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Bagging the bean



“I drank diet cola like a fiend for years,” Steve Howard said.

Before he eventually stopped, the Norman resident was drinking a pair of 2-liter bottles every day. That’s the approximate caffeine content equivalent of 10 cups of coffee.

“I just made up my mind to quit and did it,” Howard said. “Not easy, but I did it.”

Too much caffeine can keep you awake at night, cause irritability and lead to health problems. When consumed moderately, however, the drug — and it is a drug — can temporarily increase mental focus and is generally safe.

right Barista Jasmine Wing at Gray Owl Coffee in Norman

If you’re committed to cutting out caffeine, Teaoli operates Inspirations Tea Room, 1389 E. 15th in Edmond, along with retail outlets in Norman and Edmond. They carry rooibos teas from South Africa that naturally contain no caffeine and high levels of antioxidants.

“We have a variety of flavors, such as coconut cream, roasted almond, chocolate cake and chai,” owner Larry Rhoads said. “Our herbal teas, including chamomile, cool mint and hibiscus, have zero caffeine, as well.”

Maté teas from South America can be every bit as strong as coffee.

“They’re good early in the morning because you really get the caffeine buzz,” Rhoads said.

To limit your caffeine intake, but still get a mild buzz, try bubble tea. Originated in East Asia, the beverage is generally a black or green tea base mixed with fruit syrup and/or milk and sometimes tapioca pearls.

“People love almond milk- and passion fruit-flavored bubble teas,” said Elizabeth Tran, bartender at TEA (The East Asia Cafe), 1241 E. Alameda in Norman. “People should try bubble tea with tapioca pearls ($2.50, small; $2.75, large) because they’re chewy and sweet, like gummy bears.”

The black-tea version has less caffeine than coffee; green tea has only a miniscule dose.

“We have coffee-flavored, but most people order one of our 20 different fruit syrup flavors,” Tran said. “I like a little sugar in mine, but that can be left out if you want.”

Conventional, gourmet and specialty teas are also popular for a low-dose caffeine fix.

Barista Jasmine Wing at Gray Owl Coffee, 223 E. Gray in Norman, suggested starting with its strongest triple-shot espresso, then switching to decaffeinated Americano before the jitters set in.

“We also have herbal teas, fruit juice and San Pellegrino drinks that don’t have any caffeine at all,” she said.

Photo by Mark Hancock

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