It’s 7:50 a.m. on a Monday.
I’m the first person to arrive at my office, which means I’m responsible for brewing the coffee that fills our giant carafe. But not today: for the next week, I’ll swap my black coffee for a can of MATI. It’s a semisweet, healthier take on an energy drink that packs the punch of two cups of java. The first sip reminds me of my teenage years, when I felt mature enough to kick-start the day with a heavy dose of caffeine but not yet disciplined enough to go through the motions of making coffee. I drank lots of energy drinks back then. This tea contains a comparatively modest eleven grams of sugar. (A grande iced coffee at Starbucks contains twenty grams, a Red Bull thirty-nine). Because it’s cold, it goes down like water, and it’s gone after ten minutes. Despite my lack of coffee, my coworkers comment that I’m quite chipper for a Monday morning.
It’s rainy and gray and generally gross outside, so I would do well to sip on a warm beverage. But it’s MATI Day Number Two, even if I feel slightly cranky about the cold aluminum. I try the Tropical flavor this morning, which turns out to be my favorite. It’s mildly astringent, like green tea, but sweeter, with a hint of citrus and a lot of carbonation. It’s the company’s most recent creation and the brainchild of MATI’s director of operations, Margarita Bello. Bello worked as a food scientist in Venezuela before joining the company in October 2015. I send along a note telling her I like her style.
I can’t shake the feeling that drinking from an aluminum can this early is naughty, like guzzling soda for breakfast. The nutritional equivalents printed on the side of the bottle—As much potassium as half a banana! As many antioxidants as three cups of green tea!—do little to assuage the guilt. I start to feel the familiar thick tempo of my heart beating in my chest and a bit of warm, pink blood pooling in my cheeks. I feel very alive.
I drink two cans of MATI today: one in the morning and another after lunch. In the afternoon, I organize my pantry so that all of the labels are facing outward. I also brush my rugs with a fine-tooth comb to fluff the pile.
All hail Friday, the weekday on which it’s socially acceptable to explore what MATI does when mixed with alcohol. I try a glass of Champagne topped with the cherry-flavored tea. With its slightly medicinal fruitiness, Cherry reminds me of a traditional energy drink and is my least favorite. Cut with the dry, tart Champagne, it provides a tasty pop of flavor, turning my very bubbly drink a cute pink color and keeping me awake for a long time.
Over the week, I’ve learned that MATI easily passes as a substitute for coffee’s caffeinated punch. It makes me pert and perky, and I’ve settled into the act of drinking from an aluminum can. The tea’s pep offers an easy ride, with no sugar spike or midafternoon crash. But I’ve also noticed that some of the other effects of a routine cup of joe—say, its diuretic and laxative properties—aren’t nearly as, well, smooth.
I chug my remaining two cans of MATI back-to-back in the morning. It doesn’t take long before the lower corners of my jaw start trembling, as though I’m eating something exceptionally sour. The muscles in my neck constrict, and I feel tight pressure on my temples. Mysteriously, the symptoms disappear after half an hour (and a tall glass of water). I emerge like a beautiful, vibrating butterfly from a tired old cocoon. I read three magazines, weed my yard, and do pushups. I even stop for a moment to consider how I could give up coffee entirely if I decided never to sleep again.