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Caffeine Content in Drinks

​Coffee and tea: The world’s favourite breakfast drinks, used globally to help kickstart our brains with a nice boost of our favourite socially acceptable drug: caffeine. But have you ever wondered how much caffeine you’re actually getting from these drinks? Or how drip coffee compares to espresso, and english breakfast to peppermint tea in terms of caffeine content? Caffeine is a very common, highly popular stimulant found in many foods and beverages that is, for the most part, perfectly safe to consume. But too much caffeine can have certain side effects and even cause health problems. So whether you’re simply curious, or if you’re hoping to gain more control over the amount of caffeine you’re consuming on a regular basis, we’ve broken how much caffeine you normally find in some of the most common sources of the stimulant. 

​Coffee vs. Espresso

Coffee lovers are no strangers to the caffeine buzz. Terms like “caffeine buzz” conjure images of wild eyed, fast talking folks holding their 4th espresso with quivering hands, or chugging a hot mug of dark, black coffee. But how accurate are these images in terms of caffeine content? Few people realize that a shot of espresso actually contains less caffeine than a cup of drip coffee. Furthermore, dark roast coffee will likely contain less caffeine on average than a light roast. How is this so? 

The answer to the espresso question is actually quite simple. While espresso is certainly more concentrated than drip coffee, it uses only a fraction of the amount of beans used to make a cup of coffee. The equation is simply less coffee beans = less caffeine. 

​Light Rost vs. Dark Roast

​But what about the caffeine content of different kinds of beans? Don’t espresso and dark roast beans contain more caffeine, which is why they tend to taste stronger? Actually, if anything, the opposite is true. For starters, espresso beans are not necessarily roasted longer. Espresso beans vary greatly in their roasting process in order to achieve a wide variety of flavour characteristics. And as for Light/Medium/Dark roast coffee, beans roasted longer (as in the case of dark roast) actually lose mass in the form of moisture. This doesn’t necessarily alter the caffeine content of the bean to any significant degree. It does mean that if you use the same volume of dark and light roast to brew two different cups of coffee, the light roast will have more caffeine in it. However, if you were to weigh equal amounts of dark and light roast coffee, the dark roast would have more caffeine because you would need more dark roast beans to equal the weight of the light roast. That being said, we’re talking about a difference of a few beans. So it terms of caffeine content, it’s probably not worth worrying about which roast to get. The verdict? Espresso has a higher concentration but a lower overall caffeine content than coffee, and the difference in caffeine between light and dark roast coffee is almost negligible and not universal.  

​Decaf Coffee

You might be surprised to know that decaf coffee does indeed contain small amounts of caffeine. Caffeine is found as a chemical compound within the coffee bean, and decaf coffee is made by extracting the caffeine from the bean. Generally this is done by soaking the beans and then using pressure and/or a solvent (such as carbon dioxide) to chemically remove the caffeine. This process typically only removes about 94-98% of the caffeine, which is why decaf still contains trace amounts of caffeine. 

As you can see, the amount of caffeine in any given coffee beverage can vary greatly. It depends on numerous factors from the type of bean, how many grams of coffee used to brew the beverage, grind size, and even water temperature. To get a more accurate idea of the exact amounts of caffeine you might find, these are the general ranges in mg:

    Coffee (8 fl. oz):     85-150 mg 

    Espresso (1 fl. oz):    47-65 mg 

    Decaf ( 8 fl. oz):     3-13 mg 

​Tea

Much like coffee, the amount of caffeine in tea can vary greatly from leaf to leaf (or tea bag to tea bag). Factors that affect the amount of caffeine include the type of tea, size of the leaf, and even the water temperature used to brew it. Generally speaking, larger, high quality loose leaf tea will contain less caffeine than cheaper, finely ground or “dusty” tea. 

    White, Black and Green Teas

The teas with the lowest caffeine content are white teas and green teas. This does include matcha powder, which has a much higher density of green tea leaves per serving, and therefore has a caffeine content more comparable to black tea or coffee. Oolong teas have more caffeine than white and green, but less than black teas, which contain the most caffeine.    

    Herbal Teas

Unlike decaf coffee, non caffeinated tea does not contain any trace amount of caffeine. This is because the herbs naturally contain no caffeine, therefore there is no extraction process required. Some common non caffeinated teas include rooibos, chamomile, and peppermint

​​Yerba Mate

Yerba Mate is a tea like plant that is renowned for its multi-facteded properties. It contains caffeine, as well as other stimulants found in tea and chocolate, which gives the yerba mate “buzz” its own unique properties. 

Green and White tea (8 fl. oz):    8-16 mg

Oolong Tea (8 fl. oz):            25-55 mg

Black Tea (8 fl. oz):            25-110 mg

Matcha (8 fl. oz):            70-100 mg

Yerba Mate (8 fl. oz):            30-75 mg

​Energy Drinks vs Chocolate

It’s pretty common knowledge that energy drinks generally contain a lot of caffeine, but did you know that your hot cocoa and chocolate ice cream also contain caffeine? Cocoa is a natural source of caffeine, one of the many properties of chocolate that contribute to its apparent ability to make people feel good. That doesn’t mean you can no longer have a scoop of chocolate ice cream before bed - the caffeine content in chocolate is pretty low, and gets lower the more processed it is. By contrast, energy drinks often contain unnatural amounts of caffeine, among other strong stimulants. 

