Blog #736 Sports, Gladwell and Mastery

Sports, Gladwell and Mastery.,1480539/

A friend passed this on to me – and I thought I would share it with you!!!!

First an excerpt from the article:

“Shortly after the St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup, ESPN’s Linda Cohn posted a picture of herself hugging the Stanley Cup. Her caption started “This is how the St. Louis Blues feel.”

“With all due respect, there is no way any of us can know how the St. Louis Blues felt. In the world of Twitter-Facebook-Insta-Snap, posing and posturing is in. Quietly relishing the journey as it unfolds is out. But by comparison, the moment of triumph always pales next to the efforts it took to get there.

“For St. Louis Blues players this was likely a lifelong journey. Years of early mornings at rinks practicing a sport they loved. There were probably countless days of Mom or Dad driving them to youth tournaments on icy roads through bitter cold and drifting snow. In moments of youthful optimism, they dreamed of an ultimate championship they probably never thought they’d attain. 

“A price was paid to make the NHL, one that none of us can really understand. Maybe it was college hockey, the AHL and time spent away from family, hours of intense physical and mental preparation. With the Stanley Cup summit within sight, they played through pain and endured relentless fatigue.

“The journey wasn’t free and it exacted its toll. But the journey is valued above all else because it is what ensures all else.”


When we were in Connecticut, I became very good friends with the Quinnipiac University Women’s Ice Hockey team.  I also know of the kids coming up in hockey.

Ice rinks (or arena) aren’t cheap.  Parents (and team) pay to get ice time on many rinks.  The kids – starting at as young as 5 or 6 – get up at 4:00 in the morning to get to the rink at 5:00 for practice.  If a kid is really dedicated and really wants it, he or she will spend part of most days in the weight room – gaining strength and agility.  This happens 365 days a year (or … maybe a day or two taken off). Parents rack up the miles taking kids to games and tournaments. They also rack up the expenses – let alone the driving costs, there may be equipment costs, hotel costs, meals on the road, (even meals at home – and after you have worked out for a couple of hours in the morning, that bowl of Cheerios just isn’t going to be enough to satisfy the needs!!)

Malcolm Gladwell – the author of  “Tipping Point” and other such great analytical books, suggests a 10,000 hour to obtain mastery.  He highlights Bill Gates having the luxury growing up of free (or cheap) computer access to write code and reaching that 10,000-hour mark.  Athletes also reach that 10,000 mark with great dedication. Gladwell notes the Beatles, while in Germany, frequently had to play 10 to 15 hours a day (for weeks) and in that time, the band formed their sound and started to write and perform their own tunes. 

The article talks of the St. Louis Blues winning the National Hockey League championship – and yes, those players have definitely surpassed that 10,000-hour mastery plan.  

My friend Chelsea was a nationally recognized women’s hockey goalie and was invited to the US Olympic Organizing Committee Hockey camp(s).  It is a COMMITMENT!! It is an investment (maybe as Gladwell says) of at least 10,000 hours.  

Taking that 10,000 hours differently – if we work 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year (with two weeks for vacation), a person could get 2000 hours of work a week.  If a person does that job for five years, they will reach a 10,000-hour plateau. Let’s put a talented kid in that position – may be a great pianist or debater or athlete.  After school and on weekends and all summer long, that person needs to put in the time to reach mastery. Yes, maybe being mediocre is okay to some people – but real mastery takes time and effort.  When your six-year-old starts with piano lessons – just realize that they have to practice, practice and practice to get proficient. They have (if you accept Gladwell’s analysis) to reach at least 10,000 hours to reach mastery.  (and by mastery, not just 10,000 hours of playing the piano (or hockey, or whatever) – but 10,000 hours of learning, growing, analyzing the activity, improving their skills).

What do you think?  Have you reached ‘mastery’ in your field?  Are you growing stronger in your field every day?  What hard steps did it take to get there? Did you have to make sacrifices along the way (like leaving your home and family for two years to go off and work on a Ph.D.?) 

The concept of being an “overnight success” just isn’t true – it takes commitment and practice (and maybe a lot of luck) to get to be that successful.  Are you willing to put in that time and effort to get there?


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Blog #739 BHAG, Apollo 11, and you (and me)

BHAG, Apollo 11 and you (and me)

Some of you might not know the acronym BHAG.  It stands for BIG, HAIRY, AUDACIOUS GOAL.  


Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Shot – which did land two Americans on the moon – and did bring them back!!!

President John F. Kennedy gave a presentation to Rice University students on September 12, 1962. In that speech, he had a BHAG as he promised that before the decade was over the USA would put a man on the moon.  And … maybe more importantly … bring him back!!!  

