Who needs energy drinks? Death Wish Coffee is riding the caffeine craze with coffee it claims has “more than 200 percent caffeine” – which is a little misleading, since they really mean it has twice the caffeine (not 200 percent more caffeine) as regular coffee. The company says their coffee isn’t juiced up with added caffeine, but instead is made with beans that are naturally high in caffeine, and then roasted to ensure less caffeine loss. But it’s unclear whether these beans are robustas or arabicas, and where they are grown. I’ve got a few other questions for the company and have sent in a media request. Stay tuned and in the meantime, here are links to Oddity Central’s review and the Death Wish Coffee website.
- Osama Bin Latte
- Stranger Danger
They’re all barista lingo from various coffee bars around the nation. Can you guess what they mean? For answers, check out Ben Schott’s Java Jive
No one knows for sure when humans first consumed caffeine. Africa was the starting point for coffee, and probably fueled early man. Tea has its roots in Asia. Cacao, the source of chocolate, is native to Mesoamerica, while guarana and maté originated in South America. Kola nuts hail from Africa.
Today, we get our caffeine from the same plants, though in different forms, with complex processes ranging from simple steeping to grinding, fermenting, and roasting. Before jumping into energy drinks and caffeine-enhanced products, let’s start with the basics: caffeine in its natural forms as coffee, tea, cacao, guarana, and yerba mate.
Wild coffee plants originated in the same region where early humans may have been born: Ethiopia. Around 600 AD, the Oromo, a mountain tribe that still exists in Ethiopia, concocted a primitive “energy bar” by rolling up balls of ground coffee beans and ghee (clarified butter). Here’s an FAQ about coffee, starting with a few entertaining facts:
- The green (unroasted) coffee beans carry a nutritious profile: 11% proteins, 8% sugars, 16% lipids, 4% minerals, and about 1% caffeine.
- Green coffee beans are roasted and brewed into coffee as we know it.
- Global coffee consumption is increasing at a rate of about 2 percent annually.
What is coffee? The tropical evergreen shrub known as Coffea produces red fruit with seeds, which we know as coffee beans. These red coffee “cherries” contain two seeds, and are plucked by hand when ripe. During processing, the seeds are removed from a pulpy outer covering, dried and roasted. Coffee plants thrive at higher elevations, from 1000 to 7000 feet depending on growing conditions and distance from the equator.
What are the different types of coffee beans? Thousands of species of coffee plants exist, but only two are the main sources of commercial coffee beans: C. arabica and C. robusta (also known as C. canephora). Arabica beans are considered more complex and smoother, while robusta beans are stronger in flavor. Robusta plants are hardier, more disease resistant, and grow at lower altitudes. Commercial beans are often named for their country of origin, roasting level, blend, and other flavor descriptors.
How much caffeine does coffee yield? Robusta beans contain twice the caffeine of arabica beans. But the actual caffeine in your cup varies depending on growing, roasting and brewing methods. In this book, we use 100 mg of caffeine per cup of brewed coffee as a standard. See the sidebars for other common examples. Decaffeinated coffee actually contains a small amount of caffeine, about 2-4 mg per cup. (Raw coffee beans contain 1-2% caffeine, by weight.)
Where does coffee come from? The world’s “Coffee Belt” runs between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Latin America grows 75 percent of the world’s coffee, Africa also produces coffee, and Southeast Asia has become an important coffee region. The top five coffee producers are, from most to least: Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, and India. Colombia grows only arabica beans. Vietnam grows robusta beans almost entirely.
What else does coffee contain? Like all plants, coffee contains thousands of chemical compounds. Roasting and other processing can alter these compounds, making some more volatile and destroying others. Coffee is rich in antioxidants, which may provide health benefits separate from those of caffeine. Coffee’s nutrition profile: 11% proteins, 8% sugars, 16% lipids, 4% minerals, and about 1% caffeine.
Are energy drinks as safe as a cup of coffee? It depends. Consider this…
Both statements are true:
- Energy drinks contain only as much caffeine as coffee
- Energy drinks pose risks because of their high caffeine content
Okay, so what gives? These sound like conflicting statements, but the devil’s in the details.
The energy drink industry likes to promote the first statement, which is partially true: ounce for ounce, some energy drinks really are as mild as coffee; but others are many times more caffeinated. So it depends on the brand of energy drink. And in most cases, the label does not indicate the amount of caffeine a drink contains.
The second statement, that large doses of caffeine create health risks, is also correct – and how these highly-caffeinated energy drinks are promoted and consumed makes them drastically different from coffee or tea.
If you want to consume caffeine safely, then you need to know how much caffeine you’re consuming – whether it’s in the form of an energy drink, energy shot, coffee, tea, or other substance.
- Low to moderate doses of caffeine are considered safe for most people, and can enhance mental and physical performance. (An average cup of coffee contains about 100 mg. of caffeine.)
- High doses of caffeine over-stimulate the body, and can trigger sleeplessness, tachycardia, nervousness, impaired decision making, and other reactions. Large amounts of caffeine are riskiest when ingested in a short amount of time, and consumed by people who are more sensitive to caffeine’s effects – which includes pregnant women, children, teens, and people with certain health conditions or genetic sensitivity.
You’ll find more details on caffeine’s overall effects, and how different individuals react to caffeine, in Chapters 8 through 11 of Caffeine Basics.
Next: Find out what the American Beverage Association, an industry lobbying group, tells consumers about energy drinks.