Energy Beverages

Caffeinated Water? It’s Here!

What are the benefits of caffeine? What is the best caffeinated water?


Say buh-bye to bad, high acid coffee. And adios to boring, ol’ water. The benefits of water – namely, hydration and life – and the benefits of caffeinated coffee – alertness, focus, clarity, energy – and the huge market for better-for-you caffeine, are driving a new product category: caffeinated water. What is the best caffeinated water? Let’s look at a few options.

Best Caffeinated Water – a Few Candidates

Aqua Java

Brought to you by the good people of Sonoma-based Don Sebastiani & Sons (“the next generation in wine” is their tagline), Aqua Java is purified, sparkling water boosted with organic caffeine. All flavors, including Java, Kola, and Mocha are fortified with 45 mg of caffeine. Touted on the Aqua Java website as a “natural antioxidant derived from green coffee beans,” caffeine is ubiquitous in American society, with 2/3rds of American adults consuming caffeine of some kind every day. (Chocolate, soda, and coffee are the top three sources).  Aqua Java is sweetened with erythritol, a type of sugar alcohol that contains almost no calories. Like other sugar alcohols, erythritol does not spike blood sugar and does not cause tooth decay. It is extremely popular with people on low carb diets or those seeking to reduce their glycemic load. The flavor, however, reminded me of diet soda. And not in a good way.

Happy Tree Maple Water

Maple water is almost an ideal electrolyte. It jams on the manganese and other antioxidants, too. Happy Tree Maple Water takes the natural character of maple water and pushes it to 11 by cold brewing organic, fair-trade Peruvian coffee with the subtly sweet water for the new Cold Brew Coffee flavor. No added sweetener and a completelty sustainable tree water harvest mean this baby is as good as it gets. Now if only the bottle were biodegradable…

Sap on Tap

Like Happy Tree, Sap on Tap is a maple water beverage. The caffeine fix in Maple Water with Yerba Mate flavor, though, comes from yerba mate. Made from the leaves of the South American rainforest holly tree, yerba mate not only contains 24 vitamins and minerals and 15 amino acids, it is flush with antioxidants as well as caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine, well-known stimulants also found in coffee and chocolate. The slight bitterness of yerba mate is off-set by the maple water brew, which tames the leaf’s out-going, punchy flavor.


This water is different. This water is bad ass. This water is caffeinated. That’s right. These waters are water, H₂0 dressed up with jazz hands and sassy pants. It’s up to you to find the one that most perfectly matches your nutritional requirements, caffeine intake needs, or your taste buds.

One Nation, Under Starbucks

Packaged coffee drinks

The US single serve, packaged coffee drink market has been growing at double digits for the last four years. With coffee sales rising, the industry bloomed an additional 14% in 2016 to a market size of $2.54 billion. (Yes, that’s a “B.”) Ever since Starbuck’s launched Doubleshot cans and Frappuccino bottles of serving-size coffee over a decade ago, they have dominated the market, scooping up 75% of the marketplace. Dunkin’ Donuts, a late entrant to the ready-to-drink game, has expanded its line of consumer packaged goods and launched a line of iced coffee in February to compete with the King of Coffee. Starbucks is likely to notice a score of new players going after a piece of the ready-to-drink pie: cold brewed coffees. Blended with coconut milk, brewed with coconut water or made without any added natural or artificial sweetener, these players are going after a consumer who is looking for the caffeine buzz but without the dairy, sugar, and chemicals. Or maybe they are just looking for a BPA-free package.

Organic Gemini Tigernut Horchata

Horchata, the creamy drink that dates to eighth century Spain, has a dedicated following in the US particularly among Hispanic consumers who make it with milk or rice milk. Organic Gemini takes the drink back to its roots, producing a line of TigerNut Horchata. Cultivated in Spain and west Africa, tigernuts are a type of tuber, rich in prebiotic fiber and are the historical “milk” used in horchata. Certified organic and sealed in a BPA-free bottle, Coffee flavor horchata is made with fair trade Peruvian coffee beans, cold brewed with biodynamic water to which maple syrup is added. It’s creamy, it’s sweet and the cold brew process reduces the acidity of the final product. Add a pop of nutritive value and an equivalent amount of caffeine as a regular cup of coffee and you begin to understand how coffee becomes something more than energy. It’s fuel.

Wonderfuel Coconut Oil MCT Superdrink

Speaking of fuel, Wonderfuel embraces the superfood status of coconut in its Coconut Oil MCT Superdrink. Organic and non-GMO, Wonderfuel’s Coffee flavor is made with fair trade, cold brewed coffee and 7 grams of coconut oil MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides), cinnamon and no added sugar. Wonderfuel is fuel. MCTs are used in medicine to treat food absorption disorders (I see you, celiac disease) and are used by athletes to decrease body fat and increase lean muscle mass. If you have not already embraced coconut oil and coconut milk as alternatives to dairy, this version of ready-to-drink coffee may tip you into the plant-based beverage column.

Pop & Bottle Cold Brew Coffee

Made without emulsifiers (like soy lecithin or carrageenan) and with certified organic almond milk, Cold Brew Coffee from Pop & Bottle also commits to a high level of almond milk – 20% in each bottle – killing the industry standard of 2-3%. Yes, organic almonds are more expensive but all that extra “milk” comes through in the taste. It’s fresh. It’s clean. And there is a rich sweetness from Medjool dates. The West Coast company paired with San Francisco-based Ritual Coffee for its beans. Since Pop & Bottle’s brews are more perishable than others (shelf life is 2-3 weeks, according to their website), the company only ships to western states, this partnership may guarantee the same rabid following that Ritual Roasters enjoys. For a highly perishable product, that is key.

