Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Dollar Tree Unbranded Energy Shot x2: Grape and Berry (Dollar Tree)

Gets the job done on a budget, assuming you can ignore the not-terrible-but-not-good flavor.
I generally turn different flavors of the same item into separate posts, because they're technically separate products. However, once in a great while the tastes—and the end results—are so similar that they are essentially the same thing; hence the reasoning this post will cover both flavors of Dollar Tree's eerily unbranded double energy shot, which features a whopping 4 oz. of caffeinated energy for a single buck. 

One of the main things I look for when purchasing an energy beverage is the amount of caffeine in it—the more, the better. That being said, there's a general limit to the amounts I'll consume, so I tend to look for products that are in the 250mg range—too much more than that, and I'd be a little worried about adverse health effects, too little, and it's generally not worth my time (unless I only need a short burst). Dollar Tree's product simply provides the same vague statement that the national brand of energy shot provides: namely, that there's about as much caffeine per serving in these, as there are in a cup of premium coffee, with no actual milligrams stated. How this is even legal just proves how worthless the FDA is when it comes to...well, doing pretty much anything. (For the record, Consumer Reports have reportedly run a test and discovered that there's about 210mg of caffeine per serving in the standard national brand energy shot, so we'll just assume that's about the amount we're facing per serving here.)

Energy shots are not exactly known for their deliciousness, and neither are the full-sized drinks for that matter, but I've never really minded the flavor. It's basically the indiscernible taste of a dozen (or more) different chemicals, with a heavy dose of (sugarless) sweetness to offset the off-putting main flavors. I guess the closest thing I could compare it to is cough syrup, if cough syrup actually tried to taste good.

How does the grape version of "Energy Shot x2" compare with such lofty expectations? It's much different than the national brand of energy shot...and it's slightly for the worst. It tastes very watered-down, first of all, like it's basically a 2 oz. shot spread out to 4 with the addition of 2 oz. of water. Beyond that, the flavor that is there is a very artificial grape, which I suppose can be expected from a shot. I definitely wouldn't say it tastes “good”, and the aftertaste is more metallic than other energy drinks, but it's drinkable. In fact, the diluted taste actually seems to work in its favor, because if we got a stronger version of the taste that's discernible, it would probably be disgusting.

The berry is very similar in watered-downness, but the taste is more akin to prune juice than berry. It's not as revoltingly bad as my description might make it seem, but it's not too great either, and I'd say overall it's still a slight step back from the grape.

I do find it hard to believe that there are 420 mg of caffeine in this, as would be the case if this actually does equal 2 servings of the national brand with the same caffeine content, and other answers aren't very forthcoming online (a search of its UPC eerily yielded no results). I feel like if the caffeine content were that exorbitant, we'd be hearing of stupid kids and teenagers overdosing on this stuff left and right, given how widely available it is, and its placement solely at cash registers as an impulse buy. All that being said, however, there is definitely a good amount of caffeine in it, because it doesn't take much more than an ounce to get me going with a noticeable kick in the energy pants. I haven't timed it, but I'd say that it lasts a good 2-3 hours before dissipating, and thanks to its sugar-free characteristic, without the noticeable crash and ensuing sluggishness of their sugared counterparts. 

Perhaps surprisingly, Dollar Tree has no shortage of energy shots (given that they can be hard to find even in large, reputable supermarkets), and while it's safe to say that a lot of them suck (I speak from experience in having tried almost all of them), it's just as safe to say that this one is still a phenomenal deal that manages to be a win-win for just about everyone: Hardened caffeine enthusiasts can down both servings within a few hours to maximize effectiveness (or they can go against the label's warning and down it all at once), while those sensitive to caffeine—or those just wanting a shorter kick—can take less than the full bottle, stretching the servings out over a span of two or more days. I tend to get two days out of each bottle, so for $.50 a day this is a fantastic deal that just might edge out Aldi's Red Thunder as the best mass-market shot available today in terms of energy-per-dollar. 

The only area where it sorely lacks is in the taste...

Overall: 7/10. I'll just cut straight to the chase and say, for anyone wondering if these actually work, that yes, yes they do. I'm sensitive to caffeine (something faithful readers are probably mouthing along with me as they sigh and nod their heads, having read that for the millionth time), so it might take more to get you going than the one ounce that kicks me into gear, but even if that's the case, there are three more ounces to go around for way less than name brand shots. The only area where these slip up is in the taste: I don't find them atrocious, but they somehow manage to be a step back from the chemical weirdness of other energy drinks, offering up a watered-down flavor of incredibly-artificial grape or berry that's just not very good. Still, most people aren't in these for the taste; if it's energy you're after, these deliver well, and on a budget, to boot.

NOTE: I just realized from the above picture that the grape bottle says "Energy Shot x2" while the berry omits the "x2". However, the "energy blend" amount is the same on both packages, so it just comes down to a difference in packaging.

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