By Raiden Huang.
Listening to the whole genesis of Wize entails an epic journey of adventure and the entrepreneurial spirit. It’s amazing what stories come out of a hero’s journey when there’s unparalleled determination, deep passion, and immaculate creativity. You can listen to Max’s full conversation on thinkspace here or continue scrolling down for a brief Q&A I had with Max.
– Raiden Huang
Raiden: How Was Wize Founded?
Max: I was studying while also working a lot. I was finishing a design contract at the same time as my first semester finals and this was about my third episode with coffee. I drank way too much coffee and realized it wasn’t really doing anything. I consumed about four to five cups of coffee daily for two weeks straight. I was getting up at seven in the morning for school and then going back home and working until four in the morning because my clients were in Vancouver while I was in Europe at the time. That was a huge challenge and eventually, I found myself sitting in the middle of class and I remember specifically because it was such a remarkable feeling. It was 11:30 AM on a Thursday in early December and I started feeling heart palpitations, my body was shutting down. I didn’t have a cold or fever and it just felt weird. There was no way I could’ve sat through that class so I left and when I got home, basically everything came out of my body. I went to the doctor and they told me I had an acute caffeine overdoseand to go find another alternative. Me not growing up with a tea culture at home, I didn’t know tea that well and I always found it bitter or needed sugar or milk or something. I don’t want to add calories to my drinks, I’d rather have it black. I always found how if it’s tea, you’re compromising it with something.
Eventually, a month after, we were starting a new project at school for our global entrepreneurship program. I was going through some emails and newsletters I followed and I came across the study of the coffee leaf. This is January 2013 and we thought it was super interesting as no one’s ever used the coffee leaf before. We did some more research and apparently, it had more antioxidants than green tea and roasted coffee beans. It’s been consumed as a very basic version of tea for a long time but no one has really crafted it and brought it onto the market. Within a couple of weeks, we realized the coffee farmers are really suffering in the offseason which is nine months of the year. In those nine months, they aren’t harvesting the bean but they’re actually pruning off the extra leaves just for maintenance. We realized if we could make something be a byproduct and make it valuable for the farmers to prune off in the offseason, we can then create a way more sustainable farm and also mitigate the migration and hunger that occurs. Why not make something more of this plant that everyone knows so well but has completely overlooked? Over the following four to five months, we started working on the project and fell completely in love with the concept. At the end of the year, we said screw it, this is 2013 and the economy is going into the tank in Europe. We weren’t going to bother chasing internships.
That summer, we went backpacking around Nicaragua to find coffee farmers to work with and most of them didn’t even believe our whole idea. They thought we were just crazy gringos. They looked at us like who were these two white kids that can barely speak Spanish trying to tell us how to use the leaf we’ve been using for generations. Eventually, we found the right guy and started working with him but that’s essentially the whole genesis of Wize.
Raiden: How Does The Caffeine Release Cycle Work?
Max: Excessive caffeine spikes your cortisol hormone release. It’s essentially your fight or flight hormone so as soon as you have a lot of caffeine, your cortisol spikes and people will be like, “oh I have that rush, that buzz.” But what you’re actually telling your body to do is to go beast mode but not that beast mode of hyperfocus on doing lots of work, you’re actually scattering your body and it’s digging deeper than it has to go. You’re basically faking this energy. In your brain, you have adenosine receptors and they’re the signal base that tells your body it’s tired. Caffeine simply blocks your adenosine receptors, it doesn’t actually provide you with energy. It blocks tiredness. If you don’t know when you’re tired, you won’t know how much fuel you have left in the tank. If you’re always drinking caffeine and you’re never feeling tired, eventually you’ll realize you’re running below empty. That’s what happened to me and every time I had those caffeine episodes, I realized I wasn’t even scraping the bottom of the barrow, I was literally punching through the bottom of the barrel and there was nothing there. I learned that the hard way. Caffeine has a similar shape to the caffeine molecule and what it does is it moves adenosine out of the way and it goes to the receptor and blocks it. That’s the idea of trying to mitigate your caffeine and sensitivity to it. If you’re constantly taking something that blocks yourhormone response, you’re not going to know when you’re actually tired and you’re just going to have all the side effects such as poor gut health and issues with your nervous system.
Coffee is fairly acidic, it’s strong on the gut. A small cup of coffee has about 120 milligrams of caffeine and one of our cans has 35 milligrams. The cycles of caffeine, if you have a tall drip coffee from Starbucks at noon it’s going to have about 260 milligrams of caffeine. Caffeine has a half-life of about 6 hours. If you have it at noon, by the time it’s 6 pm, you still have 125 milligrams of caffeine in your blood. At that point, you’ve already crashed. You don’t have any of these cycle’s active benefits in the sense of blocked adenosine receptors anymore. But the caffeine is still in your blood and it’s still going to affect your rem cycles when you eventually go to bed. Fast forward 6 hours later, your caffeine is still going to be around 60 milligrams and that’s like having a hot cup of black tea at midnight in terms of the caffeine content in your blood. So when you are literally in the middle of your sleep, you have caffeine affecting your rem cycles.
Raiden: How Do You Break A Caffeine Addiction?
Max: If you need energy, you just need to re-calibrate your caffeine sensitivity. Use caffeine strategically and have small boosts that will get you through those 2 to 3-hour slumps. By strategically using caffeine and not just blasting yourself with a shotgun of caffeine all the time, you’ll be able to use it to your advantage and feel way more in control of your energy and know you’ll still be able to get rest at night. It’s about knowing moderation. Knowing how and when to use it versus falling into the trap of going to take this 250 milligrams of caffeine drink vs nothing at all. At Wize, you have to be wise with your caffeine consumption. In the morning, you don’t need a 200-milligram coffee. If you had a drink with 50 to 75 milligrams of caffeine, you’d have the same kind of feeling with a lot less of the downside. Why ride on a rollercoaster when you can float on a cloud?
Raiden: Why Only One Gram of Sugar?
Max: In a black tea, you’ll pluck the leaf and you’ll let it wither for a couple of days before rolling it and later on bruising it. That releases all these oils and natural sugars that are inside the leaf which creates a lot of nice flavours. The thing is with black tea and traditional tea plants are that the leaves have a lot of tannins and it’s the tannin that leaves a lot of bitterness. However, coffee leaves have way fewer tannins. The reason we only have one gram of sugar is that we want to make it shelf-stable. We add a tad of lemon juice to give it that acidity and that one gram of sugar just balances out the taste. Plus it’s for marketing purposes. If we said there was no sugar, people instantly assume there’s stevia. You want to taste the leaf and the natural flavours. People are so afraid of change and having something to lose. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
I’ve always been gripped by the tales of the entrepreneurial journey. Max’s time with Wize has been nothing short of amazing. Not only has he found a cure to a social, personal, and economic problem, Max has done so in an innovative approach that has established himself as a pioneer.
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