Tea and Spice, Actually Nice

I'm skeptical of the value of pepper spray and sending people to the hospital, two things that appear on the resume of capsaicin, the active component in chili peppers. So when I found Prometheus Springs Capsaicin Spiced Elixir, a bottled tea whose quirkiness and individuality hinges on the shock of spice from the same stuff that keeps rapists at bay, I didn't think it was entirely unfair to refer to it as "that Mace tea I'm gonna write about."

Turns out, that was entirely unfair. Prometheus Springs Elixir is a series of naturally sweetened, gluten and preservative free teas that come in six deliciously strange, spicy-sweet flavors, among them lychee wasabi and mango chili heightened, all with capsaicin. Rahul Panchal, Prometheus Springs' founder, started brewing tea in his dorm room at the University of North Texas.

Prometheus Springs delivers equal parts charm and flavor. The label says "delightfully painful," and that's not just talk. The lychee wasabi tea is intensely sweet upon impact. The capsaicin kicks in as the tea washes down, igniting a surprising trail of burn and building a nest of heat in the back of the throat. The capsaicin's embers smolder and burn themselves out quickly, leaving only the juicy, outdoorsy taste of lychee. The burn took a while longer to fizzle out on my lips, but that's what I get for being a face drinker and not using a straw.

The lemon ginger flavor was sharper and more poignant. I missed the lychee's sweetness cutting the heat. The lemon and gingers' tartness encouraged the heat to spread in a way that made me wince. Chilling the tea muted the tea's scorching capabilities, but I think the lemon ginger is better in a mixed drink or recipe (a slew of recipes are available at the company's website), not guzzled and left to simmer in an empty stomach.

Prometheus Springs Elixir is available at Whole Food and Central Market.

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