Dark chocolate (1 oz):        12 mg

Milk Chocolate (1 oz):        9 mg

White Chocolate (1 oz):    0 mg (white chocolate contains no cocoa)

Energy Drinks (8 fl. oz):    65-150 mg

The next time you’re looking for a little pick-me-up, there are plenty of surprising sources of caffeine for you to choose from - including your grandpa’s after dinner decaf. Of course, if you ask us, nothing beats old reliable coffee. 

When Was Coffee Invented?

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a 17th century coffee house. Image courtesy of WikiMedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Interior_of_a_London_Coffee-house,_17th_century.JPG

Coffee is one of the world’s most profitable export crops, and second only to tea as the most popular drink on the planet. One morning you may be gazing down into your creamy mug of hot joe and think - when was coffee invented? Where and when did coffee come originate? When were the first coffee beans harvested and brewed into that perfect dark, bitter morning drink that the modern world can hardly function without? The true origins of coffee are hard to pinpoint. Most people point to Ethiopia as being the birthplace of coffee. Historically speaking, it does appear to be the first place where the crop truly flourished. But exactly where and when the crop was first consumed will likely remain a mystery. For now, let’s look at what we do know. 

The first recorded consumption of coffee comes from Ethiopia about 2,000 years ago. It is known that the Oromos tribe of this region used to make a kind of cake out of the leaves and fruit of the coffee tree, which they would chew or suck on. It has been compared to a caffeinated gum. Evidence after this is rather circumstantial. However there is a widely accepted tale dating back to 850 AD which speaks to coffee’s rise in Ethiopia. 

The story begins in the Ethiopian plateau with a goat farmer from Kaldi. The farmer noticed his goats eating berries from a particular shrub, followed by bouts of energy that prevented them from sleeping. Curious, Kaldi tried the plant for himself and immediately felt the effects. In some versions, this humble discovery ends there. In others, it is told that Kaldi brought the crop to nearby religious men who then began to experiment with the plant and produced the first coffee beverage. 

Yemen also has its own tale of the origin of coffee. As it goes, a man named Omar was condemned from the city of Mokha and sent to die outside its walls. During his journey in the wild, he came upon the coffee plant which gave him energy to return to the city. Both his survival and discovery of the coffee plant were seen as a blessing.

Other variations of these tales exist, but most are accepted as apocryphal. Indeed, the story of Kaldi did not appear in writing until about 1617, centuries after it allegedly took place. 

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Ethiopian Coffee Beans

So while the story of the goat farmer can’t be historically verified with certainty, it is a charming tale that has been deeply woven into coffee’s history. Many view Ethiopia as the true birthplace of coffee.

What we do know is that coffee’s history from the 15th century onward is quite well documented. Much of coffee’s success can be credited to the rise and spread of Islam, which saw increased interaction and trade between Ethiopia and Yemen from the 7th century onward. Later, Around the 15th century, coffee was increasingly cultivated and traded along the Arabian peninsula, especially through the Port of Mokha. Arabs called the drink “qwaha,” which is an Arabic word for wine. Since Islam forbade its followers to consume alcohol, coffee was likely the closest thing to real wine most Arabs had ever tried. Coffee’s stimulating properties were also useful for religious purposes, such as overnight prayer. Coffee became an important trading commodity for Arabs.

It is during the 16th century that coffee shops began to appear. Known as “qahveh khaneh,” these first coffee shops were immensely popular gathering places that provided much more than a fresh cup of coffee. They became places of music, chess, and intellectual conversation. People drank coffee and indulged in conversation about current events or the quandaries of life. They were commonly referred to as “schools of the wise.” A culture was developing around this invigorating beverage. It continued to spread through Persia, Turkey, Syria and Egypt. Pilgrims from all over the world travelling to Mecca began to witness and experience these coffee shops, calling the beverage “wine of Araby.” 

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Khair Beg - govenor of mecca in the 1500s. Also known as the man who almost ended coffee

Along with its growing popularity, coffee also started to face criticism from religious authorities concerned about its stimulating properties and comparisons to wine. In 1511, the governor of Mecca tried to ban coffee, burning coffee houses and forbidding trade of the beverage. This ruling was revoked only a few months later, but it would not be the first time coffee would be put on trial by religious leaders. 

Coffee crops began to spread even further under the Ottoman rule of Yemen. The Ottoman Turks recognized the value of trading coffee, but wanted to ensure the crop remained solely in Yemen. But it was only a matter of time before seeds were smuggled into other areas, and the cultivation of coffee started to pop up in India.

The growing popularity of this strange, black beverage started to peak the interest of Europeans around the 17th century. In 1652, London opened the very first European coffee house. At a time where cheap beer and wine were the breakfast drink of choice, coffee’s ability to stimulate the mind without numbing the senses or invoking drunken disorder made it a huge hit practically overnight. The culture of the coffee house did not discriminate in the same way that a bar did, and people found they were not only stimulated, but invigorated and motivated to boot - a combination not experienced through alcohol. 

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Some religious figures were distrustful of the beverage however. The Venician clergy condemned coffee in 1615, but upon tasting the black drink, the pope at the time gave coffee the papal approval. With its ability to stimulate intelligent conversation, coffee shops began to take on the name “penny universities.”

Around the mid 1600s is also when coffee came to North America. In 1773, King George revolted and imposed heavy tariffs on tea - a revolt known as the Boston Tea Party. Americans turned instead to coffee, with missionaries, traders and colonists spreading crops all across the globe. By the end of the 17th century, coffee was one of the worlds most profitable crops - and the rest is history!

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