Coffee is a treat for many of us, but come 2 or 3 o’clock, we back off–especially if insomnia is an issue and we need our sleep desperately.
Not an idle worry, as the news is full of sleep deprivation stories and even a National Geographic special titled “Sleepless in America,” a detailed examination of just how sleep deprived we are as a nation, is set to air amid great promotion by the network.
Caffeine, particularly in energy drinks and the over-consumption of coffee, is often the chemical trigger to toss and turn. But there is some great news.
Try to wrap your head around the notion that you CAN drink coffee as a sleep aid, and you will see why the brand Counting Sheep Coffee is the darling of the hard-to-impress Natural Foods Expo and is already being sold at select stores and online through gourmet food emporium Balducci’s in New York, Bed Bath & Beyond in the U.S. and Canada, Kings Food Markets in New Jersey, and online through Amazon.
Canadian Deland Jessop had a brilliant idea: His wife loved coffee but feared drinking it later in the day. Jessop wondered if he could combine a water process decaf of Arabica beans and infuse the grind with an herb that promotes sleep and relaxation.
The Canadian joined forces with a Portuguese-American coffee maker, Joseph Fernandes, and together they embarked on Counting Sheep Coffee, a fine roast decaffeinated coffee made in two strengths, 40 Winks (formerly Bedtime Blend) and Lights Out, to relax and promote a restful nights’ sleep. Fernandes is a partner in Counting Sheep Coffee, which is made at his family production facility in Newark. By chance, he met Jessop and his founding business partner Adam Cooper last year at a New York coffee show.
The Lights Out is aptly named, as I tried this grind the other night and fell sound asleep on the couch within fifteen minutes of drinking it while I was watching my screener of Nat Geo Channel’s “Sleepless In America.”
On a side note: This aforementioned documentary is an unprecedented partnership, National Geographic Channel (NGC) along with The Public Good Projects and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), America’s foremost scientific authority, and details the science of sleep — a topic fundamental to our collective well-being. Please make every effort to watch “Sleepless in America” which premieres Sunday, Nov. 30, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NGC. I had to re-watch the screener the next day, but I was most certainly well-rested thanks to the rich dark roast of Counting Sheep’s strongest brew.
Fernandes is a partner in Counting Sheep Coffee, which is made at his family production facility in Newark. By chance, he met Jessop and his founding business partner Adam Cooper last year at a New York coffee show.
Many people even claim sensitivity to decaf, but trust me, not with this product. The robust and fantastic flavor is a bonus, and even though I am extremely sensitive to decaffeinated coffee, both varietals of Counting Sheep Coffee tasted great and relaxed me perfectly to fall asleep. Thanks to the skillful roasting and blending of Fernandes, I detected no valerian root and absolutely had some of the best sleep in my life this past week. The only change I made to my nighttime routine was including one large cup of Counting Sheep Coffee.
Initially Jessop had tried infusing his coffee with sleep inducing herbs like chamomile and even lavender. But valerian root–despite the heady smell–was the proven ticket for the best outcome of sleep inducing coffee. Their Arabica grind is 99.9 percent caffeine free through the trademarked Swiss Water Process, where green coffee beans are water-treated to remove caffeine and artfully blended with American grown valerian. The result is a full bodied coffee that is rich and flavorful, not bitter or burnt, and promotes a healthy relaxed state for you to succumb to a restful sleep.
Monsters and Critics recommends you try both 40 Winks, described as a medium roast with valerian and perfect to serve to guests (who aren’t driving) after a meal or drink in the afternoon, and Lights Out, their full-bodied dark roast with more valerian, which the caveat of, “be prepared to want to sleep quickly” must be disclosed.
The quality of their product even landed Jessop and his crew a spot on Canada’s reality series “Dragon’s Den” a competitive business funding show where a flood of interest in the product earned it a top-seller rank on Amazon.
Monsters and Critics had some questions for Deland Jessop:
Monsters and Critics: Where did this idea come from?