The actual term BHAG came a little later, but the concept of REALLY getting out of your comfort zone – going for a Big (Huge), Hairy (as in “Hairy, Scary”), Audacious (being willing to take a huge leap with all the risks involved), Goal.  

Kennedy’s speech and plans inspired us.  “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.  It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency.”

Our first manned space flight for a short suborbital flight was Alan Shepherd in May 1961 – and here was our president announcing going to the moon just over a year later.  


Talk about getting us out of our comfort zone – WOW!!  (And, WOOOO!!!)

According to ABC News “It took 400,000 people to put Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon a half-century ago.
“That massive workforce stretched across the U.S. and included engineers, scientists, mechanics, technicians, pilots, divers, seamstresses, secretaries and more who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to achieve those first lunar footsteps “


This wasn’t just “I think I’ll try that new Cajun Restaurant” that might be slightly outside our comfort zone – but one that was so close to being UNBELIEVABLE – that maybe was two or three standard deviations from our comfort zone!!  

It still can boggle my mind.  Not only to get to the moon but have live television coverage!!!  (**there are some who say it was all a hoax. It was done in a movie studio, with a moonset)

So, what does that mean for you?  Of for me?


I retired and had few goals – I was pulling my comfort zone around me – like a cocoon.  I was becoming ‘smaller’ in a time when the ‘sky was the limit’. I thought I had nothing left but wasting away and death.  (Yup, a little morbid). Sitting and waiting for “God”.  

Then I had my major health scare.  I had a 6.5-hour surgery where the surgeon told me (a) I was lucky to be alive; and (b) if he would have been on call when I came rolling into the emergency room, he would have conducted emergency surgery on the spot!!!

Definitely – Big and Hairy/scary.  That wasn’t who I was, that wasn’t what I wanted my life to be – why not go and commit suicide (which I seriously considered).

The depression from that event threw me for a loop.  I had to find a ‘happy place’ – and I did and it really has become a BIG – HAIRY – AUDACIOUS – GOAL for me.  It also brought out something very deep and very hidden inside me. [I had a female side to myself – hidden and buried – but definitely a part of me- and with prayer and meditation, that became my ‘happy place’ – and not so hidden anymore!!!]


So, first to my retired friends.  Did you retire just to come home and die?  Did you retire to become complacent? Did you retire, just to fish and play bridge and to become a small shadow of yourself?  Yes, I love my grandchildren – but even now, that world is changing as they are all off to school this fall. They still love “Papa” – but I know that relationship will slide backward as they meet new friends, get new activities, take piano lessons, play more soccer, and find their lives.  It doesn’t mean that grandpa loves them less, but that they are growing and changing and ‘becoming’.

To my retired friends – don’t die 30 years before your death!!  Shakespeare wrote, “The cowardly die many times before their death”. Keep LIVING – Keep CHALLENGING YOURSELF!! 

Have you thought about writing a novel?  If so DO IT!!

Have you thought about painting?  DO IT!!! (Grandma Moses started painting at age 78!!!!)

Have you thought about how you can change your world?  How you can bring light and love to others? DO IT

Have you thought about how you can make this world a better place?  DO IT

Have you thought about poetry, composing, being a gourmet chef?   DO IT

For my non-retired friends – what is your BHAG?   Are you setting great big goals? Are you moving out of your comfort zone?  Do you have a purpose in life?  

What about YOU?  Are you ‘retired in place’ (RIP) but still on the job?  Where do you want to be?  



(** that ‘feminine side I found has been significant.  I have goals, I have dreams, even wild beyond my imagination goals.  Bruce is going away, and Karen is coming. My happy place from my surgery has given me a HUGE BHAG in ways I could have never seen coming!!  I am happy, I am off my depression medications. GOD IS SO GOOD!!!! **)

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WOOOOOOOOOO!!!!  The Universal expression of <???>

By request – by my Idol – Bruce #1!!!!  

Bruce Saulnier asked about when I started to say “WOO”.  I’ve been thinking and I really don’t remember – but I think I do have ideas and thoughts.

First, one of my favorite adages by Ralph Waldo Emerson – “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm!!!”  I’m not even sure what I bought into that concept – but I will try.

(Vague memory).  Back in High School, I was a dork, a nerd.  After all tuba players are not considered virtuosos!!!  Think of this conversation:

Q:  Do you play an instrument?

A:  Yes, I play the violin

Q:  What are your favorite pieces?

A:   I absolutely adore Bruch’s Violin Concerto.  Did you know I won the Young Musicians Concerto Competition by playing that piece?

