Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Of Soda, Chai, and Addiction
 Hello.  My name is Julie, and I have been a Starbucks Tazo Chai Tea Latte addict for eight years.  I have been to the point of getting two Venti (Starbucks' Large size) chais a day, and also went cold turkey for some eight months when pregnant with my daughter.  At present, I get one, usually Tall (Small) though sometimes Grande (Medium).  I also am a recovering Coca-Cola addict, the addiction I had prior to chai.  I was off soda completely for several years, but last year got into drinking Dr. Pepper again and I've been fighting that for a year or so.  I don't buy any to keep at the house, but I do have them when I'm out, and we eat out more than we should.  I usually end up having maybe five or so a week.  This absolutely must stop!

Why?  Surprisingly, not for the calories, although that is a good reason to stop drinking soda.  No, the main reason for me is the acidity.  WARNING!  BRIEF SCIENCE REVIEW!  As you might remember from high school, pH is measures the concentration of Hydrogen ions (H atoms with a positive charge because they are missing an electron) which make something "acidic", or the concentration of OH ions (which have a negative charge because they have an extra electron) which make something "basic".  The range runs from very acidic "0" value to the very basic "14" value.  A value of 7 is neutral.  Pure water has a pH of 7.  Battery acid (H2SO4) has a pH or around 0.8 *, vinegar is about pH 2.5, while milk of magnesia has a pH of around 10.5*RELAX!  END OF SCIENCE REVIEW!  

OK, so here's the cool part, or not cool part, if you are a soda aficionado....

Soda Name
Coke 2.525
Diet Coke 3.289
Pepsi 2.530
Diet Pepsi 3.031
Dr. Pepper 2.899
Diet Dr. Pepper 3.169
Cherry Coke 2.522
RC Cola 2.387
Mr. Pibb 2.902
Mountain Dew 3.229
Diet Mountain Dew 3.365
Squirt 2.898
Surge 3.004
Slice Orange 3.059
Sprite 3.202
7 Up 3.202
Diet 7 Up 3.706
Lemon Brisk 2.868
Lemon Nestea 2.969
Mug Root beer 4.038
Tap Water 7.67
Table borrowed from here.

This is why when you place a nail in a can of Coke it will be gone the next day.  Unfortunately, I grew up drinking soda with most meals that were not breakfast.  Then when I was a young adult, I had a Coke with breakfast the way many people have their first cup of coffee.  Dad had beer, Mom had coffee, and we had soda.  We pretty much never drank water, unless you count the ice cubes.  So this was/is a very ingrained behavior.  Luckily for me, I also inherited the genes for crappy enamel from my parents as well the anatomical proclivity for acid reflux.  My mom always had us drinking lots of orange Tang as kids with the idea that we were getting extra exposure to fluoridated water because she had a mouth full of crowns and wanted to save us the same fate.

Well, my sister seems to have avoided it.  I, on the other hand, ended up with extensive chemical erosion of my teeth to the point where the enamel was simply gone from the tops of my molars (so they were like coffee cups, no enamel on top) and the backs of my incisors.  The dentin was exposed on most of my teeth.  Dentin wears away about seven times faster than enamel, so it was clear that I either had to have major reconstruction or I was going to be breaking teeth in my 30s and sporting dentures soon after that.  I felt SO guilty.  I thought it was all from the soda I drank.  And the truth is, I didn't drink that much!  Maybe a couple cans a day?  Not like these people who have 3 super-big-gulps of Mountain Dew every day or anything like that.  The problem was that I was a sipper.  By sipping on a Coke through the day, I maintained an acid bath around my teeth (it takes 20 minutes for the acidity to return to normal).  Also, what I did not know but found out in 2002 was that I had acid reflux eight or so times a night.  (Another weird thing was that apparently, in reaction to this (?) the pH of my esophagus is 11, which is so unheard of that the technician tried three different times to get a different reading with three different machines.)  I bet my poor mom had the same problem and never knew.  After learning that, I felt a little better about the soda.

So, long story short, 18 simultaneous crowns and two seven-hour sessions in the dentist's chair later,  I couldn't chew a darn thing!  Not a bad diet plan, though I don't recommend it.  My teeth were so sensitive, I couldn't chew anything harder than a cupcake.  Also they were temperature sensitive so that even room temperature liquids zinged my teeth as if they were freezing cold.  This lasted for a couple of months.  Solution?  STARBUCKS CHAI LATTES!  I would go get a Venti skim, no water chai for lunch every day.  They were warm paper cups of happiness, filled with protein, and had enough caffeine to improve (really!) my performance at work in the sleepy afternoon.

