Original Energy Drinks/Java Juice, Yerba Mate

Two of the world’s original energy drinks have been accompanying me on the adventure circuit as of late. Indeed, the proverbial quick picker-uppers of coffee and tea now reside next to the energy gels and electrolyte tablets that populate my pack.

But the bean and leaf brews I bring are not of a domestic ilk. Traditional steeping and brewing — and even the heating of water, for that matter — are unnecessary tasks with the blends I’ve picked up.

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Exhibit A is a coffee concoction from Venice, Calif., called Java Juice (www.javajuiceextract.com), which is a liquid coffee extract that comes in single-serving packets. Java Juice is essentially coffee concentrate that mixes fast and thorough with water.

Pour a packet of Java Juice extract into 8 to 16 ounces of water — depending on how strong you like it — and let the dark and heavy fluid do its thing. In about 10 seconds, the drink is ready for consumption.

Java Juice works equally well in hot or cold water, though it can taste bitter if added to boiling water. Its beans, which are shade-grown and certified organic, are sourced from fair trade farms, according to the company. It has a one-year shelf life.

Packets cost about $1.50 each. They weigh almost nothing and are tear and puncture resistant. I tried but could not burst one by pressing it hard between my two hands.

The coffee’s flavor was good, in my opinion, but not quite as perfect as the special dark blend I get from my neighborhood coffee shop. Some of my friends thought it was too bitter, but I like its strong flavor in water hot or cold.

Tea, in the guise of a South American mainstay called yerba mate, has been my No. 2 energy drink this fall. Though it’s not technically of camellia sinensis, the plant responsible for traditional tea leaves, yerba mate is a tea-like drink made from the leaves of a tropical plant.

Sebastopol, Calif.-based Guayaki’s yerba mate (www.guayaki.com), the brand I’ve been drinking, comes in several flavors. It’s sold loose leaf, in teabags and as a bottled drink. For the outdoors, I like the convenience of the company’s tea bags, which cost about $7 for a pack of 25.

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The steeped concoction contains a type of caffeine plus vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants, according to Guayaki. The resulting energy is unlike what you get from coffee: I found its effect to be more subtle than coffee, with yerba mate providing a buzz that lacked a spike and was more calming or focusing than it was stimulating.

Guayaki’s original yerba mate flavor smells earthy and smoky, and it tastes a bit odd at first. Some of my friends were not fans at all. I like yerba mate, though. It has a hearty and unique taste akin to a strong and grassy green tea.

Like Java Juice, Guayaki yerba mate can be prepared in hot or cold water. Throw it in a water bottle, wait a minute or two, and drink. No fuss whatsoever.

Posted by Stefan Schachter - 11/11/2006 10:09 AM

If you’d like to try a really great-tasting yerba mate, without the smoky flavor, try EcoTeas. Their price is great, too! www.ecoteas.com.

Posted by Kat Eaton - 10/26/2007 02:09 PM

My husband & I have been enjoying yerba maté for 2 years now in place of coffee. We find it provides a steady energy which helps us focus at work. Guyaki and also Maté Factor carry a ‘roasted’ mate version, which we trade off now and then with the traditional green. We brew either flavor in our coffee press, add milk (or vanilla soymilk) & honey (or cane sugar) and will go through 3-5 cups a day! WE LOVE OUR MATÉ!!

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