Opium found in coffee on campus


By JEREMY STITSWORTH, Staff Reporter |

Students in Amarillo College’s STEM research club made a surprising discovery while conducting tests on coffee from the Writers’ Corner.

“The sample of the Writers’ Corner coffee was from Sam’s Club and it tested for a very, very, very small amount of opium,” said Stephanie Barclay, a biology major and STEM Club member. Opium is an addictive narcotic drug derived from the seeds of poppies.

“It started when we wanted to test our friend’s coffee mug because he drinks like seven cups of coffee a day and doesn’t wash his mug,” Barclay said. The students tested several types of coffee from shops around Amarillo and found trace amounts of opium and motor oil.

“The motor oil could be from the processing machinery in the packaging and shipping of the coffee and the opium could be from the area it was grown, like Columbia,” she said. Barclay added that the trace amounts they found in the coffee are not significant or dangerous.

This discovery is just a small part of the research that this community club is conducting. Any AC student can be a part of the club, even if they are not pursuing a degree in one of the various STEM fields. The students in the club perform experiments and studies on many different samples such as water, soil and plant life throughout the Panhandle region.

“We basically expanded the scope of the research because we had so many students and now, we have about 168 soil and water specimens collected by students,” Dr. Asanga Ranasinghe, a physical science professor and head sponsor of the STEM Club said.

“We test the differences in the molecular compounds in each one,” said Bentli Veneklaseh, a horticulture major and member of the STEM Club. “We use the infrared machine a lot to condense them down to a very precise number, it’s very accurate and it tells you individually what is in each sample that is analyzed.”

Taylor Gresham, a chemical engineering major and professional coffee roaster, suggested the coffee analysis due to her interest in the chemistry of coffee.

“I suggested that we use coffee to build a database for the infrared machine since we know what is in coffee,” she said.

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