• March 5, 2020 |

    a guide to caffeination

    an expert’s guide to staying awake

    article by , illustrated by

    Now that midterm season is in full swing, I thought that I’d share a guide to the many forms of the glorious chemical that is caffeine. As someone who is currently writing this at 3 a.m., deceivingly energized by two cups of matcha and four shots of espresso, I thought I’d be the perfect person to help enable your caffeine addiction. I have compiled a short list of my personal favorite “fuel” sources below. 



    This is by far the most popular form of caffeine—most people are used to their daily coffee fix. Coffee will give you that jolt of energy to keep you alert and upbeat. However, be careful not to overdo it—drink too much and you will be too jittery to even function or act logically. The coffee bean is versatile and you can enjoy it as brewed coffee, cold brew, latte, cappuccino, chocolate-covered espresso beans…the list goes on and on. My personal favorites are cold brews or oat milk lattes. Luckily, we are surrounded by coffee hot spots such as Starbucks, Blue State Coffee, and even the Blue Room. Pro tip: Find your favorite grounded blend and buy a full-size bag to keep in your dorm. This is great for when you forget about an assignment the following day and have to pull an all-nighter (definitely not talking from experience…) and also, more generally, a way to keep your bank account happier.  



    While not as popular as coffee due to its earthy taste and higher price point, matcha is my top choice for caffeine. This is because matcha will give you the boost of energy without the jitters or subsequent crash due to its slower release of caffeine. Better yet, matcha is full of antioxidants that help fight free radicals, which can cause cancers. Matcha can be consumed as a traditional tea or in a latte. If you make it at home, make sure to buy a bamboo whisk to properly dissolve the matcha powder in hot water. You can buy either culinary matcha (good for lattes or if you are adding sweeteners) or ceremonial (more delicate flavor, for use on its own or in unsweetened lattes). You can get creative and add matcha to baked goods, too. You will also find matcha lattes at most coffee shops and at Ceremony Tea on Thayer (although expect to pay LA prices). 


    Yerba Mate 

    Yerba Mate is a drink made from yerba mate leaves of a South American rainforest plant. It is known to have the similar strength to coffee, but with the benefits of tea. It has also been shown to boost energy and mental performance. With all the illnesses going around, you will be happy to know that mate can even improve your immune system. You can find mate premade in cans from the brand Guayaki that feature intriguing flavors such as “Enlighten Mint,” and you can even buy the leaves and steep your own unsweetened brew. 



    Brewed black or green tea is a classic, universally soothing drink that contains moderate amounts of caffeine, although definitely not near coffee levels. You can enjoy it iced, hot, or with a splash of milk if you are feeling English.  A cup of tea is perfect for when you want a hint of caffeine but still want to be able to sleep at a non-college-student hour. Be aware that herbal teas do not contain caffeine and that some, such as chamomile, may promote sleepiness. 


    Guarana Berry

    This is a type of berry that stems from the Amazon forest and is known to have high levels of caffeine and additional stimulatory effects. Many athletes take guarana berry, as it can even improve athletic performance. It is often found in many energy drinks, although I would recommend staying away from beverages that contain a concoction of artificial substances. Rather, go for the powder, extract, and juice supplements that have more natural ingredients and can be found online or at health stores. 



    Chocolate lovers rejoice! Dark chocolate, which is full of antioxidants, also contains some caffeine. Studies show it helps improve mental function and promote memorization (so, basically the perfect study snack). There is even one brand of chocolate, AWAKE, that adds extra caffeine to their chocolate bars if you are ever in need of an extra caffeine kick with your dessert.