Deland Jessop: My wife loves coffee, but can’t even touch decaf after 3pm because she is so sensitive to caffeine and would be awake all night. I have honestly heard her talking to friends saying she couldn’t wait until the morning to taste her coffee.
The number of times she said she would love a cup of coffee but… I should have thought about this 10 years ago. It is such a simple idea, it was easily overlooked. As soon as it hit me, I Googled it, and realized there is nothing on the market regarding a relaxing cup of coffee. I turned my house into a lab for 6 months mixing decaf coffee with Chamomile, Lavender, Chinese herbs, anything I could think of. My wife was my tester and she rejected a lot of my experiments.
A health practitioner suggested valerian root one day and I knew I had something when I mixed it, my wife liked the taste, she slept great, and then started asking for it. Valerian is a naturally bitter herb, so it works very well with the coffee, which masks the bitterness. I did some research and found out the number one reason women report drinking coffee is to help them relax, and it is indeed a very relaxing ritual. We had a lot of friends try it out, give us great feedback and then we decided to launch the company.
M&C: A lot of people have coffee after dinner, especially out at restaurants. Coffee is believed to help with digestion after a meal, does this “sleepy-feeling inducing” coffee provide such benefit?
DJ: There seems to be research on both sides of this as coffee (even decaf) has some properties that help with digestion, such as improving the processing of material in the digestive tract. We have tried to create a bold roast with the aim of reducing acidity so people won’t experience that if they are having our coffee before bed. There have also been studies indicating that valerian root (the other ingredient in our coffee) aids in digestion as well. It helps reduce acid reflux, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome as well as abdominal cramps.
Our coffee has low levels of valerian as it is food safe, but you really have to know your own body, since some people are more sensitive to herbs than others. Personally I really enjoy the taste of a coffee after dinner, as do many people.
M&C: You’re not supposed to drink and drive, does Counting Sheep Coffee fall under this same umbrella being that it makes the drinker more relaxed, even sleepy?
DJ: Valerian is sold over the counter as a sleep aid in much higher doses. The amount of valerian you would have in a cup of our coffee is significantly lower than what you would be taking if you were using valerian as a sleep aid. That being said, we still recommend people use caution after having a cup of our coffee, because some people are sensitive to the herb, and others have told us they feel very relaxed after drinking our coffee.
A lot of the ‘Sleepy Teas’ actually use valerian, which is a good comparison. Counting Sheep Coffee is a food, not a medicine, so you shouldn’t expect it to have the same effect as taking a sleeping pill or any medication. However, the process of sitting and relaxing with a cup of our coffee, coupled with the absence of caffeine and mild mix of valerian root, does tend to relax people.
Again, you have to know your own body and act responsibly, especially if you are already tired in the first place, or are combining it with an alcoholic beverage.
M&C: Products that are known to relax the individual taking them can be known to cause a sort of hallucination–valerian has a rep for creating Kafka-esque dreams. Have there been any instances where Counting Sheep Coffee caused the consumer something to this effect?
DJ: I’ve never heard of anyone drinking our coffee and having anxiety provoking dreams. We are a food product and the amount we use in our coffee is much lower than you would be taking as a sleep aid. You do have to know your own body. Valerian is an herb, and has relaxing properties. Some people are more sensitive to it than others, but we haven’t had anyone complain about nightmares yet.
M&C: How did you cross paths with American Joseph Fernandes?
DJ: I met Joseph Fernandes at Coffee Fest in New York in 2013 when we introduced Counting Sheep Coffee to the world. Joseph loved the idea and wanted to be involved. I’m not from the coffee world and knew that we needed to find the right partner to help make this business a success. We had several meetings and were very impressed with his knowledge and skill in this industry. He is a 3rd generation coffee roaster, who literally grew up in the roasting plant. We have become great friends very quickly, and he brought a level of expertise to the preparation of the coffee that is invaluable.
M&C: What is the recommended cup(s) amount (max) for someone to drink this in one day?
