I am an energy (and experience) junkie; there is nothing better than being “rarin’ to go” for as much of the day as possible. This is possibly why I’ve been told it’s simultaneously so fun and exhausting to be around me for extended periods of time. I’m a natural joker, ranter, and mover, and those traits only get more prominent when I’ve had an energy drink…which I usually have.

Now, I’m an old-school Red Bull man. Red Bull sponsored a 24-hour improv marathon that I watched in 2002, and so my sleep-deprived mind on some base level connected Red Bull with successful comedy. And, these days, space-diving.

But hey, it could be that I’m missing out on the most amazing energy drink out there just because of a self-imposed Red-Bull rut. Obviously, there’s only one solution:

Heck yeah, green tea! A well-documented source of natural energy (or at least, it’s well-documented on a bunch of energy-juice bottles), green tea is different than regular black tea in that…well, in that more people have researched the health benefits of green tea. Regularly drinking black tea seems to prevent/stave off strokes and heart disease, but green tea contains major anti-oxidants and more natural energy boosters, which are words that look good in neon letters on the back of a bottle.

Test Drive 1:
V8 V-Fusion + Energy (Peach-Mango)
Total duration of energy: Major: 2 hours 45 minutes (930AM-Noon15) Minor: 4 hours (Noon15-415PM)

Official Product Description: A peach and mango flavored beverage blend of 8 vegetable and fruit juices and puree from concentrate with green tea extract and other natural flavors.

Energy Source: Natural energy from green tea. 80mg of caffeine. 10g of sugar.

Flavor: It tastes like they royally messed up while brewing green tea. I don’t mind peach tea, but mango is not a flavor I especially chase after, especially not mixed with green tea. Also, unless you really relish the taste of vegetables (pun intended), avoid this one. One thing you quickly learn when consuming energy boosters is this: taste is magnified, and if you’d normally say, “That didn’t sit well with me,” you had better be prepared for a full-on upset stomach.

Energy Start/Stop: 1/3 of the way into the can, energy hits hard, like getting onto an airport moving walkway in midstride. You shoot forward, still walking, and it feels a little too fast. Then, a little under 3 hours later, you walk off the other side of the moving walkway, and your body jolts as your body systems realize in an instant that they suddenly have to do a lot more work to keep moving forward. Post-Script: I realized hours later that I was still amped up (not Amp’ed up; I’ll get to that later), just on a much less pressing scale. So V-Fusion is like hitting the nitro until it runs out and then pressing the gas afterwards and THEN coasting.

Test Drive 2:
Ocean Spray Cran-Energy Cranberry Energy Juice Drink
Total duration of energy: 6 hours (945AM-345PM)

Official Product Description: Cranberry juice blended with grape juice from concentrate with added vitamins and other ingredients

Energy Source: Natural energy from green tea. 83mg of caffeine. 12g of sugar.

Flavor: Cranberry-grape juice. There’s a mild tea taste at the back of your mouth, but if you’ve ever added cranberry juice to ANYTHING, you know it completely overwhelms all other tastes.
(For all you SAT nerds out there, Cranberry Juice:Recipe::Kit FitzSimons:Conversation)

Energy Start/Stop: This green-tea energy doesn’t hit like the previous one; you finish the bottle, and the energy boost’s already there by the time you think to check in with yourself. I honestly wonder if the cranberry juice kick is actually there primarily to disarm the sudden acceleration, sort of like tweaking someone’s nose right before you rip a band-aid off their knee.

Test Drive 3:
FRS Healthy Energy (Peach Mango)
Total duration of energy:  6 hours (9AM-3PM)

Official Product Description: Discover what elite athletes, pro sports teams and wellness gurus already love. Originally developed by health scientists trying to provide sustained energy for chemotherapy patients, FRS is powered by a patented blend of antioxidants and vitamins. Together these ingredients work by naturally triggering your cells’ ability to produce sustained energy…so you can focus on increasing your stamina to maximize performance.

Energy Source: Quercetin and Green Tea Catechins (“powerful antioxidants that together  produce natural sustained energy and increase endurance”). 85mg of caffeine. 2g of sugar.