Conversation 2:

Q:  Do you play an instrument?

A:  Yes, I play the tuba

Q (person): – that’s nice.  See you later!!

There was another student in my class (and I don’t even remember his name) – and he was BORING!!!  People sometimes confused us – as we were both nerds!! Somehow, I decided I needed to be different.  My brain said, “Never be boring”. (Now, I’m sure I have been boring at times – but I try to keep it lively).

I said ‘hi’ to people, I got out of my nerd shell.  

By the time I went to college, I still was a nerd.  In the generation before computers, a math major was still probably nerdy – but there were a lot of math majors – so we could be nerds together. Couple that with the thought of ‘never be boring’ – and somehow I became a “BMOC” (big man on campus)** [see tomorrow’s blog].

Still not quite the time for “WOOO” – but getting closer.  I think the real-time I adopted the “WOOO” was when I became a college teacher.  The students filed in – there were side conversations all over the classroom – and when I walked in and declared “WOOOO” – I got their attention and class could start.  I wasn’t one to tap the podium and say “Now students, it is time for class to start.” WOOO – became an expression of enthusiasm; an affirmation to students for a great answer to a question; even an encouragement!!!

I couldn’t hide anymore when you are exposing “WOOO” at (not quite) top of your voice!!  

I “perfected” my WOOO with ISECON.  I got involved in this wonderful conference – ran the conference four times.  When I saw some old friends at the registration table, I just had to let out a “WOOO” – as I was really glad to see them!!  WOOO came so natural to me by that time.

Along with the “WOOO”, the enthusiasm, also came the exclamation point in text situations!!!  If you see me write “Hello!!!” – that is much more than just hello!! It has become a text version of “WOOO”.  

I have mentioned that I didn’t like retirement (maybe not many people to say “WOOO” too!!).  That lead to some health issues (taking myself too seriously), a major surgery, major depression (including that ultimate negative thought -that I had no value anymore).  I found myself questioning “who was I” “why am I here”.  

This fall I am going back into the classroom to teach one (and only one class).  Southwestern University in Georgetown Texas has hired me to teach an “Introduction to Statistics” – and I already am anticipating a huge “WOOOOOOO” as I walk into that classroom for the first time (and really every day).  I’ve already decided that the class is going to have two names – “Introduction to Statistics” and “Life 101”. (Afterall, who is a better spokesperson for life 101? – BTW – that is humor friends!!). And, even if you are in Connecticut or Nebraska or South Dakota or Wisconsin – if you listen carefully on that Tuesday, August 27th about 8:30 a.m. (CDT) – you might hear that “WOOO”

So “WOOO” is the word – and … if it is really special you might get a “WOOOOOOO” or even a “WOOO PLUS”!!!!  



(Aside, I tried to tell my department chair that I was different and she still hired me!!!)

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blog 734 Smiling


Yes, learning about caffeine, coffee, tea, and energy drinks was interesting.  But, yesterday (waving), then sports and finally WOOOOO are fun topics – and now, in mid-summer, we might need some fun topics!!!

I picked this link about smiling – so here we go (quoting from that page):

  1. Don’t Cry Because It’s Over. Smile Because It Happened. -Dr. Seuss
    At age 71, I have a lot of memories.  And a lot of smiles!!! God is good!!!

  2. A Warm Smile Is The Universal Language Of Kindness. -William Arthur Ward
    (You know I like the adage, “If you can be anything, be nice!!!”)

  3. A Smile Is A Curve That Sets Everything Straight. -Phyllis Diller
    Just thinking of Phyllis Diller and her on-stage persona makes me smile)

  4. Always Keep Your Smile. That’s How I Explain My Long Life. -Jeanne Calment
    I don’t know what my life expectancy is – as my surgeon said I am lucky to be alive – and I need to keep smiling – and giving back!!!

  5. Smile, It’s Free Therapy. -Douglas Horton
    Yup!!!  At Kiwanis club in Madison, at the end of our luncheon program we sang “Smile and the world smiles with you”

  6. Every Smile Makes You A Day Younger. -Chinese Proverb
    If that was true, I would be negative years old (that is, prior to birth!!!)

  7. Wear A Smile And Have Friends; Wear A Scowl And Have Wrinkles. -George Eliot
    I know people who scowl – and have no friends – I’d much rather smile and have friends – and laugh!!!

  8. If You Smile When No One Else Is Around, You Really Mean It. -Andy Rooney
    Absolutely Andy – my normal disposition is to smile and be happy!!!

