The twenty-something in front of me rummaged around in his knapsack. Out came a book of Japanese poetry; a rather flattened orange; a banana that was green, hard as a rock, yet strangely flecked with brown spots; a sketch pad; and finally, the object of all the searching: a 6.4 ounce solid steel container container labeled “Sencha shot.” The fine print, in both English and Japanese, declared “JAPANESE GREEN TEA.” He popped the top and took a healthy swig.

“Let me see that,” I demanded, as only a former English teacher and speech coach can.

“It’s pretty strong,” he warned.

“I’m not planning on drinking any,” I assured him, “just want to read the label. Is this one of those pseudo healthy energy drinks?”

“Just tea and Vitamin C.” He was correct. 6.4 ounces comprised of: purified water; green tea; and Vitamin C (abscorbic acid); contains zero calories and 140% of your daily value of Vitamin C. The label boasted 152 mg of “catechin tea antioxidants” – including Epicatechin, Epicatechingallate, Epigallocatechin, and Epigallocatechingallate. “It’s an acquired taste,” he admitted as he drained the can.

“What’s the caffeine?” I asked.

“I think it’s pretty major. After all, it IS concentrated green tea,” he put the empty into a pouch on his knapsack, “but caffeine is not mentioned anywhere on the label.”

The caffeine level is mentioned on the website – 40 mg per 6.4 ounce can, or a little more than half the amount found in one of those eight ounce energy drinks. (You know, the ones named after animals, internal combustion engines or stormy weather.) Product reviews on the sencha shot vary, from “dreadful!” to “better than most energy drinks!” It has no sugar, not even any of those sneaky “sugar by any other name” gimmicks of the last few years.

What’s the appeal?