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Adaptogenic coffee: a taste test and review

Brewing Rasa adaptogenic coffee at Groundwork
Brewing some Cacao Rasa at Groundwork.

Here at Groundwork, coffee is a big part of the culture. Whether we are enjoying Caitlin’s fancy summer cold brew, or a hot cuppa from our friends at Coastal Roasters, we like to stay caffeinated.

And yet, as a business owner with bills to pay and piles of projects to do, I get anxious when I drink too much coffee. So when an ad popped up in my Facebook feed about a coffee alternative that would help me stay energized without getting anxious, I took the bait and clicked.

I found myself on the website of Rasa, a Colorado-based startup that sells an adaptogenic formula that will help you “perk up and chill out.” I was all in, but before I tell you how the taste-testing went, here’s a crash course in adaptogens.

What’s an adaptogen?

According to this article in the NYT, adaptogens are herbs that have been used by Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine herbalists for centuries. These herbs theoretically adapt to your body’s needs and help with your response to stress. Popular adaptogens include holy basil (tulsi), ashwagandha, chaga, reishi, eleuthero, and lion’s mane, to name a few.

According to the Rasa website, adaptogens can have positive effects on your adrenal glands, immune system, and nervous system.

Sounds great… but how does it taste? I’ve taken my share of Chinese herbs in the past, and I can’t exactly say they’re delicious. (Unless you like the taste of wet dog and mushrooms.) Here’s what I found out:

Rasa Koffee adaptogenic coffee
Rasa offers a starter kit if you’re an adaptogen newbie.

Taste test: Rasa Koffe

Rasa offers a sampler kit with three flavors to try: Original, Cacao, and Dirty. It sets you back $18, and includes about 12 servings. I found the original to be the most earthy of the mix, slightly reminiscent of the aforementioned Chinese herbs, but more palatable. Dirty Rasa, which is blended with coffee, had a subtle coffee flavor, but I found myself adding an extra splash from our airpot to give it the perfect balance. My favorite variety was the Cacao Rasa, which tastes like an earthy hot chocolate. I found traditional dairy creamers didn’t taste that great with Rasa– there’s just something yucky about mushrooms and milk. But a splash of coconut or almond milk really did the trick for me, and a touch of honey makes it even more decadent.

Note: the recommended brewing method for Rasa is 10 minutes in a french press, so be prepared to take the extra time when preparing this drink. Not the best choice if you have a rushed morning routine.

Four Stigmatic mushroom coffee
You can’t taste the ‘shrooms in the Four Stigmatic blend.

Taste test: Four Stigmatic Mushroom Coffee

After I tried Rasa, I thought I’d check out a mushroom coffee blend. There are a few folks who sell this online, and I ordered mine from Four Stigmatic. The coffee ships ground, and is blended with Chaga for immune support and Lion’s Mane for focus and concentration. It is touted as giving “half the caffeine and more mental clarity.”

I brewed my mushroom coffee in a french press the morning of a road trip up to the White Mountains. As promised, the coffee gave me smoother energy without the jitters. But it didn’t have that inexplicable kick that a regular cup of coffee offers, and since I was drinking something that tasted like coffee, I kind of missed that. I may have stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts for another cup along the drive, but don’t tell anyone…

Four Stigmatic also offers a bunch of instant drink mixes, including an instant adaptogenic coffee, and instant mushroom coffee, and some non-caffeinated drinks. I’m working my way through those, so I’ll get back to you on the report! I love the idea of instant packs for road trips, camping, and generally being on the go.

The test that never happened: MUD\WTR

Once I clicked on the Rasa add, my Facebook feed was filled with yet another adaptogenic coffee alternative: MUD/WTR. I fully intended to test it for this post, until I realized that it would set me back $40 for about 12 servings. I’m sorry, but no. I draw the line. Still, the ingredient list looked tasty with the added flavor of masala chai.

Interestingly enough, MUD/WTR is targeting a decidedly masculine audience, while Rasa was created by a mother who wanted a safe coffee alternative while breastfeeding. So if any of you men out there try MUD/WTR, let me know if you like it…

My coffee routine now

After my research, I’ve settled on a weekday routine of Cacao Rasa with a splash of coconut/almond creamer. On weekends, when I’m not subject to the stressors of work, I indulge in good old coffee, preferably with a donut from the Baker. (C’mon… you can’t be too healthy or life gets boring!) I’m still experimenting with my brewing methods for the mushroom coffee, so it is yet to be determined whether it will make the regular rotation.

Healthwise, I’m feeling WAY better since I switched to Rasa during the week. I can’t say if the adaptogens are working their magic yet, but the reduced caffeine intake certainly is!

So if you’re prone to getting anxious, I highly recommend giving the adaptogen trend a serious look. Bonus tip: if you are local to the South Coast, People’s Pressed serves up some fancy coffee blended with ‘shrooms and other good stuff, so check out their menu.

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