  9. Hey, I’ve Got Nothing To Do Today But Smile. -Paul Simon
    Today I have bridge group – and I am going to smile and laugh – whether I win or lose!!

  10. You’ll Find That Life Is Still Worthwhile, If You Just Smile. -Charlie Chaplin
    YES – after my deep depression, life is worthwhile with smiling and adjusting my life and finding deep and meaningful peace in my life!!!

  11. I Add A Smile To Everything I Wear And That Has Worked Great For Me. -David White.  (A smile when you wear a checked shirt and plaid pants will still work!!)

  12. It Takes A Lot Of Energy To Be Negative. You Have To Work At It. But Smiling Is Painless. I’d Rather Spend My Energy Smiling. -Eric Davis
    Yes, I’d rather spend my energy smiling too, Eric!!!
  13. A Smile Is Happiness You’ll Find Right Under Your Nose. -Tom Wilson
    I wrote about “the Pursuit of Happiness” – smiling helps you get there.

  14. I Play Guys Who Never Smile, And I Never Stop Smiling. -Michael Kelly
    You can smile on the inside even if you can’t smile on the outside.  My neighbor growing up was a mortician – a very nice man, but had to wear the concerned face when he was working!!

  15. I Hope You Always Find A Reason To Smile.
    I have millions of reasons – I’m alive, I have a great life and a great future!!!

  16. Just Keep Smiling And One Day Life Will Get Tired Of Upsetting You.
    There are a few things that might upset me – but learning to smile through those bumps in the road is so great!!

  17. Life Is A Camera, So Keep Smiling.
    And … say “Cheese”!!

  18. Your Smile Looks Adorable On You ! You Should Wear It More Often.
    Ah, but I do wear it often!!!

  19. A Smile Is The Prettiest Thing You Can Wear.
    Yup – put on a smile when you put on your clothes (or better yet, just smile always!!)

  20. No Matter What People Think Of You..Always Keep Smiling And Walk Away.
    I smile, establish eye-contact and say ‘hi’ to people in the grocery store – and they smile back to me (and sometimes I get a “hi” as well!!!)

So, do you smile? Do you smile a lot?  Do you grin? Do you laugh? I sure do!!!  (The old Reader’s Digest comment – Laughter is the best medicine!!)



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Blog #733 My First Real Job

My first job

(I am in a series of reflections about my first job, coaching, waving, setting my standards for my life.  I graduated from college 50 years ago and started my first teaching position also 50 years ago.)

I enjoyed college.  No, let me change that:  I ENJOYED COLLEGE!!!! WOOOO!!!  

I guess I was the proverbial “Big Man on Campus”.  But, more on that later in this series.

I was naive.  I thought I would just stay in college and get my master’s degree.  I even looked at Northwestern University in the Chicago area for a master’s in math.  But at the end of my senior year came, I decided I needed more money if I was going on for a master’s degree.

So, in the era before the internet, I went to my college placement office and sign-up.  The placement office had four duplicated lists: two for job seekers and two for potential employers.  I wrote up a brief introduction that was then put into the list for potential teaching employees. (Their two lists for employers were teaching positions (me), and non-teaching positions.).  These lists had a brief description of the graduating students, their major and other information.

For the graduating student, the lists were similar but were flipped.  The list I got was for schools looking for teachers (and the other list that I didn’t get was for companies looking for employees).  

I hadn’t really thought too much about where I wanted to teach, and other than teaching math had no real issues to think about.

From the list that went out to schools indicating students looking for teaching jobs, at least one school found my name and called the placement office to find out about me.  That school was West Grant Schools located in Patch Grove Wisconsin. If that had been today, I would have looked to find where Patch Grove Wisconsin was (Google Maps). I had positive thoughts about Wisconsin.  I viewed Wisconsin as a nice state. I remember the rolling hills along the Mississippi.  

So, John Gehn from West Grant Schools called the Winona State placement office, the placement office worked with both of us to find a joint time for a phone interview.  While phone interviews still abound, the whole mechanism was different. There were, of course, no cell phones. Local calls were generally free, but long distance calls could be expensive.  My parents had basically said “no long distance calls”. But the placement office did the behind the scenes work and at the scheduled time, I was in the placement office to get the phone call from John Gehn, the superintendent of the West Grant Schools.  (By-the-way, John and I are Facebook friends – at age 22, I was in awe of my superintendent!!!)

John described the position to me.  The ‘now’ me might have said ‘no’ – but I didn’t have any experience.  I would have seven classes, a study hall and a preparation period. He then described that the position also needed to have a person to coach.  Could I coach basketball and baseball? Sure I could (so my naive mind said).  

