The buzz on caffeine in coffee: A genetic quirk - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

The buzz on caffeine in coffee: A genetic quirk

Posted: Updated:
(AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File). FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2013 file photo a row of  brewed coffee is seen in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File). FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2013 file photo a row of brewed coffee is seen in Oakland, Calif.
AP Science Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Scientists have woken up and smelled the coffee - and analyzed its DNA.

They found that what we love about coffee - the caffeine - is a genetic quirk, not related to the caffeine in chocolate or tea.

"It's an accident that has been frozen in place very likely by the influence of natural selection," says University of Buffalo evolutionary biologist Victor Albert. He and more than 60 other researchers from around the world mapped out the genetic instruction book of java. Their results were published Thursday in the journal Science.

Albert says researchers discovered that caffeine developed separately in the coffee, tea and chocolate because it is in different genes in different areas of plants' genomes.

But once coffee mutated to have caffeine - not just in the bean, there's even more in the leaves - it turned out to be a good thing for the plant, Albert says. Bugs don't chew on the coffee plant leaves because they don't like the caffeine, but pollinators like bees do.

"So pollinators come back for more - just like we do for our cups of coffee," Albert says, admitting he also likes the buzz.

"It wakes me up every morning," Albert says. "I wouldn't be able to do all this fabulous work on coffee if it weren't for the coffee itself."

University of North Carolina plant genomics professor Jeff Dangl, who wasn't part of the study, notes "natural selection to help coffee plants deter insects turned out so well for us." But he adds, "Unfortunately, coffee is now under epidemic attack by pathogens that are not deterred by caffeine, and we need all the clever genetics and genomics to save it."

The research will be presented next week at the 25th International Conference on Coffee Science in Colombia.



The journal Science:

Coffee science conference:


Seth Borenstein can be followed at

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WXOW. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, Terms of Service and Mobile Privacy Policy & Terms of Service.

Persons with disabilities who need assistance with issues relating to the content of this station's public inspection file should contact Administrative Assistant Theresa Wopat at 507-895-9969. Questions or concerns relating to the accessibility of the FCC's online public file system should be directed to the FCC at 888-225-5322, at 888-835-5322 (TTY) or at