine dependence a serious addiction. You might disagree, especially if you’re reading this before your first coffee of the day!
While some of these facts about caffeine may surprise you, there is still no denying the simple pleasure of sitting down to a great cup of coffee. Brazilian Espresso coffee is made from 100% Arabica beans, for a smooth and balanced flavor. Choose from whole bean, freshly ground, or convenient capsules – all of our coffee products guarantee a delicious fresh-brewed taste every time.
Bennett Weinberg and Bonnie Bealer, The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World’s Most Popular Drug.