Thanks to the potent combination of radioactivity and government grants, the Bay Area has more than its share of mad scientists. And now, one of them has done something really useful: He created coffee with 40 times the caffeine of regular drip.
Let me say that again: 40 times the caffeine. Did you get that? Can I say it again? 'Cause I can type faster than you can read, now that I've been sampling the stuff.
The product -- called Black Blood of the Earth -- is the creation of Funranium Labs' Phillip Broughton, who in his day job goes around the UC Berkeley campus doing, well, I can't sit still, let me just cut and paste from his e-mail:
"It is my job to make sure people work with radioactive materials and radiation producing machines (i.e. x-rays and accelerators) without hurting themselves or others. On campus, I am specifically responsible for the machines, radiation detection instrumentation, special nuclear material and...well...weird shit. When something strange is found in storage closet or research applications start wildly exceeding the imagination of the regulations, you call me.
An example: the personal papers of Marie Curie are a treasure, but Marie & Pierre were a bit messy in their work. All of their lab papers were soaked with radium solutions. They are a special collection that the library must curate, but they're also contaminated to high heaven with radioactive material. Tricky, but fun for a given value of fun."
And when he's not doing that, Broughton makes and sells coffee. Did we mention the 40x caffeine thing? Will you stop looking at us funny? We're going to review it. Click the link. Next page. Click now, I'm so tired of this. You're so slow.
Broughton kindly sent us a bunch of test tubes of the stuff, which lasts for months in the refrigerator. We realize now we should have tested it with SF Weekly's Geiger counter. But instead, we rounded up two other
suckers subjects, reporter Joe Eskenazi and advertising account executive Betty Ho, and tested it on ourselves.
Broughton says 50 ml is a dose, and recommends we not exceed 100 ml in a day. Oh, and about that 40x caffeine? We asked how he measured it. He writes back, "40x is the back of the envelope calculation. The attempt to get an empirical measurement resulted in breaking a gas chromatograph by detector saturation and subsequent loss of lab privileges." Promising! Not just a radiation scientist, but one with his lab privileges revoked. Coffee time!
Eskenazi, a longtime coffee drinker, and Ho, who says she drank strong Vietnamese coffee from an early age, take the whole 50 ml. in Broughton's recommended formula of 3-to-1 water-to-coffee ratio. ("Then try three parts to one part straight vodka," he writes. He laughs at Red Bull. He laughs like this: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.)
I'm cautious: I drink only half the dose, mixing mine with cold water.
First, the taste.
Broughton claims he created his cold vacuum extraction process -- which takes 48 to 96 hours -- because he doesn't like the taste of coffee. "The whole point of this experiment was for the flavor; hypercaffeination was a just a nice bonus," he writes. HA, that's what they said about LSD. But LSD isn't HYPERCAFFEINATED. Yeah, I'll use ALL CAPS if I want. You wanta fight about it?
Broughton says he's a diabetic with a sweet tooth -- what, being a mad radiation scientist isn't enough? -- and he wanted to drink his coffee without having to add anything. Purity, like in Breaking Bad.
Oh yeah, the taste. I was talking about the taste. Except I'm not talking, I'm writing. But I can do both -- I'm talking right now. I'm talking about something completely different than coffee, but you can't even hear it! I feel so smart, I should run for mayor. But Ed Lee has been following me lately.
Taste! This is a coffee with the absence of flaws. It's bland, kind of like you'd expect a generic "coffee flavor" exhibit in a museum to taste. Because we're all going to be in museums one day. Eskenazi says, "If you like the taste of coffee, there's nothing objectionable about this, but it's not real coffee."
Ho says, "I feel my heart rate increasing. A lot."
Holy shit! Am I liable? Where's my lawyer? I take a quick look at the company's health care options and then find some really interesting baseball trade rumors online. A few hours later I check back in with Eskenazi and Ho.
Eskenazi says he can't concentrate: "I'm driven, but my legs are tired and I could fall asleep."
Ho is out selling advertising. In related news, SF Weekly revenues skyrocket!
As for me, I learn I'm being called out of music criticism retirement to go see Soundgarden, so I finish my test tube and start on another. I can handle it! Soundgarden rocks, but can't its members rock faster? Asked for 300 words, I go home and crank out about 750. Then I read a bunch of stuff online, watch some YouTube, and play some Hearts against myself. Some time about 3 a.m. I crawl into bed. The next morning is baaaaad.
I check in with Eskenazi, who says he slept fine. Ho says her heart rate is normal, which reassures me. She also says she slept fine. Then her face turns beseeching and she says, "Do you have any more?"
NO! NO! ALL MINE! Stay the hell away from my stash.
You can order this coffee/drug delivery system here. SF Weekly and W. Blake Gray will not be held responsible for your actions or their consequences.
While you're waiting for your coffee, please enjoy our favorite serious scientific discussion of radiation below. "Everybody could stand 100 chest X-rays a year! They ought to have them, too."