Ames bakery harnesses power of caffeine
Ames, Ia. - In a 400-square-foot storefront across the street from Iowa State University, a peppy woman cooks up a batch of Iowa's newest alternative energy.
Allison Nelson pulls a sheet of brownies from the oven, lets it cool, then slices the sheet into 4-inch-long treats. Baked inside each is the magic ingredient of Nelson's business, a fledgling bakery called A Snack in the Face: 200 milligrams of pharmaceutical-grade caffeine.
"Iowa's the capital of alternative energies: wind, ethanol, biodiesel," Nelson said.
And now this - the tastiest alternative energy yet, and another step in the modern world becoming the most caffeinated society known to man.
The nation's first caffeine bakery, now a year old, plans to expand to a larger manufacturing facility and supply convenience stores in Iowa and nationwide. The tiny Lincoln Way shop garners surprised looks from many who walk past. Some seem scared. But for most who pop in, it's like a revelation. Their faces light up at a delectable brownie with an energy burst.
But perhaps Nelson's caffeinated brownies, cookies, truffles and more shouldn't be surprising, just another cultural touchstone for our work-harder, produce-more, sleep-less society. Since Red Bull first came to America in 1997, energy drinks have proliferated. Convenience stores have entire sections dedicated to hundreds of energy drinks. Tiny energy shots have gained prominent spots on store counters. Cyberspace hawks caffeinated knickknacks: soap (Shower Shock), lip balm (Spazz Stick), beef jerky (Perky Jerky) - even Stay Puft Caffeinated Gourmet Marshmallows.
It's as if an American subculture, defined by extreme-sports fanatics on one end and computer geeks on the other, has developed around the omnipresent drug.
"Caffeine is much more available and in much more things than at any time in human history," said Catherine Tucker, an associate professor of anthropology at Indiana University and author of an upcoming book, "Coffee Culture." "But a bakery, that's fascinating. It's the next step - as if you can't get enough caffeine in cola, coffee, tea and chocolate."