I Tried ‘Smart Coffee’ That Comes in a Pouch…and I’m No Einstein, but Is This the Future of Coffee?

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.

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Director, Branded Content + Cohost, Royally Obsessed Podcast

As Director of Branded Content at Gallery Media Group, Roberta helps oversee the ideation and execution of sponsored content and experiential campaigns across PureWow and ONE37pm...