If you're like me, you imbibe coffee in any and all forms, so long as it makes your eyes open up a little wider and your fingers type a little faster. Folgers, Starbucks, that coffee cart guy in front of the office…My caffeine intake is as indiscriminate as my pizza intake (don't "at" me, pizza snobs).
So when I was pitched a new instant "smart coffee" that comes in a pouch and contains nootropics (a very buzzy word for a group of memory- and focus-enhancing compounds, aka the most 2019 thing ever) from Brooklyn-based startup Alpha Wave, I had to give them a shot (no pun intended).
First, let me reiterate that this is instant coffee (albeit organic and sourced from Colombian Arabica plants, for anyone who cares). The coffee powder comes in a ready-to-mix brown paper packet about twice the size of a Splenda that you pour into whatever caffeine-consumption container you have at your disposal. It looks like cocoa powder, and can be poured into either cold water and given a good stir (for those who prefer the iced coffee variety), or boiling water (for those who hate summer).
For my cold brew version (I know it's not cold brew), I added a splash of coconut creamer and a dash of cinnamon (yep, I'm a big chai tea fan). I was all like "hey, this is super easy." While the taste takes a little getting used to (it's still got a bit of that acidic bitter taste that comes with hot coffee that's trying to disguise itself as cold), I had no major qualms.
Disclaimer: I didn't try the hot version, so no word on whether the heat does something funky to the taste (though, I doubt it). Another disclaimer: I've given at-home iced coffee a try by seeping grounds into a special carafe and leaving it in the fridge for 24 hours, as well as using a real coffee maker, and then, most recently, buying cold brew concentrate from a grocery store. Simply put: Actually making coffee is too much hassle for me.
I waited for the jitters to set in, but nope…no ravenous hunger either (which I often feel when I drink coffee in the morning without eating breakfast). The focus-enhancing benefits are touted by the coffee's inclusion of L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea that avoids the crash of caffeine while adding an increased level of focus. One study found that L-theanine increased alpha wave activity in the brain, which is associated with more focus and creativity.
OK, so I wasn't filing my taxes or finishing my grad school project right away, and it could've definitely been the placebo effect. But I did feel way more "intent" on the task at hand, which was writing another story. Typically, I check my phone at every ding, refresh my inbox a few times, delete some emails and then…"Oh, wait! I totally forgot to make a reservation for that dinner. Better do that now!" Yeah, I'm usually all over the place with coffee. But not this time. I whipped out the story in half the time, only pausing for more sips of that brain fuel.
And it's not just me. Alpha Wave started a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the coffee, and reached their funding goal in less than three hours. They'll begin shipping out the first eight-pack supply of smart coffee pouches this August to everyone who pledges $19 (yep, that's $2.38/cup…way less than what I spend at Starbucks but still more than my coffee concentrate from TJ's).
So, yeah, it's instant coffee with a possible focus-enhancing (or placebo) effect. And it's not Maxwell House-level cheap…but it did take about two seconds to whip up, and it did give me the eye-widening caffeine boost I crave in the morning.
Oops, better go check my phone. Haven't looked up from writing this story since I took my last gulp.