I never had the standard “Theory of coaching <sport>” class – nor the very needed “Prevention and Care of Athletic Injuries.  I had played a little basketball (not much, wasn’t on the high school team), and had coached little league baseball – so hey – I could do it!!!  After all, you have practice for a while, then start playing games!!

So, on that phone call, John offered me the job and I accepted.  I’m sure I was thinking “Gee this getting a job is pretty easy – one phone call and one job offer!!!  I think my annual salary was about $6,500 a year. (coaching was about $150 a sport). I was going to be rich!!!

So, that started my teaching career.  I was at West Grant for two years – teaching and coaching (more on that later) and then went back to get my masters.  And, I was still very naive – but I was learning on the job!!!!

So, how about you?  What was your first ‘real’ job?  Did you like it? Would you do it again?  How did you get hired?  

Continuing tomorrow!!!


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Blog #732 Waving

Waving!!  (Yes, waving)

I was young – 22 years old (barely since my birthday is in late August), and starting my first ever “real job”.  I was teaching high school math at West Grant High School near Patch Grove Wisconsin. The name “West Grant” came from being the western half of Grant County – and was a consolidation of the towns of Bagley, Mount Hope, and Patch Grove.  I was “the” high school math teacher – there was only one – and I taught freshman algebra, sophomore geometry, junior advanced algebra, senior pre-calc, and a general math class (and had a study hall and one prep period.

The area was beautiful – rolling loess hills along the Mississippi River.  This was Wisconsin dairyland at its finest. Most of the farms had big barns for milking – and most of the farms had the black and white of Holstein cattle. Holsteins are known as the world’s highest-production dairy animals. Holstein cows, on average give about 22,530 pounds of milk per year. Of this milk, 858 pounds (3.7%) are butterfat and 719 pounds (3.1%) are protein. The biggest discipline problem (in my mind) was the young men who had helped with the milking in the morning – and hadn’t changed their boots!!!

Yes, I was young and on my first teaching position.  I was also the assistant basketball coach and head baseball coach.  Mostly those two extra-curricular positions were because the previous high school math teacher also had those positions.  

Since today’s blog is on ‘waving’, let me get to that story.  In October, I had my first parent-teacher conferences. I got to meet the parents of these students.

I was living in Prairie du Chien – on the Mississippi River about 15 miles from the school.  (Prairie du Chien was a ‘real’ town of about 5,000 people – with real grocery stores and more).  

In that first parent-teacher conference, one of the parents mentioned that their daughter was working in Prairie du Chien at a bank.  I said I would wave at her as we passed each other – she going into Prairie du Chien to the bank and me driving to the school.

BUT … I had no idea of what car this girl drove, or even what she looked like.  So, in the next few weeks I waved at pretty much every car that I met as they were coming into town (and I was leaving).  Eventually, I found out which was the girl’s car – but by then, I had been waving at EVERY car – and by then, almost every car was waving back at me.  I stopped waving – except for the girl – but they were waving at me – so … I started waving at everybody.

I taught there for two years before going back to school for my master’s degree – and waved at all the cars I met.  Now and then I met some of the people I waved at as they recognized me.  

So started a lifetime of waving at people – most of whom I didn’t know!!!  Now in my neighborhood, I can wave and assume they live near me – that’s good – but nonetheless, I waved!!

I also have a left turn signal that works rarely.  My friends at Firestone have concluded that all they have to do is open the turn signal housing – and touch the bulb – and it will work for a couple of weeks.  Not wanting to return to Firestone every month to have them touch the bulb, I use hand signals for a left turn (the right turn signal works fine).  

I like to wave.  I like to have my window down and my arm ready to make my waving motion.  Sometimes people wave back – and I’m sure sometimes people think “Do I know that person?”  I find it is a friendly gesture and a cheerful gesture. I hope they have a great day. Sometimes I do know the people (in the neighborhood).  Even in Texas (where I hate to run the car air conditioning) – I have the window down. Yes, I rarely (if ever) wave on the interstate – but on the backroads and neighborhood roads – for sure.  

People see me with my arm outstretched sometimes think I am waving and they give me a look like ‘do I know you’.   (Yesterday I was listening to Hey Jude – so my waving arm was also beating the tempo!!)

So, what does this mean to you – the reader of this blog?  

The first answer might be “We knew you were a little strange!!”  (Okay, I admit to that).

The second answer might be “What a friendly person”

The third answer might be “Why not!!!”

This does carry over into my life as I want to be cheerful.  I’ve been a greeter at my church for years – I generally invoke a smile.  This is really a ‘ministry’ – the ministry of friendliness, ministry of smiles of hope or love.  