Beach Beverages Beach Coffee

Coconut is also a feature ingredient in Beach Coffee. Here, the coffee is cold brewed with coconut water. “We do this because it makes Beach Coffee/Tea slight sweet and silky smooth without any added sugar or milk,”  says Josh Horsely of Beach Beverages. And it has the nutrient benefits of coconut water – it’s rich in electrolytes like potassium and magnesium. Lighter in color and translucent, similar to a brewed tea, Beach Coffee has a smooth character, a mere 45 calories, and as much caffeine as a regular cup of joe.


It is unlikely that any of these companies can catch Starbucks dominance of the single serve, packaged coffee drinks market in the near term but the on-going embrace by the American consumer of coffee in portion-sized bottles is not slowing. As soy milk and almond milk now have a place next to the whole milk and Sweet-n-Low in coffee shops around the country, room for vegan, plant-based, ready-to-drink coffees will find their place in the cold case. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.



What Am I Drinking: the Brave New World of Functional Beverages

Marketing beverages is not what it used to be. To stand out in a crowded field (and be recognized for the best consumer packaging), makers of sports drinks, energy drinks and even enhanced waters have had to differentiate themselves to a high degree, touting the unique benefits of their formulas to target your specific needs. And in some cases to address hydration needs you did not even know you had.

This Sunday when we look forward to the Super Bowl and its avalanche of advertising targeted at fans, we thought it would be fun to look at the difference between energy drinks and recovery drinks and the companies doing some of the best beverage marketing and best consumer packaging. Here’s a quick peek at what’s out there and what you need to know.

Energy Drinks

If you lived through the ‘90’s, when Red Bull ruled the energy drink landscape, you likely have distinct memories of ingesting this once bright red drink and of Red Bull’s catchy slogan: “Red Bull gives you wings.” Pumped up with caffeine (one 8.4 oz. can contains 80 mg of caffeine), the amino acid taurine, plus B-vitamins and sugar (one 8.4 oz. can contains 27 g sugar, sourced from sugar beets), Red Bull’s original Energy Drink and other first generation energy drinks relied on caffeine as their main stimulant to improve cognitive function and give the user and ‘energy’ boost.

As we discussed in an earlier post, ingredients that improve cognitive function have taken off as nootropics, or ingredients that are considered cognitive enhancers, enter the functional ingredient landscape. Nootropics helped alter the landscape for energy drinks.

Drinks and other beverages now are positioned to help us focus, raise our brain performance, boost energy, increase resiliency, and many other claims. While caffeine is still an important ingredient, new technology has helped companies precisely manage the dose while reducing the jittery effects some users experience of this natural stimulant.

LifeAID’s FocusAID Focus Blend includes caffeine from green tea and yerba mate, a gentler form of caffeine. It is also boosted with nootropics, including acetyl-l-carnitine which may treat health problems such as nerve pain and may improve blood sugar levels.

Recovery Drinks

In days of yore, sports drinks ruled the electrolyte-replacing landscape. Brands like Gatorade, which was developed in 1965 at the University of Florida, promised better performance by replacing 100% of lost carbohydrates (also known as sugar) and electrolytes (also known as minerals, including potassium, magnesium, and sodium). It worked and a new drink category was born. And the category flourished with a few big competitors, big time.

Fast-forward to 2017 and countless companies are now offering  everything from fitness waters and performance drinks to energy and mood improvement beverages. Boosted with supplements (or not) and sweetened with sugar (or not), it is up to the consumer to determine which formula is best for which targeted need or desired performance effect.

Sports drinks are usually consumed mid-activity, something a wide receiver could consume after a 50-yard run then immediately head back onto the field. Recovery drinks include electrolytes but are generally designed to be ingested post-physical activity. It is Sport Drink 2.0. Companies have refined the terminology somewhat to appeal not just to athletes but to anyone with an active lifestyle (i.e., you and me).

Both sports drinks and recovery drinks usually include electrolytes and minerals to accelerate muscle recovery. Some recovery drinks are further boosted with protein for muscle recovery and rebuilding and other ingredients that can support everything from cardiovascular health to joint health. Even the Gatorade brand has now grown and extended its offerings with specific products for use at different points in the exercise journey.

But HFactor’s Hydrogen Rich Water relies on little more than the hydrogen already present in water’s H2O. “It’s H2O plus H2,” says Nicole Pack, HFactor’s Chief Experience Officer. With no chemical processes, HFactor developed a new technology that infuses molecular hydrogen into water. Their innovative bottle, an aluminum package lined with BPA-free plastic, offers the equivalent of a hermetic seal, preventing the extra H2 from outgassing. It won a 2015 World Beverage Innovation Award for keeping optimal levels of H2 inside. Pack confirmed that hydrogen-rich water helps decrease inflammation, increase circulation and provide superhydration, but it must be consumed within 30 minutes of opening to achieve these benefits. After that, this water reverts back to H2O, a recovery beverage in its own right.

We do not know what is truly in the sideline bottles of the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots for Super Bowl 2017. But we suspect that each team – or even each subgroup of players within a team – receives a custom formula for peak performance before, during and after the big game. But for those of us watching the Super Bowl, however, we suggest drinking whatever goes best with the food on the table.