A mossy-green goo clung to the bottom of my cup. It reminded me of sludge Iād found once at the bottom of an iguana terrarium.
Briefly, Iād kept in iguana after Iād moved in with some friends following a bad breakup 25 years ago.
Having a pet reptile wasnāt a good fit for me. I was trying to be edgy but was a little appalled by the lizard, which mostly stayed on his heated rock and glared in my general direction.
I ran a finger through the sludge in the cup, scooped it up and popped it in my mouth. Iād have never done that with the terrarium, but the undissolved matcha powder didnāt taste bad. It just had a weird consistency.
This I blamed on how Iād stirred the green tea powder. Sasha at Appalachian Tea had used a special bamboo whisk. In the shop, sheād whipped the green powder and hot water into an almost creamy froth.
Iād used a plastic fork Iād saved from Captain Dās.
Results clearly varied.
I had previously owned a wire whisk but had foolishly shoved it into an overcrowded kitchen drawer full of wooden spoons, sharp, steel apple corers, and aluminum ice scream scoops. In that tangle of tools and amidst the daily opening and closing of the drawer, the whisk had warped well past being useful for anything other than frightening children.
Last month, I tossed it out when I began thinning some of the junk Iād accumulated in my kitchen. The whisk went in the trash, along with plastic containers that no longer had lids, plastic lids that no longer had containers and a couple of coffee mugs that read āGrandma.ā
Iām not sure why I thought I needed a coffee mug that said, āGrandma.ā Iām not entirely sure why I had four.
Iād tried the matcha at Appalachian Tea a few days earlier in the week. It was part of a flight of different teas and not-exactly teas Sasha Strader had brought out for me at her tea shop on ĀŅĀ×ÄŚÉäās west side.
Weād started off with yellow tea, which was kind of creamy and reminiscent of popcorn.
I loved it. Iām a popcorn fan.
Then, weād gotten into the matcha.
I canāt recall whether Iād ever had matcha before. Given my willingness to taste just about anything, Iād probably had a cup somewhere. I just didnāt remember it. Whenever Iād last tried the stuff, it hadnāt made a strong enough impression for me to recall.
Sasha told me matcha was a little different than what I was used to.
āIt has about half the caffeine of a regular cup of coffee,ā she said. āBut it has something else called theanine.ā
Theanine did several things, Sasha said. One of them was that it could slow the release of caffeine over a longer period of time.
āIt reduces the crash,ā she said.
That sounded good to me. Some days, I struggle between the wide-eyed jitters of having too much caffeine and the hard stop that comes at the end when I feel like I could crawl under my car and sleep.
I drink a lot of coffee and when I canāt stand another cup, but still need to keep going, Iāll buy a sugar-free energy drink.
Thereās more than caffeine in those things and if I drink too much or get the wrong type, Iāll feel like a Viking berserker and want to go sack all of Ohio, which is a problem when you have a desk job.
Matcha sounded promising.
The powdered green tea originated in China around the 10th century A.D., but then really took off when it arrived in Japan about 150 to 200 years later.
The Japanese embraced it. The tea became part of intricate ceremonies and was associated with Zen monks, who are supposed to be alert and paying attention, while exuding a peaceful calm.
I wanted that. I also wanted something that didnāt taste like a high school science experiment.
Sasha suggested that I give guayusa a try. It was the ālocalā caffeinated beverage.
Found in South America, guayusa is the only native plant containing caffeine. Coffee, the most popular plant containing caffeine, is grown in South American countries like Columbia and Brazil, but actually originated in Yemen, which is part of East Asia.
Thereās a legend about an Ethiopian goat herder traveling through Yemen discovering coffee in the 9th Century. Apparently, his goats got into a patch of coffee plants, chewed up a bunch and suddenly became very productive and maybe a little (more) irritable.
Nobody is sure whther the story is true, but itās been passed around for centuries.
Sasha said guayusa had about as much caffeine as black tea, plus theobromine, a mood-altering compound thatās also found in chocolate. The compound is sometimes said to elicit a feeling similar to being in love.
āIt tastes a little like weak coffee,ā Sasha said.
Which can also be like being in love.
Technically, Guayusa isnāt tea. Itās a relative of the holly plant and contains no tea leaves, but itās prepared the same way by steeping in hot water.
Sasha gave me a tutorial on hot water. Not all teas need to be brewed in scalding hot water. In fact, that was a problem with ordering some types of tea, particularly green tea, at some coffee places, particularly chain coffee establishments with drive-thru service and a mermaid in their logo.
āThe chain places do a lot of espresso drinks, which is made with very hot water,ā she said. āThey use the same water for all their teas.ā
White and green teas donāt need to be so hot.
āIf the water is too hot, it makes green tea bitter,ā Sasha said. āI donāt know how many times Iāve had people come in to the store and tell me they donāt like this tea or that tea because itās bitter.ā
āItās not bitter,ā she said. āItās just over brewed.ā
The small cup of matcha Sasha had made me was hot enough to notice, but not hot enough to scald me or stop me from slurping it down in about three gulps.
Between the matcha, the guayusa, the yellow tea, the cocoa brew and the hot-pepper-oil-spiked coffee Sashaās husband Russ brought me, I was so pumped up on caffeine I could nearly levitate.
I felt so alert and focused, I thought my next step was to try switching to these teas for a few days to see whether Iād notice a difference. I started off the day with two slightly lumpy cups of matcha and then switched to guayusa.
Mid-morning at the office, I had one cup, then another and then four. I switched to black tea and had another couple of cups. I could feel a slight lift, but it still felt like I was pushing through muddy ground.
Drinking tea instead of coffee sent me to the office coffee stand over and over, as well as the restroom.
A mug of something was in my hand almost at all times, which worried me a little. How much caffeine is safe, I wondered.