Coffee without the jitters? La Jollan says her company has a way to lessen caffeine’s effects
“We’re ready to change the industry,” La Jolla resident and Quokka Brew partner Talia Chalhoub says of her company’s efforts to make coffee without caffeine’s jittery side effects.
Chalhoub, who attended Bird Rock Elementary, Muirlands Middle and La Jolla High schools before completing a degree in biopsychology at UC Santa Barbara in June, said she got involved with Quokka Brew last year.
For the record:
1:17 p.m. July 14, 2020This article originally misspelled Talia Chalhoub’s last name. It has been corrected.
The company, started in 2018 by UC Berkeley undergraduates, sells single-serve, ready-to-drink coffee mixed with monk fruit sweetener, Madagascar vanilla and oat milk and enhanced through the addition of four central ingredients: L-theanine, blueberry extract, ginseng and green tea extract.
That innovation drew Chalhoub to sign on as a partner with Quokka.
“My major is in the field of behavioral science,” she said. “I’m very interested in how Quokka uses ingredients that bind to certain places in the brain.”
The founders of Quokka were searching for “an alternative … to the 2 p.m. crash,” Chalhoub said, referring to the midafternoon slump many people experience when they drink coffee in the mornings. Additionally, Quokka’s creators wanted to counteract the “jittery” sensation that often accompanies caffeine intake, such as in coffee.
“Quokka answers not just what’s wrong, but ‘How do I fix it?’ This product is going to help a lot of people,” Chalhoub said.
“Since caffeine is naturally a vasoconstrictor, meaning it constricts our blood vessels, leading to a decrease in blood flow, it causes our hearts to pump harder in order to maintain blood flow, resulting in the jitters and shakes,” Chalhoub said.
Quokka lessens those effects, Chalhoub said, “by adding in our jitterless blend of organic vasodilators, which dilate blood vessels back to their natural state and allows blood to flow more freely. This keeps our heart rates constant and prevents the onset of jitters.”
L-theanine, an amino acid, is the main innovation, Chalhoub said. It has been found in some research to ease anxiety and stress and caffeine’s vasoconstrictive effects. The blueberry extract “mitigates inflammation and has a lot of cognitive benefits,” and ginseng and green tea extract also work as anti-inflammatories, she said.
These are “natural ways to enhance your cognitive function,” Chalhoub said.
Quokka Brew underwent extensive testing, she said.
“We ran a double-blind study at UC Berkeley that showed 88 percent of participants did not feel jitters or crash after consuming Quokka Brew,” Chalhoub said. “In the placebo group, 67 percent of participants reported feeling either jitters or crash.”
UC San Diego nutritionist Alexandra Salcedo, a registered dietitian, told the Light that “caffeine in coffee increases your adrenaline levels and as a result increases your blood pressure, heart rate, jittery sensations and restlessness, as [Quokka Brew] mentions by vasoconstriction. Furthermore, caffeine is an appetite suppressant, and therefore many people will skip meals, which will therefore enhance jitteriness/shakiness effects of the caffeine.”
“L-theanine helps promote the effects of relaxation in the body by increasing neurotransmitter production, like serotonin and dopamine, and alpha brain waves in the brain,” Salcedo added. “These processes will then trigger a series of effects in the body that the company claims. Research suggests L-theanine can reduce stress, anxiety and promote a sense of relaxation, lowers blood pressure and lowers your heart rate. The lower the anxiety and increase in the state of relaxation helps you reduce your blood pressure and heart rate and reduces the incidence of jitters.”
Chalhoub said she hopes Quokka Brew will help people who are unable to drink coffee because its effects hinder their productivity.
In fact, she said, the founders hope the coffee makes its consumers as happy as the marsupial it’s named for.
“The quokka is known as the happiest animal in the world,” Chalhoub said. “They evolved with limited natural predators, giving them the freedom to become innately fearless and confident. Our motivation is to create a coffee that energizes consumers without the negative side effects, pushing us to become our happiest and most authentic selves — just like the quokka.”
Quokka Brew is launching a crowdfunding campaign via IndieGoGo, and contributors will receive Quokka Brew products, depending on their level of investment.
Quokka is available via its website, quokkabrew.com, and in stores (though not in San Diego yet). Cans retail for about $4 each. ◆
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