Morning Spark oatmeal, Jolt energy gum, and other caffeine-infused snacks.

How to be the best consumer you can be.
Aug. 19 2008 7:58 AM

What's the Buzz?

Morning Spark oatmeal, Jolt energy gum, and the search for the perfect caffeine-infused snack.

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I have fond teenage memories of Jolt Cola, which achieved a kind of cult status for its extravagant levels of caffeine. (Its slogan was marketing genius: "All the sugar, twice the caffeine.") So I had high expectations for Jolt gum, which were largely met. The gum does taste more bitter than a typical variety, but not enough to be off-putting—the spearmint flavor remains dominant. I could see chewing a piece on the way to the subway, but I wish it were a little more potent. Two pieces are supposed to equal one energy drink; I had three pieces and still felt lethargic—"not a substitute for sleep," indeed!—although my six pages of reading was above average. This could be good for a quick pick-me-up—but it's no Jolt Cola.

Taste: 6 (out of 10)
Convenience: 7 (out of 10)
Value: 7 (out of 10)
Efficacy: 6 (out of 10)
Total: 26 (out of 40)

Engobi Cinnamon Surge Energy Go Bites
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Engobi Cinnamon Surge Energy Go Bites Price: $1.29 Caffeine: 140 mg Warning: "Not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women, or those sensitive to caffeine."

I don't know if it's the result of their mysterious infusion process, but the Engobi snacks gave me the biggest buzz by far. After eating most of the bag, I felt like my eyes had been hooked up to tiny batteries. Something in my neck twitched violently. My reading test was productive—I sped through 10 pages and felt focused and engaged—but afterward I felt jumpy and slightly ill. That didn't prevent me, however, from going home and immediately cleaning my entire apartment, a rare feat indeed.

Flavorwise, these puffs taste, at first, almost exactly like Taco Bell's Cinnamon Twists dessert: addictively crispy vehicles for liberal servings of cinnamon and sugar. Engobi, unfortunately, does have a prolonged and unpleasant aftertaste, enough so that I would never normally choose to eat them as a snack—although they very nearly win this contest for sheer potency.

Taste: 4 (out of 10)
Convenience: 5 (out of 10)
Value: 9 (out of 10)
Efficacy: 10 (out of 10)
Total: 28 (out of 40)

Penguin Caffeinated Peppermints

Penguin Caffeinated Peppermints Price: $2.99 per tin, which contains about 25 mints Caffeine: Undisclosed. Three mints are said to contain as much as one cola beverage. Warning: None

These mints were similar to the Jolt gum, but they get extra points for workplace convenience—chewing gum in the office strikes me as borderline déclassé—and for flavor. This was the only product I tested whose medicinal taste could be considered agreeable, or at least not offensive: The mints had a mineral aftertaste that reminded me, pleasantly, of those zinc tablets that are supposed to ward off colds. The caffeine content is relatively light, but that just makes it easier to achieve your own ideal dosage. After two mints, I didn't notice much of a difference, but after four I found myself tapping my foot rapidly while reading. In that test, I got through nine pages and was interested enough to stop and look up fenestration and postulant in the dictionary. Well, not in an actual dictionary—but, at 4 o'clock, even clicking my way to Merriam-Webster.com seems like an insane burst of productivity. We have a winner!

Taste: 7 (out of 10)
Convenience: 9 (out of 10)
Value: 6 (out of 10)
Efficacy: 7 (out of 10)
Total: 29 (out of 40)

Mason Currey is the author of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work.

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