11 February 2024

"Caffeinated" beverages

I gleaned the following interesting factoids from a conversation about plant-based stimulants with Gemini (formerly Bard), Google's Large Language Model AI. First, which I knew already, both tea and coffee share exactly the same active ingredient, 1,3,7 trimethylxanthine, aka caffeine, formerly also called theine, before its identical structure was determined. Yerba mate contains some of this, but it also contains 1,3 trimethylxanthine, aka theophylline, which is a bronchodilator sometimes used in medicine to treat COPD. It also contains theobromine, the active drug ingredient in chocolate *(3, 7 trimethylxanthine). This mixture gives mate a different stimulant "feel" from tea and coffee. (Obviously all closely related chemicals). So what about relative popularity? Here, coffee blows tea away and crushes mate into insignificance. Here are the production numbers, by metric ton of consumable material: 

Coffee: 167 million metric tons annually
Tea: Just under 6 million metric tons annually
Maté: Less than ¼ million metric tons annually. 

So, now you know. Taste and texture have a lot to do with it, but if you don't think these are drugs, you're not facing facts! 

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