News / Vancouver

Coffee that helps you sleep getting online buzz

Forget warm milk before bed.

A Vancouver entrepreneur has created a new coffee product designed to help you sleep — and already the orders are pouring in.

Deland Jessop, owner of the aptly named Counting Sheep Coffee, said he came up with the idea after his caffeine-sensitive wife complained of not being able to drink her favourite hot beverage after 3 p.m.

Deland Jessop (back) pitches his special coffee blend on Dragons' Den with business partner Joseph Fernandes (front) on March 19, 2014.

“The idea of coffee to fall asleep, it just clicked,” Jessop told Metro. “I Googled it and I realized it didn’t exist.”

For the next year, Jessop — a former police officer turned entrepreneur who also teaches business at Langara College — said he turned his house into a lab, experimenting with different herbs known to induce sleep.

Eventually, he stumbled upon valerian, a plant that has been used as a mild sedative for centuries. Jessop mixed the plant with decaf coffee to mask its bitter taste, and Counting Sheep Coffee was born.

“My wife loves drinking this at night before bed,” he said. “Instead of a glass of wine ... she drinks her cup of coffee."

In 2013, Jessop launched the product at Coffee Fest in New York, and then competed on Dragon’s Den.

Bed, Bath & Beyond quickly placed an order for the product, followed by Loblaws, Sobeys and several independent retailers.

Since then, he said the product has gained in popularity and is now making international headlines, including a recent feature in Time Magazine.

But Jessop emphasized that Counting Sheep Coffee is a food product, not a drug.

Both Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approve valerian as a food ingredient.

The coffee used in the drink is decaffeinated using the Swiss water process, a non-solvent method of removing caffeine from unroasted coffee beans. The process is carried out at a facility in Vancouver using water from B.C.'s coastal mountains.

“It doesn’t involve any chemicals,” he said. “(The drink) is all natural — just the coffee and the valerian root.”

Still, Jessop urged caution to those who drink it.

He said a friend accidentally confused Counting Sheep Coffee with his regular coffee grounds and brewed it in the morning. When he started to feel sleepy, he thought he needed a second cup to help jolt him awake.

It wasn't until his third cup that he realized the mistake and spent the rest of the morning on the couch, he said.

"You definitely want to make sure you drink it at the right time," Jessop said with a laugh.