Are you friendly?  Do you wave at people?  Do you say ‘hi’ to people?  Do you say ‘hi’ to people in line at the grocery store?  I do!!! And, I think it does brighten their day (and mine)!!!



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Blog #731 More on Tea

Tea 101 – Continued

Let’s start looking at the caffeine in tea:

Tea dazzles us with its diversity. One plant, many dimensions.

Black Tea: average caffeine content is 50 mg/6 oz. cup

Black tea is produced when withered tea leaves are rolled and oxidized causing the leaves to turn dark. Once the desired color and pungency is reached the tea is dried. A robust cup with bright or lively notes is produced.

 Oolong: average caffeine content is midway between green and black tea (so about 35 mg of caffeine per cup)

Oolong gains its alluring character by withering and briefly oxidizing the tea leaves in direct sunlight. As soon as the leaves give off a distinctive fragrance—often compared to apples, orchids or peaches, this stage is halted. The leaves are rolled, then fired to halt oxidation when it is about halfway between black and green tea.

 Green Tea: average caffeine content is 25 mg/6 oz. cup

Green tea is produced when tea leaves are exposed to heat stopping the oxidation process just after harvest. This allows the leaf to retain its emerald hue. Next, the leaves are rolled or twisted and fired. A bright, cup is produced with fresh grassy/vegetal notes.

White Tea: average caffeine content is 0!!!

White tea is the most minimally processed of all tea varietals. The fragile tea buds are neither rolled or oxidized and must be carefully monitored as they are dried. This precise and subtle technique produces a subtle cup with mellow, sweet notes.

Okay, I am officially confused.  They seem to come from the same plant – and yet the caffeine amounts vary so much.  The least processed has the least caffeine – and the most processed has the most caffeine

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Blog #730 Tea 101

We are looking at caffeinated drinks – and starting looking at tea

So – time to learn about about tea – with Tea-101!!!

The following are pretty much all from the linked article!!!  (And, I learned a lot from reading this)

There are three main categories of tea: true tea, herbal tea, and flavored tea. 

Many new tea drinkers are surprised to find out that herbal teas and flavored teas aren’t really teas. That’s because these types of tea don’t contain any plant parts of the tea plant known by the scientific name Camellia sinensis. Herbal teas and flavored teas infuse spices, herbs, and flowers in water to make what’s called a tisane. Read on to find out more about these different categories of tea.

There are five true teas: white tea, green tea, oolong tea, black tea, and pu-erh tea. These are the teas most scientists refer to when doing research on the health benefits of tea.

Even though these teas come from the leaves of the same tea plant, they differ wildly in flavor, aroma, and appearance.

White tea is the least processed true tea. It undergoes the simplest production process, which is designed to maintain its natural look and flavor. Tea leaves are plucked by hand and then immediately dried outdoors in natural sunlight. Only the youngest leaves of the tea plant are used to make white tea.

Green tea is made from leaves that are only minimally processed. Green tea leaves are not oxidized, but they do undergo a slightly longer production process than white teas. 

Green tea leaves are hand harvested and immediately transported to an onsite production facility. Here, the tea leaves are spread out on large bamboo or cloth mats where they are withered. This step of the production process helps to reduce moisture content of the tea leaves.

Once the leaves are limp, they are blasted with heat to prevent oxidation. In general, green tea leaves are either pan-fried or steamed during the drying process. As the tea leaves are being dried, tea masters begin to shape the tea leaves.

Oolong tea is a semi-oxidized tea. The tea leaves are allowed to oxidize, but only for a short period of time. The flavor and color of oolong tea are stronger than green tea, but more mellow than black tea.

Oolong tea leaves undergo a moderate production process consisting of: hand harvesting, withering, rolling, short-term oxidation, and drying.

The plucked tea leaves are withered and bruised in bamboo baskets or on bamboo mats. The bruising exposes enzymes in the tea leaves to oxygen. These enzymes begin a controlled fermentation process that alters the flavor and color of the leaves.

Black tea is the most processed of the true tea varieties. It undergoes a process of withering, rolling, oxidation, and drying. The lengthy production process produces a tea that is bold and reminiscent of the flavor of coffee.

Black teas are most commonly produced in China, India, Sri Lanka, and Africa. The largest black tea growing regions are the Assam and Darjeeling areas of India. This is followed by Nilgiri, Sri Lanka—the third largest growing region in the country formerly known as Ceylon.

Black teas like oolong teas, are typically named after the regions in which they are produced. Black teas cultivated in Assam are made using the tea variety called Camellia sinensis var. assamica. These teas are fully oxidized and appear deep black in color.

