Caffeine is not only healthy for you, but it’s good for the coffee plants too, acting as a natural insecticide. While people have perfected means of caffeine extraction to produce decaf coffee, let’s face it, it impacts flavor to some extent and adds cost. Which is why a sort of ‘holy grail’ of coffee growing is a coffee bean that has little or no natural caffeine in it. Nature magazine has a very interesting article talking about the efforts currently going into this. On the one hand, you have the approach of finding existing coffee plants with low caffeine levels and use selective breeding to enhance that quality. The problem so has been productivity of the plant, and overall quality of the resulting beans. There’s also a problem with cross-pollination with regular coffee plants. So on the other hand there’s genetic modification, a sort of slippery slope that’s mostly in the news from GM corn (Monsanto, etc). A path fraught with danger if you ask me.
Which makes me take a step back and ask, why again are we doing this? Caffeine has proven health benefits. Yes, some people need to avoid it, but it’s still a bit strange to devote this effort into refining what is purely a luxury crop item, not some basic staple of human existence. Ok so that’s a bit unfair…for people like me it IS a staple of existence, but hey, that’s a firstworldproblem, let’s look at the bigger picture here. 🙂