Flavor: It takes like you’re drinking a peach. I’m all for that; it subsumed the mango taste, and that’s all I could realistically hope for in a peach-mango drink.

Energy Start/Stop: It’s a nice steady increase in energy up top. When I used to get gas, my old car’s gas gauge would shoot up from E to F as soon as I turned the key. The gauge on my new car, on the other hand, slowly floats up over the course of a minute. FRS Health Energy feels more like that. That, unfortunately, also means that it doesn’t really keep you feeling more awake, just that you’re moving faster. To keep with the car metaphor, drinking FRS is like having a sleeping baby in a car you slowly accelerate, whereas most energy drinks are like having the same baby in a car when you burn rubber out of the parking lot. In the latter, you’re going to wake up that baby with a start. That may make the baby cry, but why are you accelerating if you don’t want to wake up the baby? …Okay, that metaphor fell apart at the end.

…just like my last car! BOOM!

Note: A quick investigation of Quercetin (which sounds like a Mayan god of plenty) and Catechins (which I had to study in my Confirmation class at church). Quercetin is apparently a bioflavonoid, and I’m sure that clears everything up for you. The Wikipedia article on Quercetin is about as helpful as an advanced organic chemistry professor explaining his current side-project. What it boils down to is this: Quercetin is a plant pigment (yellow, if you were wondering) that acts as an antioxidant, antihistamine, may prevent prostate cancer, and it’s the thing in apples that supposedly keeps the doctor away. Meanwhile, a product containing “Catechins” is apparently just health-product jargon for “Natural energy from green tea.”

And because I am nothing if not a completist, this Green Tea Edition of the Energy Drink Test Drive will also include some energy black tea:

Test Drive 4:
Tazo Awake Black Tea
Total duration of energy:  13 hours (10AM-11PM) Wait. What?

Official Product Description: A bold black breakfast tea of depth and character, invigorating any time of day, this eye-opening black tea blends bold, malty teas from India and bright, full-flavored teas from Sri Lanka and Kenya. Thick and rich enough to handle a splash of milk, with hints of dark caramel and black cherry, this loose-leaf tea is more nuanced and flavorful than your typical breakfast tea.

Energy Source: 50mg of caffeine. 1 tsp of sugar (to taste). Although any product called “Tazo” brings to mind other sources of energy.

Flavor: It goes down smoother than most tea I’ve have before, but that’s mostly going to come down to how you brew it. I’m not sure I could point out the ‘hints of dark caramel and black cherry,’ (although that sounds like an amazing candy bar that someone really needs to make), but I do know it didn’t have the leafy edge I’ve come to expect when drinking hot tea.  

Energy Start/Stop: I’ve never been made nervous by tea before. Until now. It spread out through my chest and into my head, and I’m losing words in conversations from how jumpy I am right now. Only 50 mg of caffeine?! That’s the lowest caffeine content of any of these drinks. Where is this energy coming from? Because it’s like a James Bond speedboat chase in my forebrain right now. Perhaps it’s the heat; chemistry has taught me that adding heat increases the rate of a chemical reaction. Perhaps to stay fair and balanced, I should warm up one of those V8 V-Fusions and…

…oh. My mental taste buds just pimp-slapped me in the face for suggesting that.

In any case, to sum up:

V8 V-Fusion is nasty, but I don’t like V8 to begin with, so you might have better luck. (There are three more from the four-pack in my fridge if you’re interested.)

Cran-Energy is a good option, although if you factor in the price-point, it would be just as effective to buy cranberry juice in bulk and pour it over the cheapest energy drink out there, since it’s going to just taste like cranberry juice anyway.

FRS Healthy Energy is fine if you want subtle energy gain and aren’t tired to begin with. I personally prefer more discernible rev-up from my energy drinks, so this one’s not for me.

Tazo Awake is awesome, and I will be drinking it before parkour training on Saturday mornings. If, however, you are looking for energy at the office, I would suggest steering away from this…although, I can’t imagine coffee is any better, and you’re all guzzling that down by the potful, so maybe this actually WOULD be more your cup of…well, you know.

Water Edition