Herbal teas do not contain any leaves from the tea plant. Instead, these beverages are made by infusing spices, herbs, flowers, and twigs in hot water. There are thousands of flavors when it comes to herbal teas due to the wide variety of plants used to make infusions.

Popular spice teas include turmeric tea, ginger tea, and peppermint tea. There are also hundreds of floral teas such as hibiscus tea, lavender tea, and jasmine tea. 

Flavored teas are made by combining true teas with herbal tisanes. A true tea such as green tea or black tea is used as a base while herbs, spices, and flowers are added to create stunning flavor profiles. 

Some of the most popular flavored teas include Earl Grey and masala chai. Earl Grey is a popular British tea that infuses black tea with bergamot orange. It is a citrusy delight that blends fruity and malty flavors. 

Masala chai is a popular Indian beverage that combines spices and a black tea base. 


Okay, tea-101 overview is largely done.  (I did skip pu-erh tea!!)

Moving forward we’ll eventually get into caffeinated teas, (and non-caffeinated teas), benefits of teas and more!!!  I’m not sure it will move me off my coffee base, but … who knows!! I might even learn to hold up my pinkie when I sip tea!!

Most of my tea drinking is pure black tea from Sri Lanka that I brew to make iced tea!!  In the summer I probably drink four times as much (or more) unsweet iced tea as I do coffee.  And, of course, it is summer about 9 months of the year in Central Texas. I have three large containers in the refrigerator now!!!


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Blog #729 Decaf Coffee and Tea

Decaffeinating Coffee and Tea

Mostly from:

Wow – I’ve really be off on this coffee and tea study.  I’ve taken coffee for granted most of my life – but there are some differences.  I generally think coffee and caffeine are good (in general). I don’t want to overdo it and get jittery – and especially later in the day so I can sleep well.  [I remember years ago where I could drink coffee into the evening and it didn’t bother me – but now, I try to avoid caffeinated beverages later in the day.]

So, how do they decaffeinate coffee (first – then tea later)


First – coffee comes from coffee beans – and coffee beans naturally have caffeine in them.  And … even when decaffeinating coffee there is still some small amount of caffeine left.

Coffee is always decaffeinated in its green (unroasted) state.

The greatest challenge is to try to separate the caffeine from the coffee beans while leaving the other chemicals at their original concentrations. This is not easy since coffee contains somewhere around 1,000 chemicals that are important to the taste and aroma of this wonderfully complex elixir.

In the indirect-solvent method the coffee beans are soaked in near boiling water for several hours, which extracts the caffeine as well as other flavor elements and oils from the beans.

The water is then separated and transferred to another tank where the beans are washed for about 10 hours with either methylene chloride or ethyl acetate. The molecules of the chemical solvent selectively bond with the molecules of caffeine and the resulting mixture is then heated to evaporate the solvent and caffeine.

Lastly, the beans are reintroduced to the liquid to reabsorb most of the coffee oils and flavor elements.

In this method of decaffeination the beans are steamed for about 30 minutes in order to open their pores. Once the coffee beans are receptive to a solvent, they are repeatedly rinsed with either methylene chloride or ethyl acetate for about 10 hours to remove the caffeine. The caffeine-laden solvent is then drained away and the beans are steamed again to remove any residual solvent.

Most of the time the solvent of choice in this method is ethyl acetate, so you’ll often see it referred to as “The Natural Decaffeination Method” or “The Ethyl Acetate Method.”

(aside – “Short-term exposure to high levels of ethyl acetate results first in irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, followed by headache, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, and unconsciousness. High concentrations can cause CNS depression and congestion of the liver and kidneys.”) 

First, you will note that a major reason for decaf coffee costing more than regular coffee is the major steps done to the coffee beans – chemicals added, coffee bean mixture is heated for a longer period of time.  So the time, the chemicals and the intricacies of this process can be significant as compared to just regularly roasting and grinding beans.

How about decaffeinating tea?

All teas made from Camellia Sinensis contain natural levels of caffeine. Caffeine is one of many self-defense chemicals that a tea uses to defend itself in this cruel world. Pound for pound there is more caffeine in tea than coffee, but who drinks a pound of tea? So cup for cup, tea is much less. In fact, you have to drink 3 cups of tea to get the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee.

Different parts of the tea leaves have different levels of caffeine. The delicious but defenseless tea buds have the most, green teas have slightly less and black teas even less. Of course, you steep black tea longer than green tea, so it is a bit complicated. Still, it is correct to say that there is more caffeine in white tea than black tea. The decaffeination process almost eliminates all of the caffeine.