Unfortunately for me, eventually it got to be a joke at work, because if I didn't have a chance to go get my chai I would get somewhat cranky.  Coworkers would give me a hard time about it.  I joked that "I can stop any time I want!"  My sister, a substance abuse counselor for the State of Maryland, joked that I was "experimenting with control" whenever I'd try to cut down.  Eventually it got silly, like reading a high school health text book, only where it said "heroin" you write in "chai."  I started sneaking out to get my lunch before anyone noticed and could give me a hard time, or lying that I needed to put gas in my car after getting lunch with coworkers so I could go pick one up.  Now this was only one a day, but I had to have that one, even after I was again able to chew.

As one might suppose a $30,000+ investment (dental insurance is a JOKE) in porcelain crowns and 14 hours+ of chair-time, plus hours of tweaking to get my bite to align correctly, and a mandatory life sentence of sleeping with a mouth guard so that the crowns don't wear down the six real teeth I have a powerful incentive to stop drinking soda.  So I gave it up and transferred my lifelong caffeine addiction to chai and ended up with movie star teeth.  Seriously, they're amazing.  So when you see my recommendation for Dr. Farley on my "Services I Recommend" page, I know of which I speak.  She uses my before and after pictures to net new clients, it was that dramatic an improvement.

So I need to give up this ridiculous affair I've been having of late with Dr. Pepper and get back on the band wagon.  I already have to have one crown replaced because some decay has crept in under the edge of the crown by the gum.  It is SO ridiculously human to choose the short-term pleasure over the long-term good.  I'm sure many of you can't believe I relapsed.  Frankly, neither can I.  It's just that the smell of a freshly fountain-made Dr. Pepper with the spray of it tickling your nose as you bring the full cup to your mouth for the first sip is the essence of ten-year-old summertime happiness to me, and I can re-experience it for a flash each time I get a fresh cup.  It's so hard for me to deny myself that experience.  I'm working on it.

As far as chai goes, please, should you choose my name for Secret Santa,  don't pick up a canister of chai from Trader Joe's or anywhere else.  I am very particularly addicted to the Tazo brand of chai that Starbucks uses.  It has black pepper in it, which gives it a spicy kick that the others just don't have.  And no, the syrup you can buy at Starbucks to make chai at home is no good either.  See, technically the barristas are supposed to add water to the chai when they make it, only pretty much no one but new hires does this.  It tastes so much better without the water.  Well, the syrup they sell already has the water in it and yes, I did try to boil it down once, but it just wasn't worth the effort and I couldn't get it right anyway.  Nope.  I'm stuck trotting myself to a store each day.  But near me there are two DRIVE THRU Starbucks!  <chorus of angels> So I just strap down, I mean in, the little ones, and drive the 20 minutes to Edgewater or Bowie, MD to get my hit without even having to leave the vehicle.  This is crucial when your child has fallen asleep in the car seat.  The drive is so relaxing when you just need a bit of time to listen to NPR and not actively engage your offspring, that it's totally worth it.  

My current order:  Tall 4-pump (that's 1 extra pump), no water chai latte
        or             Grande 5-pump no water chai

Past orders:  Tall 4-pump/Grande 5-pump, SKIM, no water chai latte
        or          Tall 4-pump/Grande 5-pump, SKIM, no water, WITH WHIP chai latte
The ULTIMATE:  Tall 4-pump/Grande 5-pump, EGG NOG, no water chai latte
Caution:  This fantastic beverage is only available between Thanksgiving and New Years.  Boo!


  1. OH! I totally forgot to mention: Most sodas have Phosphoric Acid in them, which, incidentally, is the SAME acid used by dentists to etch teeth!

  2. Regarding home brewing your chai versus store bought chai, my buddy, who used to own a cafe near where I work, assured me that using a proper espresso machine to steam the milk makes a big difference in the taste of any type of latte. Just heating up some milk in the microwave is not going to achieve the same flavor or texture, even if you had the exact same syrup the Starbucks baristas use. No, we are not buying a professional grade espresso machine.

  3. I am addicted to Tazo Chai Tea also. I knew there was something in it that the other brands don't have... and I am not surprised to find out that is black pepper, as I also LOVE BLACK PEPPER.

    I am curious if you have tried any home concoctions with black pepper and if it helped you watch the flavor. I am a venti chai a day drinker. I need to quit.

  4. Nice Post.. Thank you for sharing But you know Chai Latte E-liquid from pgvgvaper is the most authentic Chai Tea E- Liquid you'll ever try! This HIGH VG E-liquid is 100% Made in the USA and available only at Mountain Oak Vapors!Experience notes of fresh cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, peppercorns, and enough sugar to bring out its spicy and unique flavor! Take a break from your daily routine and experience spice tea with a cr.