Even if you swear by coffee in the morning, you know better than to drink it at night. (The caffeine can rile you up and ultimately mess with your sleep.)
But now there's a new kind of drink made from decaf coffee and a natural sedative called valerian root that's specifically designed for you to drink at night to help you sleep: It's called Counting Sheep Coffee, and it comes in two varieties: "Lights Out!," which contains 235 milligrams of valerian root per two tablespoons of brewed cup, and "40 Winks" (aka "Bedtime Blend"), which contains 176 milligrams of valerian root per brewed cup.
While I never drink coffee after dark (just smelling freshly ground coffee beans makes me feel more alive and alert—which I definitely don't need before bedtime), I love the taste of coffee and wanted to see whether Counting Sheep Coffee actually does what it says.
Because when it comes to coffee, strong is good, but stronger is better, I decided to try Lights Out! While I was already pretty sleepy, I was kind of terrified that the coffee would keep me up. But when I opened the bag of ground beans and took a sniff, I didn't feel the same excitement I typically get from my first whiff of coffee in the morning. This probably had something to do with the placebo effect—when you respond to a stimuli simply because you think it's supposed to make you feel a certain way—of sniffing decaf grinds.
While I waited for my coffee to brew, a strange, tobacco-like scent began to emanate from the kitchen. Having never smoked a cigarette in my life, I'm especially sensitive to the smell and particularly disgusted by it. Evidently, the volatile oils in valerian root can produce this kind of polarizing stench, which has been described as earthy, unpleasant, and akin to unwashed feet or pungent cheese.
Still, I tried to keep an open mind. When the coffee was ready, I added a splash of vanilla almond milk, which is how I regularly take my coffee. But the whole routine was messing with my head: It's trippy to follow your morning customs late at night.
Then I took my first sip—and gagged. It tasted markedly like stale cigarette.
Just to confirm, I asked my boyfriend to take a sip. (He likes coffee, but he doesn't drink it on the regular.) "It's a little weird," he said, after taking a few sips. "But pretty good."
"Doesn't it taste like ash though?" I asked. "Like the inside of a cigar box?"
However, the taste didn't really bother him.
To see whether the stuff could actually chill me out and help me sleep, I held my nose and took a big gulp. Then I went to brush my teeth (which, for the record, hardly helped me smell less like a smoker). When I got back, I found my boyfriend cuddled up by himself, asleep.
For the sake of experiential science, I pried his eyes open. "Are you actually tired, or is it the coffee?!"
"It's got to be the drink," he said. And for what it's worth? We both slept amazingly well.
Still, I can't say I'll try this stuff again. Honestly, after my first run-in with valerian root's repulsive scent, I have no interest in tasting Counting Sheep's less potent brew. Herbal teas make a solid stand-in for coffee when I need a hot drink at night—and they taste a whole lot better. In other words? Save yourselves.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.