Caffeine, derived from natural caffeine-containing plants, has been consumed for centuries by various cultures. Consumption of tea was first documented in China in 350 A.D., although there is some evidence that the Chinese first consumed tea as early as the third century B.C. Coffee cultivation began around 600 A.D., probably in what is now Ethiopia.

Caffeine was first chemically isolated from coffee beans in 1820 in Germany. By 1865, caffeine had been identified in tea, mate (a drink made from the leaves of a South American holly), and kola nuts (the chestnut-sized seed of an African tree).

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