February 4, 2011

Coffee: Is it in You?

Marathon runners speak of bonking -- a term denoting that feeling of total exhaustion when glycogen stores have been depleted. For most, this happens somewhere just past the 20-mile mark. Legs become leaden, and the effort required to lift one foot, then the other, is such that running several more miles seems impossible.

It's a phrase I've co-opted for everyday use, though I've never run a marathon -- or any distance beyond 18 miles, for that matter. I bring this up, because, in my parlance, I was thoroughly bonked last night. There was no good reason why that ought to have been the case -- but it was. Still, I returned home from work, having completed 30 minutes of pretty difficult sprint work at the gym just prior, feeling for all the world like I'd just run Badwater. This is not to say that my degree of bonk-ness was warranted, of course, as my job isn't too physically taxing, and my workout was nothing epic. Still, there are days.

I pushed myself upstairs, figuring that I probably ought to eat something, feeling quite glad that I had a large tupperware container of brown rice already prepared, in to which I could mix just about anything, microwave, and eat. And so I did precisely that, before turning my attention to the stairs once again. But before I descended, it occurred to me that I might have received those sample from Seattle's Best coffee.

"Did I get a package?" I asked my roommate. (I had made more polite conversation in the time preceding this question, I promise.) She pointed to a box situated near the stairs; I had walked by it twice, and not noticed. It was a large-ish box, almost the size of a microwave, and there was a Seattle's Best sticker on it. This was my package, then. I opened it, now with an energy probably not owing to my bowl of rice 'n stuff.

Three cans sat, sealed in bubble wrap (a treat, in and of itself), tied in a piece of red string. It had the look of a gift, in that regard, and I couldn't help but feel that it was. I took the cans out, examining the aesthetic and reading the ingredient list.

I am not too visually inclined, so I'll leave it to you to decide how the cans look. I rather like all of them, however. I particularly like the cutesy, tongue-in-cheek attitude about the whole thing. Specifically, there is a graphic on the side of the can, letting you know precisely what's inside: Iced coffee, milk, sugar, and AWESOME.

This leads me to the second point, the ingredients list, and thus the nutrition facts. The first thing you read is this: Brewed coffee. After that, there is milk, and sugar. Basically, that's it. If you're drinking the mocha or vanilla version, there are the flavors too -- but little else. This is good news for those who fear mystery ingredients, and of course, better news for those of us who like things to taste good, and not like some failed chemistry experiment.

But tasting would have to wait. It was 9:30 by this time, and I needed to get up at six in the morning in order to satisfy my cardio addiction before class, and then work. My ideal taste test, setting up all three, sipping them from cute little glasses, pinky out, jotting down flavor notes and whatnot, now seemed like it would have to wait -- or perhaps not happen at all.

Then something happened -- something that the PR folks will probably love to hear. I remembered something I had read about the lattes, that they were intended to be convenient, available, and consumed anywhere and everywhere one might want (or need) coffee. It thus occurred to me that it might be more in the spirit of the beverage to use them, rather than sip them like a single origin Jamaican Blue Mountain.

So I roused myself at 5:50 this morning, with some effort, and pulled the regular iced latte from the fridge. I cracked it open, and took a careful sip. Happy news: It tasted like coffee, with milk and sugar. Perhaps this doesn't sound revolutionary -- but then, that's not what I wanted, and probably not what SBC was aiming for here. The goal was twofold: To produce an iced latte that tasted like the sort one might get at a cafe, but that could be pulled from a refrigerator, or a convenience store, or wherever. On both counts, the standard model iced latte earns high marks. It is smooth, rich, sweet of course, and completely lacking that odd alternative taste one finds on canned coffee beverages so often. It tastes like you think it should, basically, which is a good thing.

With a small dose of caffeine and (a little more) sugar ingested, I left for the gym. I write this now, having completed 4 relatively easy miles (7 mph, with a few uphill sprints tacked on) and a weights circuit. It has to be said: I felt not a hint of bonk, not even at the end of the session. So as a pre-workout beverage, providing quick caffeine and sugar, the iced latte did its job. That it tasted much better than Gatorade (which is not offered in a coffee flavor, thankfully) was also nice.

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