The cytochrome P450 enzyme CYP1A2 mediates the rate-limiting step in the metabolism of many drugs including theophylline, clozapine, and tacrine as well as in the bioactivation of procarcinogens. CYP1A2 activity shows both pronounced intra- and interindividual variability, which is, among other factors, related to smoking causing enzyme induction, to drug intake and to dietary factors which may result in induction or inhibition. In contrast to these exogenous factors, genetic influences on enzyme activity seem to be less pronounced. Therefore, phenotyping of CYP1A2, i.e. the determination of the actual activity of the enzyme in vivo, represents a useful approach both for scientific and clinical applications. CYP1A2 is almost exclusively expressed in the liver. Since liver tissue cannot be obtained for direct phenotyping, a probe drug which is metabolized by CYP1A2 has to be given. Proposed probe drugs include caffeine, theophylline, and melatonin. Caffeine is most often used because of the predominating role of CYP1A2 in its overall metabolism and the excellent tolerability. Various urinary, plasma, saliva, and breath based CYP1A2 caffeine metrics have been applied. While caffeine clearance is considered as the gold standard, the salivary or plasma ratio of paraxanthine to caffeine in a sample taken approximately 6 hr after a defined dose of caffeine is a more convenient, less expensive but also fully validated CYP1A2 phenotyping metric. CYP1A2 phenotyping is applied frequently in epidemiologic and drug-drug interaction studies, but its clinical use and usefulness remains to be established.