Caffeine NPR Dan Charles

Ah, my dear fellow Mormons. Let’s talk about soda. Let’s talk about coffee. Let’s talk about the Word of Wisdom.

As we know, Mormons are dissuaded from drinking coffee and tea because of the caffeine content. Wait, what? Oh. It’s not? You mean that’s a cultural assumption? OK, we can go with that. Well even if it isn’t, let’s just say it is. Coffee crosses some unspecified threshold of caffeine content and that, my dear friends, is why it is verboten.

Soda, of course, is fair game—just don’t get addicted. Pounding Coca Cola or some Red Bull is all good because the caffeine content is clearly lower than coffee. Remember Jolt Cola? Totally kosher.

Regardless, one of the primary differences between coffee and caffeinated soda is that caffeine is naturally occurring in coffee and tea whereas in soda, it is an additive. So how does that caffeine get into soda? Really, where does caffeine come from?

It turns out the lion’s share of caffeine added to soda and energy drinks actually comes from coffee beans. Thanks to Dan Charles at NPR, we’ve learned about the silent warriors who extract caffeine from coffee beans through a crazy chemical process, and then turn it into what is apparently a lethal powder. According to Charles, a small bag of the powdered caffeine is the equivalent of up to 2,000 cans of Coke—enough to kill several people. That’s nuts!

Because I am ignorant (and hold a degree in fake science—the social variety), I’m not going to go into extensive detail on here about how the caffeine gets yanked out of the beans and turned into a refinable powder that is then added to various fizzy drinks, but for those interested, check out the story here or listen to the clip from NPR below.

Beware, brothers and sisters, there be coffee (sort of) in your Diet Coke. Things may never be the same.