On caffeine


in Geek stuff, Science, Writing

Caffeine moleculeCaffeine – a molecule I first discovered as an important and psychoactive component of Coca Cola – is a drug with which I’ve had a great deal of experience over the last twelve years or so. By 7th grade, the last year of elementary school, I had already started to enjoy mochas and chocolate covered coffee beans. When I was in 12th grade, the last year of high school, I began consuming large amounts of Earl Gray tea, in aid of paper writing and exam prep. During my first year at UBC, I started drinking coffee. At first, it was a matter of alternating between coffee itself and something sweet and delicious, like Ponderosa Cake. By my fourth year, I was drinking more than 1L a day of black coffee: passing from French press to mug to bloodstream in accompaniment to the reading of The Economist.

Unfortunately, coffee doesn’t seem to work quite right in Oxford. My theory is that it’s a function of the dissolved mineral content in the water, which is dramatically higher than that in Vancouver.

As I understand it, caffeine has a relatively straightforward method of operation. After entering the body through the stomach and small intestine, it enters the bloodstream and then binds to adenosine receptors on the surface of cells without activating them. This eventually induces higher levels of epinephrine release, and hence physiological effects such as increased alertness. Much more extensive information is on Wikipedia.

From delicious chocolate covered coffee beans used to aid wakefulness during the LIFEboat flotillas to dozens of iced cappuccinos at Tim Horton’s with Fernando while planning the NASCA trip, I’ve probably consumed nearly one kilogram of pure caffeine during the last decade or so. After the two remaining weeks of this term – and thus this academic year – have come to a close, my tight embrace with the molecule will probably loosen a bit.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Meghan May 30, 2006 at 5:07 pm

You forgot to mention the signed agreement designed to wean you off Coke, but which instead cemented your addiction to coffee.

Milan May 30, 2006 at 5:14 pm


I am not the one who defaulted on that agreement, as you recall.

Milan May 30, 2006 at 5:37 pm


Perhaps I should also note that you bought me a French press, as well as the mug embossed with a caffeine molecule that is sitting on my desk right now.

kerrie May 30, 2006 at 7:39 pm


is it minerals in the water or just built-up tolerance?

tristan.laing May 30, 2006 at 9:25 pm

Oh! Ponderosa cake! I forgot how sweet it was. I would go get some right now…. so far from ubc…

need cake…

Meghan May 30, 2006 at 10:14 pm

I suppose I do have a lot to answer for…

Milan May 30, 2006 at 11:27 pm


The _taste_ is wrong. Not the caffeine kick.


What percentage of those cakes had big lumps of baking soda in the middle?


Indeed you do. Nearly all is forgiven, nonetheless.

Tristan August 8, 2010 at 10:35 pm

“What percentage of those cakes had big lumps of baking soda in the middle?”

Near 100% I believe!

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