In the latter half of 2014, Bulletproof Coffee launched a thousand sips of butter-infused morning brew. The SoCal start-me-up cited such undocumented benefits as weight loss and mental clarity in its meteoric splash into the mainstream. Founder Dave Asprey’s unflinching fervor earned his label famous fans, an imminent Santa Monica café and the inevitable, think piece-fueled backlash. Now a new day is dawning, with a number of alternative ways to caffeinate growing in popularity. Contenders include ancient rainforest tea leaves and cutting-edge coffee equipment from the Stumptown brain trust.
This Japanese drink is made from green-tea leaves grown in the shade, then milled and ground into a fine powder. The resulting cup is said to have 130 times the antioxidants of standard-issue green tea. Matcha is not steeped; instead, drinkers whisk the powder into hot water or steamed milk, or mix it into everything from energy drinks to ice cream. Matcha is making moves this year, topping 2015 trend forecasts and launching America’s first all-matcha café, located – where else? – in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
2. Yerba mate
Harvested from a holly-like plant indigenous to South American rainforests, yerba mate has 90 percent more antioxidants than conventional green teas. Still, experts agree it should be consumed in moderation. Traditionally, yerba mate leaves are steeped in a gourd and sipped through a metal straw, but norteamericanos like Richard Landau and Martha Stewart have recently begun using it to fortify cocktails and blended coffee with a healthy dose of caffeine.
The second South American superleaf on our list is primarily harvested in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Guayusa contains the same amount of caffeine as coffee, as well as weight-loss-friendly chlorogenic acids and twice the antioxidants of green teas. Runa, a label launched by two Brown University grads in 2009, is the primary importer of guayusa to the United States. Such varied benefactors as the Ecuadorian government and Channing Tatum have invested in Runa’s organic blends, now sold in loose-leaf, bagged, iced and energy-drink forms at Whole Foods nationwide.
4. Nitro cold brew
Iced coffee’s next chapter fuses craft-beer technology with large-format java production. Baristas inject kegs of cold brew with nitrogen, so that drafted coffee has a smooth, frothy finish, not unlike a perfectly pulled Guinness. Nitro was first launched at Stumptown cafés in 2013 but is now spreading to counters across the country.
5. Turmeric tea
The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties in this rhizome reportedly boost immunity, treat irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease, and aid cancer prevention. Clean-living brands like Republic of Tea and Numi Organic now package loose-leaf and bagged turmeric blends. The latter introduced four turmeric-based teas in fall 2014, causing attendees of last week’s Winter Fancy Food Show to ask, Is turmeric the new açai?
6. THC-infused iced coffee
The culinary elite may struggle with cannabis cuisine, but it constitutes one of the year’s fastest-growing culinary categories. Washington state’s Mirth Provisions hopes to bring its Legal beverages — cold-brew coffee infused with locally grown cannabis extract — to market in 2015. Developer Adam Stites describes the brews’ effect as “an alert, creative high,” but distribution is currently on hold due to production issues. Meanwhile, a recipe for cannabis-infused Bulletproof Coffee has, perhaps predictably, already surfaced.
Read more about morning beverages on Food Republic: