With a hefty kick of caffeine, a cup of coffee is, for many, the only way to start the day. But 2021 has seen the rise of a new breed of brews infused with herbs and fungi known as ‘adaptogens’, which makers claim can reduce stress, boost immunity, lift your mood — even make you look more radiant.
These so-called supercharged coffees have won a legion of celebrity fans including Oprah Winfrey , Kim Kardashian , and Meghan Markle. The Duchess of Sussex has invested in Californian ‘superlatte’ brand Clevr. It’s only available in the U.S. and Canada but international shipping is due to launch this year.
What’s so special about ‘adaptogenic coffees’? In herbal medicine adaptogens are natural substances, typically extracted from plants, that supposedly help the body counteract anything that upsets our natural balance. With lower caffeine levels than a normal coffee, these special blends also promise to give you energy without the dreaded mid-morning jitters.
Other brands have developed coffees formulated to maximise antioxidant levels, or with added vitamins and minerals.
Even High Street chain Costa Coffee has caught on to the trend, launching its Latte+ range — vegan lattes with added B12 vitamins, zinc or protein — this month. Soon, sipping on a fortified coffee could be as commonplace as a flat white. But are any of these products actually better than a normal cup of coffee? And do they taste any good?
From collagen-boosting mixes to antioxidant-filled filters, we test the supercharged coffee blends that claim to give you more than a caffeine boost. BEAUTIFYING BLEND
What is it? Ground organic Brazilian coffee with added collagen.
Claims to: Boost skin’s radiance thanks to 2g per serving of the brand’s True Collagen formula (Davina McCall is a fan), a digestible form of collagen peptides. Collagen is a protein that contributes to skin’s elasticity and strength but levels naturally decline after the age of 30.
Tastes like: Smooth and pleasant. It is claimed that it takes a few months for any collagen supplement to have a visible effect, so you have to stick with it.
3/5 BRAIN-BOOST BREW
What is it? Instant coffee with two adaptogens — lion’s mane and rhodiola herb extract.
Claims to: ‘Support memory, focus and concentration’ with lion’s mane extract, and reduce ‘mental fatigue and brain fog’ with the rhodiola extract. Soviet astronauts were given rhodiola for a mental boost.
Tastes like: It has a lovely, almost chocolatey flavour and powered me through a midday slump, a Zoom call and several pieces of work without the 4pm caffeine crash.
4/5 MUSHROOM MAGIC
Mushroom Cups Go Glow!, £14.95 for ten sachets, amazon.co.uk
What is it? Instant organic Peruvian coffee infused with adaptogenic mushroom extract.
Claims to: Support your immune system with 400mg of chaga — the ‘mushroom of immortality’ — in each serving.
Wild chanterelle mushroom extract delivers a ‘high dose of nutrients’ including vitamins B and D.
Tastes like: Slightly earthy but, surprisingly, there’s no detectable mushroom flavour, even though it makes up a third of the mix.
3/5 MULTIVITAMIN HIT
Vitamin Coffee Complete, £5.95 for 210g, vitamin coffee.co.uk What is it? Ground coffee with added vitamins and minerals, in medium or dark roast.
Claims to: Provide 100 per cent of your recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of 14 essential vitamins and minerals in just one cup. Heat-sensitive vitamins have been formulated so they don’t degrade in hot water and lose their efficacy.
Tastes like: The medium roast is mellow and light and there’s no synthetic or chemical taste from the vitamins. You need to use two full tablespoons, or 15g, per serving to get the RDA.
4/5 ANTIOXIDANT BEANS
Feel Good Green Coffee, £6 for 14 bags, ocado.com What is it? 100 per cent crushed green coffee beans in individual ‘coffee bags’, which you steep like a tea bag.
Claims to: Help you achieve your ‘health goals’ by delivering more naturally occurring antioxidants than regular coffee, skipping the roasting process and leaving the organic, Fairtrade Mexican coffee beans in their raw, green state.Tastes like: More like a herbal tea, it’s much more refreshing than a normal coffee. However, it wouldn’t hit the spot first thing in the morning.3/5 BALANCING SHROOMS SuperU Shroom Coffee, £34.99 for 150g, superu.co.ukWhat is it? Instant organic Colombian arabica with adaptogenic mushrooms and maca root.Claims to: Boost energy, productivity and focus without the jitters. There’s 50mg of caffeine per serving, about half what’s in a regular cup of coffee. Cordycep mushrooms ‘stimulate the nervous system and adrenal glands to support a steady release of energy’, while maca root ‘minimises the effects of fatigue’.Tastes like: The flavour is rich and nutty, and indistinguishable from normal coffee. It gave me a boost without getting my heart pounding or giving me a headache a few hours later.3/5 LAB-TESTED FORMULA Exhale Coffee, £7.95 for 225g, exhale coffee.com What is it? Whole-bean or ground organic Mexican coffee, formulated for maximum antioxidant power.Claims to: Have the same antioxidant power as 12 punnets of blueberries, 55 oranges or 1.2 kg of kale.There are no additional extracts or superfood ingredients. Instead, they have extensively lab-tested different bean varieties and roasting processes to hit on a formula that maximises the number of antioxidant polyphenols that end up in your cup.Tastes like: Smooth, fresh and fruity. I shared this with a fussy coffee snob who gave it the thumbs-up.After all, to get all those antioxidant benefits you have to want to drink it.5/5 WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY Coffee contains powerful anti-inflammatory phytonutrients (plant chemicals), says Jo Travers, a dietitian and author of The Low-Fad Diet.’But be aware of the caffeine content,’ she warns. ‘If it interrupts sleep the negatives will outweigh the benefits.’While taking protein in your diet is important, the proteins in these coffees may not have the specific effect they claim.’Any proteins that go through the digestive system are broken down into amino acids before being reconstituted into new proteins,’ she adds. ‘This means, for example, that consuming collagen doesn’t automatically add more collagen in the body — instead, your body will use the amino acids to make whichever proteins it needs.’Jo says adaptogens can […]