And, there are also the truly, fully caffeine free teas – that really aren’t made from tea leaves at all!! 

“A confusing aspect of learning about tea is that many of the beverages which are called “tea” are actually not tea. Herbal teas are usually dried flowers, fruits or herbs steeped in boiling water. An interesting note: in Europe and some other countries, the use of the word “tea” is legally regulated to only apply to Camellia sinensis (that is – ‘real tea leaves’). Not so here in the United States…so don’t feel bad if you’ve been confused!”


So, decaffeinated coffee still has a little caffeine; much of the decaffeinated tea is not really tea – but a mixture made of dried flowers, fruits or herbs.  

I guess, for me, I’ll stay with regular coffee, with regular tea (especially for iced tea) – but accept herbal “teas” like ‘sleepytime tea’ as a nice beverage without caffeine.  
Yup – an interesting look into two of the most common beverages in our lives.

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Blog #728 Energy Drinks – part II

More on Energy Drinks

So, more information on energy drinks from the caffeine informer – on the benefits of energy drinks,

  1. More Energy: The first benefit, of course, is the painfully obvious one. Energy drinks produce feelings of alertness, wakefulness, and productivity.
  2. Standardized caffeine amount: With coffee and tea, caffeine amounts can vary greatly and the amounts displayed in our database are only averages. With energy drinks, there is a standardized amount of caffeine in each can. For the most part, consumers know exactly how much caffeine they are getting, which is helpful for those trying to safely manage their caffeine habit.
  3. Fast caffeine delivery: Because energy drinks are served cold, they can be consumed much quicker than coffee, which is usually only sipped because of its hot temperature. Quicker consumption leads to caffeine getting into the bloodstream quicker.
  4. A variety of flavors: The flavor of coffee and tea does not appeal to everyone so energy drinks are beneficial for people that want a caffeine boost but do not like coffee or tea. Energy drinks come in a multitude of flavors and options.
  5. Additional supplements: Besides caffeine, energy drinks often contain other energy ingredients like taurine, B vitamins, ginseng, and glucuronolactone. These are believed to enhance their effect. While the jury is still out on whether they actually do, they may offer more of a long-term energy benefit rather than an immediately perceived effect.
  6. Refreshing: Because most energy drinks are served cold and carbonated, they have a refreshing effect on the consumer. For many, this makes them more appealing than other caffeinated beverages that are usually consumed hot and along with a dairy product.
  7. Convenient: Energy drinks don’t have to be brewed or heated, making them a quick RTD caffeine delivery product.
  8. More affordable than Starbucks and other gourmet coffees: With many Starbucks drinks approaching $5, energy drinks are a cheaper alternative. Some brands are only $1 and often convenience stores offer popular brands at 2 for $3 during special promotions.
  9. Faster recovery after exercise: Energy drinks offer a way for athletes to recover faster from exercise because of the caffeine and carbs they contain. Many athletes prefer a cold and light beverage after a workout opposed to a hot or milky one.
  10. Zero calorie options: While black coffee is zero calories, few people actually drink coffee black, but enhance the flavor with sugar, milk, cream, or even butter. There are many zero calorie energy drinks available that deliver the caffeine without the calories and sugar.

Just like with any caffeinated product, moderation is key and energy drinks are no different. Consumers should consume energy drinks in moderation or the benefits they offer quickly are outweighed by the potential harm that they could cause.

Energy drink consumers should be aware of their personal caffeine safe limit and can use our caffeine calculator to find out how many cans of their favorite energy drink can be consumed daily to stay within that safe limit.  


Comments – I tried the caffeine calculator from CaffeineInformers with these results:

McDonald’s Black Coffee
My ‘maximum daily safe limit’ is 3.8 16 ounce cups and my lethal limit is 94.1 cups!!

Red Bull
My ‘maximum daily safe limit’ is 6.8 cans a day (8.46 fluid ounce cans) with a lethal amount on 170 cans of Red Bull in a day!!!

Bigelow Tea
Maximum safe limit is 12.1 cups per day (8 ounce serving) and lethal limit of 303 cups!!    (As if I could drink 303 cups of tea in a day!!!!)

Mountain Dew soft drink
Safe limit of 10.1 cans a day (12 ounce cans) with lethal limit of 252 cans a day!!

But, if you throw in the sugar amounts (Red Bull and Mountain Dew) – my sugar limit would be reached very quickly!!!  The 12 ounce can of Mountain Dew is 46 grams of sugar – depending on gender and weight, the suggested maximum sugar is about 25 to 35 grams of sugar!!!  So I would max out quickly!!!

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