A shot of espresso every hour or two? A large tank of water on your desk or regular trips to the water cooler? Or maybe a small warehouse of Red Bulls delivered right in time for the next sprint?
To keep you coding like a beast, you need to get properly hydrated. And there’s a whole world of opportunities out there. Leaves from a tropical forest? A magical Japanese powder? Or a fermented mouth-watering goodie that took Russia by storm? I’ve got them all covered for you.
They can help you stay fresh, focused, and productive throughout the day without destroying your digestive system in the process. They’re healthy, accessible, and each is growing more and more in popularity with people looking for new flavors. And most can easily be made at home or in the office.
I wanted to toss in some magical potions to the list too. But then I thought that searching for four-leaved clovers and chopping them together with lobsters and mistletoe is neither quick nor easy. So I’ll leave it to the experts.
Let’s begin then!
Yerba Mate is actually a plant called Ilex paraguariensis that grows in the equatorial climate of Northern Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and parts of Brazil, Bolivia, and Chile. It’s used to make a drink called mate – a naturally caffeinated herbal tea hugely popular among locals. Go for a walk around Montevideo or Asunción and you’ll spot plenty of folks sitting around with a gourd filled with mate, sipping the drink through a bombilla (a straw) and refilling with a termo (a thermos).
Mate gives you a similar kick that you would expect from a cup of coffee but with a smoother, more long-lasting effect. The plant is loaded with nutritional value and contains theobromine (also found in chocolate), vitamins C and E, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and a number of other minerals. Antioxidants present in Yerba Mate are proven to help lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease.
When should you choose it? Go with Yerba Mate if you need a long-lasting energy boost but coffee doesn’t appeal to you. I frequently drink mate in the mornings but it’s also great right after a lunch break when the body calls for a nap rather than a productive afternoon.
How does it taste? Traditional mate has a bitter taste that might be difficult at first for those used to sweet drinks or just regular cups of tea or coffee. Producers often mix up mate leaves with fruits, such as orange, lemon, or guarana or with various herbs. There are a huge variety of different flavors available.
Where to get the ingredients? Ilex paraguariensis doesn’t grow anywhere outside of South America so if you don’t live nearby, you’ll need to rely on imported goods. And there’s a ton of options. While most supermarkets in Europe or North America won’t have brands such as Rosamonte or Taragui on display, it’s extremely easy to purchase Yerba Mate online. A number of tea companies also offer mate-flavored tea bags that might be perfect for beginners.
Pope Francis, as you would expect from an Argentino, is also a heavy mate drinker. Picture credit: gawker.com
How to brew? If you have the mate equipment at your disposal (also easily accessible online), you can try drinking it the traditional way. Fill about ¾ of the gourd with Yerba Mate and cover it with nearly boiling water (80 C / 176 F). Drink it through a bombilla and continue refilling until the water in the thermos runs out. The drink prepared like this can last for many hours, keeping you focused throughout the day.
If you opted for Yerba Mate tea bags, you treat them with hot water just as you would do with any other tea. Wait 3-5 minutes, remove the bag and get started. Yerba Mate can be also used to cool you down. Such a drink is particularly popular in Paraguay and is known as tereré.
Kombucha originated somewhere in far-east Asia around the 17th century and it’s gaining traction around the world these days. This unusual beverage is obtained by fermenting a regular green or black tea with bacteria, yeast, and sugar. The drink that comes out as a result, contains little caffeine and gives a mild and gentle energy boost.
Kombucha contains probiotics, organic acids, B-group vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It’s said to help bolster the immune and digestive systems as well as decrease cholesterol. None of these claims are well-documented, though.
Note that the fermentation process leads to the presence of a certain amount of alcohol in each commercial kombucha product. The actual amount varies but in commercial applications never exceeds 0.5%.
When should you choose it? Go with kombucha if you’re feeling a bit adventurous, looking for a new taste and need an occasional, delicious boost at work or at home. For me, a late afternoon shot of kombucha on a busy day is just perfect.
How does it taste? There are thousands of variations so there’s no one obvious taste. Each kombucha is, however, slightly sweet and sparkling. Many first-time users also compare its taste to vinegar.
Where to get the ingredients and how to brew? The process of fermenting tea into kombucha is far from simple. When done by inexperienced drinkers, there’s also a high risk of contamination from harmful pathogens so I certainly don’t recommend it to beginners.
If such an intro only encourages you, this recipe for a kickass kombucha sounds like a pretty good start to me. For everyone else, you’ll be happy to hear there’s a wide variety of ready-made kombuchas available both online and in brick-and-mortar stores.
Although originating from China, Matcha has been widely adopted in Japan and drinking it has become a world-famous ritual. Matcha is a powdered green tea made from a plant known as camellia sinensis. And it’s a pretty strong one.
A cup of matcha contains about 70 mg of caffeine and is enough to give you the energy boost you need to go through the entire workday. The beautiful thing about it is that rather than give you an espresso-like kick, matcha is delivered slowly to your body. As a result, you feel the effects of a single cup for 6 to 8 hours, without the jitters and energy slumps characteristic of energy drinks or coffee.
Matcha is also on the healthy side. It features a high concentration of theanine, catechins, and polyphenols. Because of that, drinking matcha regularly is proven to reduce stress, blood pressure, and cholesterol and boost your immune system. A cup of matcha can also improve concentration and sharpen one’s memory. And this is precisely what you need on a never-ending day of coding, right?
