An idle thought struck me. Let’s say you’re on the latitude of Northern Europe and you’ve become a locavore, someone who avoids foodstuffs that must be transported far from their production site. Let’s also say that you don’t like greenhouses. And finally, let’s say you’re hooked on coffee or tea. Is there a caffeine source that can be grown outdoors in Northern Europe?

Most psychoactive substances only occur in a small group of closely related plants. But caffeine pops up in widely divergent branches of the floral kingdom. Does anybody know of a caffeine-producing plant that, say, a Dane or a Canadian could grow in his back yard?

Comments

  1. #1 Kevin
    June 29, 2009

    I guess it would depend on where in Canada. Here in Seattle, just across the border, we can grow the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, pretty successfully. I know a few holly species contain caffeine, most notably the North American native Ilex vomitoria, which, in spite of its intimidating name, was used as a stimulant as well.

  2. #2 Ethan
    June 29, 2009

    I’m going to be very interested in any experimentation involved. :-)

  3. #3 HP
    June 29, 2009

    Yerba mate is native to the Southern Cone of South America. That’s a bit more temperate than Scandinavia, but it might grow there with a little TLC. It’s tasty, too, with a nice caffeine kick.

  4. #4 Martin R
    June 29, 2009

    Kevin, that Yaupon holly sounds interesting! Wonder what it tastes like.

    I had yerba mate once, it wasn’t bad. Tasted like dried lawn clippings.

  5. #5 Doug Alder
    June 29, 2009

    Here are the 8 major sources of caffeine – http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/webprojects2001/tilling/sources.htm

    You would be in the equivalent of a zone 4/5 most likely for plant hardiness so I think only the Ilex cassine/Ilex vomitoria are going to work for you. The others are all tropical in nature and grow too large to bring indoors during the winter. If you have a window with good southern exposure you could grow a couple of coffee plants – I had one about 2 meters tall and it was only a year away from bearing fruit when circumstances changed and I no longer had it. I think you need two for pollination purposes but not certain.

  6. #6 Martin R
    June 30, 2009

    That’s a good link, thanks. I’m considering buying some Yaupon holly seed to try raising a couple of plants.

  7. #7 Christina
    June 30, 2009

    The most common coffee surrogate in Sweden is Cichorium intybus(Cikoria på svenska). In many countries (DK; USA; UK for example), coffee is mixed with it to give the coffee a nicer aroma, but I’ve no idea if it actually contains any “wake me up substances” like caffeine. Good old Fagus sylvatica (bok, på svenska)has been used extensively as a coffee surrogate in the past. According to Linné, it tastes better than other coffee substitutes, but others prefered Dandylion (Maskros) root, or the root or dried leaves of Epilobium angustifolium (Rallarros). Today, the latter is used as a sort of tea in many countries. But…I’ve still no idea if any of these have caffeine in them, just that they were/are used as coffee substitutes and/or additives. That’s OK, my archaeobotnics teacher would still be proud of me for having retained all that information…
    As for myself, I’ve been experimenting with different types of tea. Not herbal stuff like Sleepytime tea or Chamomile etc, but tea tea, as in white tea, puer tea etc. Some of those give you quite a jolt! Now I understand how Tibetan monks can stay up late, get up early and still not fall asleep during endless mantras.

  8. #8 Bondo
    December 26, 2010

    “Locavore” is like saying ‘an eater of crazy females’,….entiendo?
    Just say it all: LOCAL-vore, not Loca-vore, that’s ‘crazy eatin”