I don’t drink coffee. I don’t really like hot tea. I need caffeine. To get the requisite amount of caffeine to fire up the old thought engine I drink water flavored with packets of magical powders. They aren’t really magical, they just contain caffeine and some flavoring. They also reported contain “vitamins” but I’m not holding my breath.
I found them about 8 years ago in a grocery store in Waco (where I was living). At the time, I was getting my daily dose of caffeine through energy drinks (2 a day). I had graduated from Mountain Dew to the energy drinks in an effort to modulate the sugar to caffeine ratio. I never really liked diet soda, they were always to sweet in a weird way for my taste. Also for some reason I could never drink them quickly. While a mountain dew or energy drink I could down 12-20 ounces in single gulp, a diet soda required sipping. And the weird after taste. So after two months of two energy drinks a day, I had amassed quite a collection of cans. (ASIDE: for some reason I collected all the energy drink cans on a shelf in my office cubby, kind of like a shrine to sugar, caffeine, and wasted money.) Being a grad student (AKA very poor), I looked for cheaper alternatives to the $4-6 a day energy drink habit. I tried hot tea for a while. I was fine, but required more time and forethought then I could usually muster on a typical morning. I tried a daily vitamin that had a energy boost included (ie lots of caffeine). That worked well until I mixed it with an energy drink. I will tell you that I was awake in class that morning. It was all I could do to sit still. I was still buzzing like 9 hours later. Then I slept for like 12 hours and had a terrible headache. The pills were out. This lead me to the grocery store in search of the alternative. In the section with the Crystal Light drink flavor packets (next to the Koolaide) I found them. Packets of drink flavoring with caffeine added. They were low in sugar (only 5-10 calories per packet). I decided to given them a try. Turns out they were not bad. Well, they weren’t good, but having spent an extended time drinking terrible tasting energy drinks (eg. Red bull with its unique but terrible taste that all but encourages you to drink it in one quick swallow) these were not bad. The first ones I tried were like “berry” and “morning citrus”. Berry tasted like bad fruit punch, but the morning citrus was not unlike tang. They became my route for daily caffeine exposure. Over the last 8 years or so, I’ve tried just about every flavor I could find. From mango-pineapple (or peach), to wild berry, to strawberry-tangerine, to dragon fruit (which taste suspiciously like fruit punch), to pomegranate-lemonade, to cherry-limeaide, to blueberry acai, I’ve tried them all, multiple times. But the one I like best (and would drink exclusively) is grape. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has read my blog (and my homage to grape flavored soda – Gone Grapey Gone). I love the flavor purple. From Otter Pops to soda, I love the fake grape flavor. Finding Grape Crystal Light packets with caffeine was like a magical day. So while I try to mix up my purchases I tend to focus on the grape ones.
Another nice thing was that these favor packets were way cheaper than soda, energy drinks. They were comparable (if not cheaper) than individual tea bags. And since I hate coffee anyway there was no cost to outweigh there. Originally the costs were around $2 for 10 packets. The Crystal Light versions started to creep up in price from 2 to 2.50 to 3.15 (now). Walmart and Kroger store brands were just as good so I would buy them (Walmart’s ran about $1.74 and Kroger’s about $2 or cheaper when there was a sale). But still I love the Grape. For a while only Crystal Light had the grape. Then I found the Walmart version (Great Values). It was grape-tastic. I would stock up on them any time I found myself at a Walmart. Then the unthinkable happened, I couldn’t’ find them at Walmart anymore. Sure, I could still get 5 in a twenty pack of mixed flavors, but who wants to drink 5 pomegranate-lemonades just to get 5 grapes. So I started to just get the Crystal Light grape. But its price was getting higher. I know that $3.15 is not much different from $1.74, but when you go through 2-3 boxes a week, the price difference adds up.
Some time over the last year I discovered that it was taking me more drinks to keep my energy up. The added drinks (I mostly mix the packets with a liter of water in my own reusable bottle to make myself/the environment feel better) had a very noticeable side effect, a full bladder and lots of trips to the restroom. Worried that either I was becoming desensitized to the caffeine or I was having some other physiological problem, I cut down on the amount of water. I doubled up on the packets, thinking that if I decreased the volume I would pee less. This did help, but it lead me to read the packaging. To my horror inconvenience, I realized that somewhere along the line Crystal Light had lowered the caffeine content of each flavor packet, by half. The packets went from 120 mg caffeine to 60mg. This was a travesty. I needed twice as many packets (at a higher price) to get the same dosage. HOW COULD THEY DO THIS TO ME>>> THEY HAVE TAKEN GRAPE AWAY!!! Crystal Light was weak sauce. Great Value Grape Energy was nowhere to be found. I was forced to switch to my backup flavor, tangerine-strawberry (Kroger Brand). Much to my caffeinated delight I discovered that Kroger had no such concerns about me having too much caffeine and produced packets that contained 160 mg of caffeine. This was good (caffeine/oz was up) and bad (not grape flavor). And so things remained until yesterday…
I was perusing a local Walmart (a different one from my normal location) when I found the motherlode: 5 boxes of full strength (120mg caffeine) Grape flavor packets. While it is dumb to be excited about something so mundane, if something makes your morning routine better in any marginal way, it is cause for celebration. I did a little happy dance, which Kate found quite amusing. So now my desk is fully stocked with caffeine packets (somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 packets mixed between Grape and Tangerine-Strawberry. This should be a productive time period for me (or at least not lag time).
As a note the LD50 for caffeine in an adult human is 150 mg/kg (rats are 192mg/kg). At my current weight I would have to eat 57 grams of caffeine to receive a lethal dose. That would be somewhere around 500 packets of favoring. Also as a note to my mother or other folks concerned with the health effects of too much caffeine; on a typical day I drink two liter of water (each infused with drink packet). This amounts to about 240-320 mg of caffeine (depending on package dosing). Some days I drink 3 (360-480 mg caffeine). This might seem like a lot until you realize that two 20oz cups of coffee (standard coffee) contain around 600 mg of caffeine.