Between the Leaves September 2008

See, I am very shortly to make a cross-country move. This move will accompany a pretty big change in my day job, so from here on out, Between the Leaves will become a bi-monthly feature on Adagio's TeaMuse, but that really doesn't have much to do with my current plight. The real issue is that I’ve got to pack up all my worldly possessions and haul them over 2,000 miles in little more than three days.

Hittin' the Road
Hittin' the Road

Clearly this is only going to be possible through much supplication to the goddess Caffeina, but I just don't know which of her 'altars' will give me the best results.

Naturally, I could always appeal to our beloved Camellia sinensis...but to be perfectly honest, she's just not the buzz I's looking for. Tea is a contemplative drink for me. I usually turn to it when I'm settling down to read or write, or if I need to mull something over. It can keep me turning pages when I might otherwise doze off, but it's just not a particularly compelling force. In fact, I know that I'm actually more serene when under the influence of tea instead of some other caffeinated beverage. I also know that I've got l-theanine to thank for that. Depending on the type of tea, it will contain anywhere from 1 to 5 mg of l-theanine per fluid oz of beverage and somewhere between 1.9 to 7.5 mg/oz of caffeine. That's a pretty decent caffeine ratio (Coca-Cola Classic clocks in at 2.9 mg/oz), but the l-theanine blunts the caffeine energy rush with its stress reducing effect. You get the clarity and patience to watch paint peel... but not to haul boxes.

Nope, tea is not the answer this time. Coffee, on the other hand has serious promise. Not only does it completely lack l-theanine, but it is also available at every five-star resort and negative-star dive across the country. To further sweeten the deal, even regular drip coffee packs a caffeine punch at 18.1 mg per fluid oz. If I decided to treat myself to Starbucks' finest, that ratio would jump to almost 22 mg/oz (and their espresso would send me flying at a whopping 51.3 mg/oz!).

I've got to admit, I like those numbers. I like them a lot. But I'm not sure I want to jump back on the coffee bandwagon. Back in my college days, I was a slave at its shrine. My day began promptly at 5:30 with a huge, creamy 16 oz mug of bliss, and it was very, very good. At roughly 288 mg of caffeine in one sitting, I was shot into the stratosphere...but the crash from such heights is very hard, so I would follow my morning cup with four others during the course of the day. Seeing as the recommended caffeine limit is 300 mg a day, well, let’s just say I do not think it wise to return to my former reckless ways. Besides, I like my coffee with plenty of half-and-half, and the goal is to not reach my destination weighing 5 pounds more than I currently do.

Tea is too calming, coffee to jarring, and sodas and energy drinks are too sugary to even be considered... what's a girl to do?

Well, thanks to some of my friends at TeaChat, I've discovered yerba mate. It comes from a holly-like plant native to South America, and has been enjoyed by the locals for centuries... and it has caffeine. In fact, it has lots of caffeine: about 10 mg per gram of dried leaf. Should you brew roughly 3 grams of leaf per 6 oz of water as you might do for tea, you’d clock in a respectable 5 mg/oz and enjoy a tasty, albeit weak, brew. Should you bump up your brewing to the recommended 7 grams of leaf to 6 oz of water, you’ve got a much tastier beverage and a formidable caffeine ratio. Better still, yerba mate contains a nice selection of polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals (including selenium, which can dispose one toward happiness). Yerba mate is also pretty tasty: the green varieties resemble some types of green tea and lends itself well to citrus pairings while the roasted varieties are distinctly coffee-like with hints of maple and walnuts. Both are also available in flavors that help to play up either the citrus or coffee aspect.

Caffeine power, the potential for happiness, and flavor? I think this Goldilocks has finally found her 'just right'.

TeaMuse wishes Mary the best of luck in her new pursuits! Look for her column to be featured every other month.