When should you choose it? Go with matcha when you need a steady energy boost throughout the day with just a single cup. I like matcha especially on weekends, to drink with breakfast or shortly after.
How does it taste? Matcha has an intense taste that can be described as grassy but also creamy in a way. There’s a certain flavor of sweetness in each cup though it’s not a dominating taste. Some compare it to the first taste of red wine or dark chocolate.
Where to get the ingredients? Matcha is widely popular around the world and you can easily purchase it online or in dedicated tea shops.
How to brew? To make a single cup of matcha, you’ll need just about 2 grams (1.5-2 tbsp) of the powder. Pour it into a cup and add a tiny little bit of water at near-boiling temperature. Whisk energetically for at least 15 seconds until you get a bright-green powder. Then, fill the cup with hot water, mix everything up, and it’s ready.
Chai tea is hugely popular in India and is by many considered a national drink. It’s a delicious blend of black tea, milk, and a collection of spices. Most commonly, it’s served with cinnamon, cardamon, cloves or ginger, giving it a unique taste.
Contrary to many drinks on this list, chai tea contains very little caffeine. Instead, its herbs have calming, soothing effects, reducing stress and regulating blood pressure. If you have a tight deadline or just an annoying client, a cup or two will let you relax and focus on the task at hand.
When should you choose it? Go with chai tea if you need to calm down and relax a bit, without losing necessary focus. I think it’s perfect with a midday snack but can very well accompany your every meal.
How does it taste? It definitely doesn’t taste like a regular cup of black tea and will take a moment to get used to even if you usually pour a bit of milk into your tea. The taste very much depends on the type and amount of spices used. It can be spicy, sweet, even bitter at times.
Where to get the ingredients? A quick visit to any supermarket will get you everything you need.
How to brew? Ask any Indian and each will suggest a different approach to brewing a perfect chai tea. If you’re short on time, make a regular tea, warm up milk (but don’t let it boil) and mix both up. Then, add the spices of your choice and leave for a few minutes under a cover.
If you’re a coffee junkie but want to cut down on the amount of caffeine you intake, chicory coffee might be perfect for you. Made from chicory root, this drink has become particularly popular in New Orleans and it’s gaining more and more followers. The best part about it? It’s completely caffeine-free with the taste closely resembling a regular coffee.
Chicory root gives this drink a number of health benefits. It can reduce inflammation, regulate blood sugar levels as well as support digestion and a healthy gut. It’s not, however, recommended if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
When should you choose it? Go with chicory coffee if you love the taste of coffee but need/want to cut down on caffeine. It’s perfect at nearly any time of the day. Since it doesn’t contain caffeine, even evenings work great!
How does it taste? Chicory coffee is arguably the closest alternative to coffee. It features a similarly rich, slightly bitter taste. It can be, of course, served with milk if you’re after something softer.
Where to get the ingredients? Roasted chicory roots are widely available in supermarkets as well as online.
How to brew? Chicory coffee is brewed in the same way you would make a regular coffee. Add about two tablespoons of the plant for a cup of water, stir energetically and wait for 3-5 minutes for the best effect. Opt for a french press or a drip coffee maker if you prefer.
Brace yourself because there’s one more delicious beverage from Europe that needs your attention. Kvass is often referred to as the national drink of Russia or the ‘Kombucha of Eastern Europe’. That’s gotta mean something!
Kvass is an ancient, traditional beverage produced by fermenting rye bread (though grain, wheat, or barley can also be used). The result is a delicious drink that’s known for improving digestion and boosting one’s metabolism. It also contains a ton of vitamins, microelements, and lactic acid and it’s best served ice cold.
Home-brewed kvass contains a small dose of alcohol (usually 0.5-1%). Artificially-fermented kvass that’s sold commercially is often alcohol-free.
When should you choose it? Go with Kvass if you want to see what millions of Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians are crazy about! Oh, and I should be on this list too. If I have a fresh supply in the fridge, I like to grab a glass in the evening, right after wrapping up my work.
How does it taste? Commercial kvass is often flavored with fruits, such as strawberries, or with herbs. The base drink is pleasantly sour, with a noticeable bread flavor.
Where to get the ingredients? You can buy imported kvass online but you’ll get much better kvass if you brew it yourself. All you need for that is a classic black, dark, or rye bread and active dry yeast.
How to brew? The process of fermenting bread into kvass may take a few days but doesn’t require much of your involvement. It’s best to consult the experts on this, there’s also a lot of other simple recipes easily available online.
No hipster list would be complete without a beer. Though whether you should have one at work really depends on your circumstances.
There’s a bunch of companies that literally brag about their fridge full of booze. Some are very transparent about how beer is a part of their company culture. There’s also some research on how a certain amount of the heavenly drink can boost creativity. And there are folks that tried to confront the science and check things for themselves (with promising results).
Wherever you are on this, there are probably situations when an afternoon pint of beer could help you tackle a creative task that somehow just wouldn’t have seemed possible moments earlier.
And while beer may not be the healthiest drink on this list, it’s also not a harmful one (as long as you drink responsibly). Among the health benefits, beer’s nutritional value, bone bolstering capacity, and its positive impact on reducing the risk of heart disease are often mentioned.
That’s all, folks. I hope you enjoyed and will find the right drink to fit perfectly with your daily routine.
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