Thursday, 1 May 2014

Tea is soothing, I wish to be tense

Okay, let's be brutally honest. I have completely and utterly frakkin' failed to keep my head of the bargain and actually write any blog entries. I mean, frak me. The last blog post in January? At least between September and December of 2013 I had the excuse that I was busy writing a one hundred and ten thousand word novel (yes, I'm probably going to brag about that one A LOT) but I haven't had such a good excuse since January. Nope, chalk this one up to being plain frakkin' lazy. Though in some statement of defence, I have been working on a short story to my novel and scheming for the possible sequel.

However, I did give a lot of time over to being addicted to XCOM: Enemy Within and finally getting around to sitting down with my housemate and watching The Wire. We're entering the home stretch with series five, with any good fortune I might get off my ass and blog about it when we finally finish it all.

Anyway, this is not at all the purpose of today's blog entry. No, the purpose of today's and hopefully some future instalments (possibly with the same post title but "Part 2" etc. put on them) is a series of controlled, scientific experiments I am conducting. On myself. With coffee.


I should probably give you all the time honoured context...

Some of my dearest readers may be somewhat entirely aware of my reaction to mythical substance of coffee, in particular its addictive drug lord, caffeine. To the uninitiated, I go completely off-the-rails hyper. To the point where I will collapse on the floor in fits of uncontrollable hysterics for no earthly reason whatsoever. I will admit, I found this feeling to be utterly glorious.

There is, of course, a note of delicious irony to this story. Once upon a many Moon ago (click on obligatory flashback link to ancient blog post here) I talked about my journey through the weird and mystical world of tea. I mentioned that I work for a company called Boston Tea Party, an independent chain (yes, a definite contradiction in terms but it kind of fits) of - currently - fourteen coffee shops, mostly in the south-west of England, slowly encroaching northwards. ANYWAY. The irony here is that I work in a coffee shop and rarely ever drink coffee for the simple reason that it can turn me into a completely gibbering, useless wreck almost as effectively as a certain beautiful American girl's intense blue eyes, the cold blue like glistening ice and so help me Dionysus if I continue along this road we'll never get home.

So you kind of see the logic behind the following equation: Achilleus + Caffeine = Hysterical Wreck. Admittedly, Dynamite's eyes don't make me hysterical, just poetical. Which is just as dangerous.

Moving swiftly on, the point here, the point of quoting the wise, wonderful and witty Rupert Giles in his exchange with Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer 3x22 "Graduation Day, Part Two" is that on Monday, 28th April 2014, the unthinkable happened. On an early morning shift, the last with my great friend and wingman Sonic who is abandoning me for Oxford, I was so tired and uninspired by the idea of a morning cup of tea (or perhaps it was that little Devil inside me saying, "It's your last shift with Sonic, have some fun") I decided I wanted a coffee.

Sonic, in his infinite wisdom and slight tendency towards sadism, dutifully made me a flat white (a drink which is the source of much debate in coffee circles as to its precise definition and coffee/milk ratio, a subject for another day though). Now usually, signs of caffeination hysteria are noticeable within ten-fifteen minutes of the first sip of coffee. But by the time I had finished the delightful mixture of smooth, textured milk and medium roast coffee (yes, I am turning into a corporate tool who's hoping to shove this blog post on the Boston Tea Party Facebook just to...well, to just do something) no signs of CH had occurred. I did at one point stop and hold my hand in front of me and notice some signs of shaking, but the (what I thought was) inevitable hysteria failed to materialise. So later in the afternoon, I decided to push the boat right out. I had a second coffee.

No incidents of caffeination hysteria were recorded on Monday, 28th April 2014.

This has led to much thought and debate upon what precisely happened. Potential factors include:

-->Work was busy enough to provide a focus for energy produced by caffeine infusion
-->Tiredness and caffeination combined to create an equilibrious point neatly in the middle
-->I'm developing a tolerance to caffeine

The first two are quite obvious and workable theories. The third is far more intriguing. While I have not had an entire caffeinated beverage start to finish, I have on occasion tasted the espresso at work as a means of divining flavour notes, whether it tastes good or bad. On certain, what I call "Disaster", days I have had to calibrate the coffee machine first thing in the morning to ensure that, at the very least, the café is able to serve coffee, even if some of the subtle nuances like jugs of tap water and cake displays have not been entirely attended to. Rare, extremely rare. But it's happened and I have the vague training to know what I'm doing, get it tasting good and serving good coffee. At least, I'm pretty sure I've not had many complaints.

Anyway, humility and hedging one's bets aside, it is theoretically possible that small levels of exposure have led to an increased tolerance. Caffeine receptors in my brain no longer go completely outright ballistic as soon as the wonder-drug is introduced into my cerebellum. Of course, coffee takes the bloodstream route, the direct highway to the brain. Tea, my usual beverage of choice, takes the nervous system route. A little slower, but lasts a little longer and is somewhat subtler. It is also, though tenuously, theoretically possible that it has also primed my system for caffeinated beverages.

Another plausible theory is that I have had so many non-caffeine induced attacks of hysteria that my brain didn't really care that it was being flooded with the stuff on Monday.

So with all these theories in mind, a decision was made. I would have to drink more coffee. All in the name of SCIENCE (we're talking Portal-style, throwing SCIENCE - it has be in capital letters for this - at the wall to see what sticks, paraphrased courtesy of Cave Johnson, CEO of Aperture Laboratories). So, in the glorious pursuit of SCIENCE, today saw the first of a what might be a series of controlled tests.

Last night, I went out to the pub to have farewell drinks for Sonic before his inevitable departure to Oxford. I returned home around one o'clock in the morning and then dragged myself out of bed at five o'clock that same morning. Immediately noticed that I was dreadfully tired. The stage was set for Test 1.

-->Test 1: 1xCaffeinated Beverage, 1xSleep Deprived Achilleus. Add two together, observe results.

The results being that within minutes I noticed that I was more focused and alert. I fear I may have gone down the slippery slope towards caffeine dependency, but we'll see what my body has to say after the test cycle has been completed. To wit, the proposed cycle of testing:

-->Test 2: 1xCaffeinated Beverage, 1xNon-Sleep Deprived Achilleus. This test will serve to prove or disprove the Tiredness Equilibrium Theory
-->Test 3: 2xCaffeinated Beverage, 1xSleep Deprived Achilleus. This test will attempt to recreate the circumstances of Monday, 28th April 2014 in order to duplicate results, to ascertain that it wasn't just a fluke
-->Test 4: 2xCaffeinated Beverage 1xNon-Sleep Deprived Achilleus. This test will be the gamma radiation experiment. It could result in The Hulk, it could fizzle to nothing, but it is likely to produce the final proof of whether or not I have become caffeine tolerant to the point I will not suffer caffeination hysteria

So there you have it. The path of my scientific journey to discover if I'm resistant to the hysterical effects of caffeine. I intend to at the very least update this blog over the course of these experiments, if not update the blog more often from now on. Who knows, eh? Until, it's time to drink some more coffee. FOR SCIENCE!

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