The Evolution of Caffeine


The familiarity of students with tea (from Camellia sp.), coffee (from Coffea sp.) and chocolate (from Theobroma cacao) makes the evolution of caffeine a great context for exploring ideas around evolution. If ideas such as natural selection, evolutionary relationships and convergent evolution (the independent evolution of similar characteristics in two or more separate lineages) can be pinned in students’ minds to something they regularly come across in their everyday life then maybe they will think about them more outside of lessons. They might even, if we’re lucky, talk about them with their friends and family!

The biology behind this context and ideas for using it in lessons at both GCSE and A-level are discussed in this School Science Review article by Chris Graham which you can find in the Growth Hub.

You can easily embed this context into your teaching using the PowerPoint slides which replicate the two figures in the article and which can be downloaded from this page.

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