05 December 2009

Caffeine on Campus Part I

Raspberry tea from Cafe Pick Me Up in East Village, New York, New York

Winter is supposedly approach in windy Boston, and that usually means two things: mountains of snow and finals for university students. Fortunately, global climate change blessed Bostonians with an unbelievable day of 67 degrees this week. But while weather remains a bit of a wild card, students in the city can always count on finals. And finals in turn, usually mean one of two things: coffee or energy drinks.

Realistically speaking, as much as parents, teachers, and health professionals may warn against all-nighters and too much caffeine, they are unavoidable. A student's final exam alone often accounts for 25-50% of their entire grade for the course. So on behalf of my fellow library dwellers, I have to issue a cursory apology to the people who tell us to get eight hours of sleep every night during finals week. We can't afford to sleep until our grades have guaranteed us 6-figure salaries and a retirement plan.

But while we're collectively open to seeking out energy in any chemical form, most students overlook tea and instead reach for coffee, energy shots, and energy drinks and 5-hour energy shots to get their fix.

Tea, in most of its forms, is probably the healthiest way to stay awake while remaining just as effective as a cup of Starbucks (which is also more expensive).

So here follows a comparison of the prices and caffeine amount of the most common--and legal--library pick-me-ups.

Five Hour Energy
Caffeine per serving: 138 mg
Serving Size: 2 oz
Price per serving: 2.99 USD

Starbucks Tall Coffee
Caffeine: 260 mg
Serving Size: 12 oz
Price: 1.75 USD

Tazo Awake Tea
Caffeine: 50 mg
Serving Size: 12 0z*
Price: 1.50 USD*
*at Starbucks locations

Red Bull Energy Drink
Caffeine: 80 mg
Serving Size: 8.6 oz
Price: 2.00 USD

Other Non-Brand Items:

Average Brewed Coffee
Caffeine: 80-135 mg
Serving size: 8 0z
Price: variable by the pound

Tea: Serving Size= one bag
All prices variable by brand, variety and weight.

Imported Brand Tea
Caffeine: 60 mg (40 for US tea)

Green Tea: 20 mg caffeine per serving (up to 30)
Oolong Tea: 30 mg
White Tea: 15 mg
Herbal Tea: 0 mg

So there you have it. On average, a cup of tea has about half the caffeine of the average cup of coffee. But this has several advantages. Tea's caffeine content will help you stay awake, but not at the risk of a late-night crash. And even though you have to drink more tea to get the same effect of coffee, this isn't a bad thing either. Tea leaves contain substances that not only keep you awake, but prevent stress and promote overall physical health.

Different teas have a range of positive health effects including:
1. cancer preventing antioxidant EGCG
2 L-theanine, which boosts alertness and immunity
3 lowered cognitive impairment
4 lowered production of the bacteria that cause bad breath

Other teas, such as yerba mate, provide the same health benefits, as well as substitutes for caffeine. Mate teas, for example, contain the stimulant mateine. But that's another story for another time.

So, go to your local grocery store. Pick up a box of Lipton, Tetley, Bigelow, or whatever. Read the label for caffeine content, and buy yourself a plastic mug. This will be one of the best investments of your life--so drink to your health!

01 December 2009


It’s Tuesday. I’ve been awake since 7 a.m. running on 4 hours of sleep and running around in shoes I probably shouldn’t be running in. I could go home but my last stop of the morning is Espresso Royale Café. I get it—it’s a chain, and nearly all the table are occupied by flannel-sporting hipsters. But I’m not here to admire their beards or scoff at their thick-framed glasses (likely non-prescription).

The décor is pleasant, the place is toasty as hell, and they also serve loose leaf tea. I’m very loyal to my organic green tea that I brew at home, but I’m feeling a bit adventurous. So I took a look at the tea menu and decided to try something new.

Today’s pick is Crimson BerryPicture quality is not the best, because people in my immediate surroundings were beginning to glare at me in annoyance and I got scared.

Crimson Berry is an herbal tea, which means it’s an herbal infusion made from anything but than leaves of the tea bush. Herbal teas are also very low on caffeine, if they have it at all.

This variety happens to taste like passion fruit and pomegranate if you’ve ever had it. It’s pretty thirst-quenching and tangy, so today I’m having mine with a bit of honey.

29 November 2009

Boston, 2009

The thing I have most feared since early adolescence was turning into my mother. The neat-as-a-pin authority I never hesitated to question. Leaving my mother's nest for the great big yonder of university, I thought, here's my chance. She won't even recognize me come Thanksgiving Vacation. Funnily enough, this did not happen. In fact, over the next several years, I found myself slowly becoming more and more like my parents, with traits of theirs slowly creeping up on me. I discovered a fondness of strong vodka that I must have inheritted from my Polish forebearers. My handwriting is now the lovechild of my father's "doctor's scrawl" and my mother's spherical cursive. In the middle of a laugh attack, I often emit high pitched squeals deafening even to five year old schoolchildren, a feat I previously thought only my mother capable of.

But my most important stage of metamorphosis was a sudden habit of drinking an inexcusable amount of tea. My sister and I have often in the past spied our mother, sitting by the living room window, and sipping tea. Occasionally, she would give a wistful sigh, and we would ask her what she was thinking about. "Poland," she would say. That's when we would crack up hysterically at Mama's romanticism. And we'd follow that with, "geez, how much tea can you DRINK?"

Apparently, alot. My mother has the skill of drinking more glasses of tea per day than a college student cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Apparently, I have inheritted this gift. My heart-stamped mug is surgically attached to my hand, and frankly, there could be far worse ways of becoming my mother.