DJ: Funny, true story: I have a neighbour who is a coffeeholic and drinks 8 cups of coffee a day. He found out about my coffee, and excitedly asked “I can have 9 now?” There is no caffeine in this drink, and it is a relaxing beverage. I know people who have had it mid-day if they were having a stressful day and just wanted to relax.
We had a blogger review our coffee and she tried it at different times of the day. She had it right before bed when she was already tired, and she went right to sleep. She had it just after dinner when she wasn’t anticipating going to sleep for several hours and found it relaxed her all evening, and she had no problem getting to sleep. She had it during the day and it just calmed her down.
We see this as a fun evening treat; a way to enjoy yourself instead of a glass of wine some nights when you don’t want the alcohol or calories, but still want a nice relaxing ritual. My wife and I don’t have it every night …we still like wine too, but a couple of nights a week we will have a cup each after we put the kids down to bed and are sitting in front of the fire. One can have several cups a day, but I think a cup in the evening when you want to relax is what I enjoy the best.
Another funny story, a good friend of ours had the coffee and his wife kept it stored in Tupperware. They went on a trip, and she just grabbed a Tupperware of coffee, not remembering it was our Counting Sheep Coffee. She made a cup for him first thing in the morning, and he felt even more tired. Believing the coffee wasn’t strong enough, he had a second and then a third cup before he clued in and asked if it was the sleepy coffee he was having. He told me, he spent the morning lying down on the couch.
M&C: It doesn’t cure insomnia but mitigates the stress and anxiety of the day, true or false?
DJ: True, it won’t cure insomnia. It cannot replace sleeping pills, and if you do suffer from a sleep disorder, which is a horrible thing to go through, please don’t think this is a cure. It may help a bit, and we did have a woman approach us at a trade show with tears in her eyes thanking us for the first great night sleep she has had in years. I think the process of relaxing for 20 minutes sipping the coffee along with the lack of caffeine and valerian probably helped her, but again everyone is different and you have to pay attention to your body and how it reacts to herbs you drink.
M&C: How did you become an entrepreneur?
DJ: I have a really varied background. I started off studying politics at university, but left after two years because I was hired as a police officer. I worked for four years as a cop (loved every minute of it) and finished my degree part time. I was accepted into a very good MBA program, so decided to study business and leave policing. I realized very quickly that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and I launched an online test preparation business with two other students in my program. The business has been a great success for us over the last 10 years. I always wanted to teach too, and now teach entrepreneurship in the school of management at Langara College. I came up with the idea for Counting Sheep Coffee about two years ago and knew it was too great a concept not to run with it. Growing up, I always wanted to be a cop, a business person (Alex Keaton from Family Ties was my hero), a teacher and a politician. If you ever see my name on a ballot in the future, please vote for me!
M&C: What items are next in the line, after the core coffee items?
DJ: We have the bags of ground coffee in two varieties, 40 Winks and Lights Out! (with more valerian in it) and we launched single serve pods (pictured above) compatible with Keurig’s K-Cup machines. We have a lot in the pipeline including an instant version, several other flavours like cinnamon, vanilla… We are passionately confident this could become a major, well-recognized brand. It is a really fun drink and a great way to relax. People have been asking us for our mugs actually too. Our designer Kelly Chernoff did a great job on our logo.
M&C: Which retailer took the first chance with you?
DJ: Bed Bath and Beyond was our first customer. It was exciting getting a Fortune 300 customer right out of the gate. We have had some great support from them and appreciate them giving us the chance. We are experiencing rapid growth in Canada. Federated Coop (a large grocery retail chain in the prairie provinces of Canada) called us the day after Dragons’ Den aired and picked us up. Dragons’ Den is the Canadian version of Shark Tank, including Mr. Wonderful. They are a phenomenal organization to work with. Other large retailers we will be on the shelves of soon include Sobey’s, Metro, and Loblaws. We focused on Canada to start because of the TV appearance, but word is spreading in the U.S. as we embark on an aggressive marketing campaign and expand our distribution.