Sources of caffeine

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Caffeine is an alkaloid occurring naturally in some 60 plant species, of which cocoa beans, kola nuts, tea leaves and coffee beans are the most well-known. Other natural sources of caffeine include yerba maté, guarana berries, guayusa, and the yaupon holly. Caffeine is added to many popular soft drinks, and is also a component of a number of pharmacological preparations and over-the-counter medicines including analgesics, diet-aids, and cold/flu remedies.

Typical amounts in food and beverages

The amount of caffeine consumed in beverages varies enormously and is dependent, for example, on the strength of the drink, and the amount consumed with cup size playing a key role. Coffea canephora (robusta) is known to contain more caffeine than Coffea Arabica (arabica). However, as a basic guideline an average sized cup of soluble coffee contains approximately 65 mg caffeine, whilst a cup of roast and ground coffee contains around 85 mg. A 30 ml espresso cup contains around 50-60 mg caffeine. Finally, a can of cola or a cup of tea contains 25-45 mg caffeine. Tea actually contains more caffeine than coffee on a dry weight basis, but a smaller weight of tea is generally used to prepare a brew. Decaffeinated coffee generally provides less than 3 mg caffeine per cup. Cocoa and chocolate contain much smaller amounts of caffeine.

Caffeine content of drinks and foods

Drinks/Foods Volume Caffeine (mg)Mean (range)
Filtered coffee 125 ml 85 (60-135)
Espresso 30 ml 60 (35-100)
Soluble instant coffee 125 ml 65 (35-105)
Decaffeinated coffee 125 ml 3 (1-5)
Tea (leaves or bag) 150 ml 32 (20-45)
Iced tea 330 ml 20 (10-50)
Hot chocolate 150 ml 4 (2-7)
Caffeinated soft drinks 330 ml 39 (30-48)
Sugar-free caffeinated soft drinks 330 ml 41 (26-57)
Energy drinks 330 ml 80 (70-120)
Chocolate bar 30 g 20 (5-36)
Milk chocolate 30 g 6 (1-15)
Dark chocolate 30 g 60 (20-120)

Data adapted from Illy et al., Harland et al., and Heckman et al2,3,4

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