90% of North Americans consume caffeine on a daily basis. When ingested by itself, caffeine is extremely bitter — not the type a flavor many of us want lingering on our taste buds.
But some foods offer substantial amounts of caffeine, while others are packed with it synthetically. How many cups of coffee are you slugging per chocolate bar? Let's take a look at some sources of edible caffeine and how they stack up to your morning cup of java.
Caffeine pops up in our life-giving cup of early morning coffee and in a majority of soft drinks. A can of Coca-Cola contains 30 to 35 milligrams of caffeine. A typical cup of coffee ranges from 100 to 200 mg of caffeine — some commercial blends of coffee even push the 300 mg mark.
Caffeine also naturally occurs in a handful of foods, with chocolate being the most popular. An individual cocoa bean, the key ingredient in chocolate, is 0.1 to 0.7% caffeine by mass.
The amount of caffeine that in a serving of chocolate candy is not extraordinary. A serving of Hershey's Kisses contains 11 mg of caffeine, roughly a one-third of the caffeine in a soft drink. One might get an extra jolt from the sugar content in the chocolate, but you aren't going to replace your daily espresso fix by downing a handful of dusty kisses from the office candy dish.
Dark chocolate is made by increasing the amount of cocoa beans in the mixture. This leads to a slightly bitter taste and a considerable increase in the amount of caffeine. Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate doubles the caffeine amount of milk chocolate, coming in at 25 mg of caffeine per serving. One of Hershey's boutique brands, Scharffen Berger Mocha Dark Chocolate, contains 68.8 mg per the suggested serving, half of the chocolate. If you eat the entire bar, you are certainly entering coffee territory.
If you're looking to get even more unorthodox, a burgeoning market exists for "caffeine infused" versions of existing foods. Nestlé markets a caffeinated version of its Butterfinger candy bars, Butterfinger Buzz. Buzz contains 80 mg of caffeine, thirty-five times the amount of caffeine in a normal Butterfinger. Another potent example of infusion is AMP Energy Gum, containing 40 mg of caffeine per piece, which is a phenomenal amount of caffeine for a small tablet of gum, especially considering one could easily chew three to four pieces in a sitting.
The United States Army is experimenting with a caffeinated form of beef jerky for Meals Ready to Eat (MREs). The beef gives soldiers without access to potable hot water for coffee a caffeine source. Several companies already produce caffeinated beef jerky for commercial use, with Perky Jerky containing 150 mg of caffeine per serving of beef jerky. The amount of caffeine in the U.S. Army's jerky formulation is currently unknown.
Moving right along, there is the wild and crazy world of "extreme" caffeine-loaded foods, or consumables containing amounts of caffeine surpassing multiple cups of coffee in a single serving. The classy Ed Hardy Chocolate Rocks contains 600 mg of caffeine in a serving, which is as much caffeine as several cups of coffee or three maximum strength No-Doz pills.
And for those of you Caffeine powders are also available, allowing you to add caffeine to macaroni and cheese or anything else you can get your hands on and dissolve the powder in. Blast Caffeine is available as a blend of caffeine and additives that delivers 11 gram of caffeine within a 15 gram bottle of Blast Caffeine mix. One "shake" of Blast adds roughly 100 mg of caffeine to your food or drink, but use with care, as ingesting 11 grams of caffeine in a short amount of time is quite dangerous.
Caffeine powders also alter the flavor of a food or drink due the bitter nature of caffeine, so you might make some awful-tasting food in the process. Bitter macaroni and cheese. Mmmm.
All in all, our prodigious daily usage could likely frighten our descendants the same way we are shocked by the availability of cocaine in the early 1900s. Heck, back in the day caffeine was accused of being more societally deleterious than cocaine, so perhaps everything will come full circle.