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Well, for normal people, maybe

Kat Kinsman
May 29, 2018

Open-plan offices are a scourge upon our nation's productivity. In theory, they're calibrated to foster creativity and collaboration. In reality, they're a magnificent way to learn too much about other people's travel plans and forge white-hot enmity against perfectly benign people whose faces you rarely see, but voices you have come to know more intimately than those of your own family. If you're in possession of an anxious, jumpy, monkey brain like mine, first of all, I'm really sorry, and second, it's reeeaaaaallllly hard to get things accomplished sometimes. I can use all the help I can get.

It seemed like divine providence when the cans of Phocus, a caffeinated sparkling drink, appeared on the giveaway table at the edge of the Extra Crispy enclave. I paw through the contents when I'm especially distracted and looking to be outraged at the number of canned and bottled drinks that try to slip stevia in there as a sweetener like total jerks. But this time—jackpot. Not only did this sparkling beverage appear to be stevia-free (seriously, the flavor makes me want to slam my own tongue in a car door), but it also contained deliberate levels of two of my favorite substances, caffeine and L-Theanine.

Good golly, do I love L-Theanine. I started taking the green tea-based amino acid in pill form a few years back when the nurse practitioner I saw recommended it as a prescription-free alternative to Xanax, Ativan, and all that other pharma jazz used to soothe jumpy psyches like mine. It proved so useful to me that I have a monthly Amazon shipment that auto-sends it to me so I'm never without and and am subsequently stressed out at having to schlep to the hippie store. It's not just me, either; various subreddits (notably /r/Nootropics) sing the praises of a coffee/L-Theanine pairing to hyperfocus the brain while alleviating some of the physical stresses brought on by caffeine. And caffeine! I love that stuff, too, and succumb to crushing headaches when deprived of it for too many hours. It's terrible being me, sometimes—let's try some Phocus.

An 11.5-ounce can of the non-flavored clear/cut Phocus contains "reverse osmosis" sparkling water (which, OK), citric acid, L-Theanine, and 75 milligrams of caffeine—equivalent to one cup of coffee or three cups of tea. I'd already laid down a base coat of two cups of coffee and 200 milligrams of L-Theanine on account of waking up in a screeching, barfing butterflies panic this morning, so pretty much my usual. Could a can of amped-up water make some sort of palpable difference? I chugged. I worked. I waited.

My verdict: If you are in possession of a neurotypical brain, this well could be your jam. In my ideal world, there would be hot and cold-running L-Theanine available for free to all, and as a society we'd probably need far fewer podcasts, apps, and kitten videos to get us to collectively chill, but in lieu of that, this is a pleasant enough delivery system. For someone of my level of wackness (seriously, do not get on my level), I'd probably have to chug a case a week for it to have the desired effect, and not only would I have to be sprinting to the ladies room all the live-long day, I'd also be extra-stressed about all the cans I'd have to recycle, and then it would become a whole thing. But if you just need a little bit of that good focus stuff, it's a plan you can be open to.

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