Change and renewal, without the cat urine flavor

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Last year’s “what if” experiment involved politics: What if I just stopped following and writing about our whole stupid, sad, tired political charade — what would that feel like?

Following a year’s worth of political detox, all in all, I feel considerably more serene and less spiritually contaminated than when I used to hang on Keith Olbermann’s every word. However, my cynicism toward the Red vs. Blue perpetual football game has hardened. The partisan shenanigans are merely a puppet show to entertain the masses while the corporations run the government.

Yes, I did pay attention to that man behind the curtain, Dorothy, and let me tell you: He doesn’t have our best interests at heart.

So, overall, going apolitical was an enlightening experiment. Will I write about politics again? Maybe, if the mood strikes me. Follow them? Only on “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report,” which is where the American political scene belongs: on Comedy Central.

But what about 2012? What’s my “what if” experiment this year? Brace yourself. It may be a shocker: coffee. Specifically, the pot of black coffee I habitually consumed every morning, even though I’ve enjoyed it less and less over the years because coffee seems to taste progressively worse. Wonder what Juan Valdez has been cutting the coffee with.

It’s not that coffee was bothering me, per se. True, I’ve struggled with wicked insomnia my whole life, but I can easily wave that away as a symptom of chronic garden variety anxiety and, more recently, hormones. Or lack thereof. And, I wasn’t hugely concerned about any health risks either, because for every study that reveals coffee’s health risks, there’s one touting its benefits.

My curiosity was less about giving up coffee and more about drinking green tea instead. Everyone seems to be singing the praises of green tea and its miraculous antioxidants (although coffee has antioxidants, too), and drinking it for detoxification, so I stated to wonder: “What if I started drinking green tea instead of coffee?”

Hello, 2012.

On Jan. 3 (right, like I’m going to give up coffee on New Year’s Day), I switched. I was mildly groggy the first couple days, but not enough to bother me much. It wasn’t like I was switching to decaf, just less-caf, so it was more of an easing off than a sudden crash. Other than the initial mildly groggy feeling, what did I notice? Not much.

Switching to green tea seemed to have zero impact on the quality or duration of my sleep. The first couple nights, I actually had more trouble getting over the 3 a.m. insomnia hump than when I was drinking coffee. Even weirder, I went to see yet another sleep specialist a week into my green tea experiment, and my blood pressure went up. So much for the obvious health benefits. On the other hand, the doc was informing me that I’m facing a lifetime of wearing a breathing contraption at night. Whose blood pressure wouldn’t spike with that news?

Lacking a clear upside, I discovered a definite downside to drinking green tea: it tastes like cat pee. Given the unimpressive health benefits thus far, that’s reason enough to switch back to coffee. Nothing like a steaming hot cup of blech to start the day. However, before aborting my 2012 “what if” mission, I consulted a tea expert to see if there was way to make green tea more palatable.

“A tea expert?” you ask. Yes, I was amazed that there is such a thing as well, but I met her at a party and filed that little information in the back of my brain for future use. And, the future was now.

Lainie Petersen is passionate about tea, and has her own blog: I asked her about the cat pee tang, and it turns out that water that’s too hot or steeping too long will bring out that taste. I was guilty of both. But beyond my poor brewing method, Lainie told me that there’s so much more out there in the tea world than what you can find at the grocery store, and recommended one in particular: Adagio teas, an online tea shop (

So, I checked it out. Holy moly. Loose tea and balled tea, oolong and rooibus, blends and berries, Black Dragon and Golden Monkey, jasmine and Jade Snails, tea in delicate silk bags and even tea leaves wrapped in flower petals that “bloom” in the pot, and things I’m not even sure I can pronounce correctly, like Lapsang Souchong and Huang Jin Bolero. There’s even tea with wit:  “Oh, Darjeeling.” Loved that one.

Being the novelty junkie that I am, I had to order a few samples. Once they arrived, my kitchen became strewn with tea infusers, a tea press, special brewing cups, and a pile of little pouches filled with leafy wonder. So far, Jasmine Yin Hao for morning and Dewy Cherry for nighttime are my favorites, and both will definitely be on my next order.

Between the adventure and discovery and the amazing array of new taste sensations, honestly, I’m not missing coffee at all. It’s gone the way of politics — it’s no longer necessary or even desirable on a daily basis. I’m sure I’ll still have coffee with my husbie on lazy Sunday mornings, but not as a daily habit.

First politics, now coffee. This sets the “what if” bar for 2013 pretty high. What if next year, I just give up “what ifs”?

— Email Debra at; read more of her work at, and

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