Buzzing in the Bay

An exploration of healthy caffeine alternatives

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Caffeine remains popular among college students

From a college student’s perspective, I am not surprised to find out that a majority of college students drink caffeine. Whether it comes from tea, coffee, energy drinks or alternatives, on average 1-3 caffeinated beverages are consumed daily, according to a study at University of New Hampshire.

Although only 8 percent said they do not drink any beverages that contain caffeine, it got me wondering. Do they drink alternatives? Do they drink wheatgrass? Apple cider vinegar? If not, what do they do to stay awake and study?

These statistics were based on a survey conducted at UNH in April 2013 and although it doesn’t specify wether the 8 percent did something for a natural boost or not, I’m just going to hope they did.

I cannot emphasize how great and effective caffeine alternatives are.


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Get a natural energy boost from Sidewalk Juice

From kombucha to fresh juice to ginger and wheatgrass shots, Sidewalk Juice in the Mission is a go-to for healthy beverages. It is cheaper than neighboring juice spots and with tons of choices, it is a right way to start the day.

I have yet to try more than wheatgrass and a couple juices, but I would vouch for this establishment any day. Just going in and smelling the freshness immediately makes me want to jump on the health bandwagon. I wish I lived closer to 24th and Folsom so I could get a natural energy boost from Sidewalk Juice every day; but I don’t. Instead, I have to make the 45-minute trek from the Outer Sunset.

Regardless, I highly recommend this place; so if you’re in the area stop by and get a fresh drink.

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Wheatgrass to the rescue

_DSC0055If someone told me five years ago, let alone two months ago, that I would be drinking a shot of wheatgrass every morning, I would have thought they were lying. I always knew the general idea of why wheatgrass is healthy, but I never cared; until now. Now I can’t stop drinking it.

Sounds crazy right? I still think so.

Just the other day, I ordered a double shot from the school juice bar and with a quizzical look the cashier says to me, “oh, that’s all?” I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to buy something else and couldn’t help but feel weird ordering juiced grass; especially when I’ve never seen anyone else order wheatgrass there.

Regardless, I’ve been drinking 2 ounces every morning for about a month and I feel great.

As expected, I didn’t get an immediate energy boost when I first started drinking wheatgrass but I knew the health benefits and I know my body needs it. On top of that, the drink comes in a measly shot. I hold my breath, gulp it down and continue with my day.

It wasn’t until this past week where I thought that I was feeling the benefits of the wheatgrass. I had energy throughout the day without crashing after my first two morning classes, I was attentive in class and my stress level was noticeably lower than it usually is during exams. This is a great feeling and exactly what I had been searching for through all the kombucha, chia seeds and apple cider vinegar drinks.

I definitely plan on continuing to start my mornings with wheatgrass and even want to get a wheatgrass juicer to use at home; that is how much I love and encourage wheatgrass. I plan on getting anyone who comes over to take a shot.

In regards to an immediate jolt and on a scale of 1-10, I would rate wheatgrass a zero but a 10 in the long-run.

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Ch-ch-ch-chia is making a comeback

The first time I ever heard the word “chia,” was when I had a chia pet more than 10 years ago. Now within the past couple of years, chia seeds have risen in popularity again but this time as an edible substance.

From pudding to pancakes, chia seeds are getting incorporated in to more and more products that are readily available for purchase. I’ve noticed them the most in health drinks such as Coco Libre, Chia Star and Enlightened Synergy.

_DSC0133I’ve tried chia seeds before in kombucha but with the mixture of fermented taste and slimy texture, I wasn’t a fan. When I saw Mamma Chia Blackberry Hibiscus a few weeks later, I thought I’d give chia seeds another chance; mainly because I know they are good for me.

Benefits of this superfood:

  • Richest plant source of Omega-3
  • Contains antioxidants
  • High in protein and fiber

The whole point of me buying this drink was for the energy boost, which according to the bottle was supposed to be naturally occurring.

I wasn’t completely clear what this meant, so I did some research and found that it’s the complex carbs in chia seeds that break down slowly to maintain a steady level of energy throughout the day.

Although I didn’t necessarily feel as energetic as I would have liked, I did feel happier and more rejuvenated; which now thinking back, maybe have been due to the workout my jaw went through by chewing, what felt like, thousands of tiny chia seeds.

I definitely plan on continuing to eat chia seeds for its health benefits and the overall sense of well-being I felt after I finished the bottle of Mamma Chia. However, the energy level I was hoping for was just not there.

In regards to an immediate jolt and on a scale of 1-10, I would rate Mamma Chia a two.

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Dependence on coffee is skyrocketing

Who would have thought when they were a teenager that as an adult they would be drinking coffee every day?

I certainly didn’t.

It wasn’t until I was attending college that I noticed my utter reliance on coffee to keep me awake, sane and somewhat approachable during the semesters. I know I can speak for many college students when I say this because I’ve seen the lines at university cafes, and they are not short.

Despite the controversy that coffee may or may not be bad for consumption on a daily basis, some drinkers still believe they need to cut back or take a break. Whether 20 or 40 years old, if someone knows they need to quit something, they know. The hard part is doing it. 

Listen to some personal insight of avid drinkers who love coffee, want to quit, but can’t fully do it (did I mention they love coffee):

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Serve hot or cold: black tea

As winter is quickly approaching in San Francisco and the mornings are getting colder and foggier, it’s getting tougher for me to crawl out of bed and make it to my 9 a.m. classes. My usual  motivation for forcing myself out from under my electric blanket was a hot, fresh cup of joe.


However, looking for caffeine alternatives has left me with fewer options for warm beverages. Aside from Yerba Mate, all the drinks I’ve tried so far have been cold; and that is no incentive to get out of bed.

So this week I opted for a warm drink: black tea.

I know there is caffeine in black tea but the content is much lower than in coffee. In addition, it doesn’t have the same side affects as a cup of coffee. At least for me, I don’t get jitters, an upset stomach or coffee breath; which are the three main reasons why I wanted to cutback on my coffee intake.

On top of the lower caffeine content, black tea also has several health benefits including antioxidants, hydration and reduction of cardiovascular problems.

These benefits are great and well, beneficial to my health, but they are not the main reasons behind my switch. I’ve been trying to find a beverage that has the same kick as a cup of coffee and black tea is almost comparable.

Whereas after only a few sips of coffee I can actually feel the jolt coming on, I have to chug an entire cup of black tea before I begin to feel woken up. I can deal with this since drinking a couple cups of tea wouldn’t make me loose my mind like coffee would.


The only other issue I have drinking black tea is the taste. Don’t get me wrong, it is good and definitely tolerable but it’s not coffee. When I drink coffee, I add a bit of milk and sugar for a sweeter taste but I just can’t do that with tea; I think it ruins the taste but I don’t crave bitter drinks first thing in the morning.

Upon research for this post, I discovered that adding milk can diminish the metabolic benefits. Although there is debate on the topic, just like there is debate on whether drinking coffee is good or bad for the body. There is always some debate on everything we consume, whether it’s healthy or not and why.

I really love tea and the type of energy it gives me, but unfortunately it is not a definitive alternative to coffee. However, I will continue to drink it when I need to study or wake up but don’t want to feel so energetic to the point that I can’t focus.

In regards to an immediate jolt and on a scale of 1-10, I would rate black tea an eight.

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Beat me down and give me a different drink

I’ve never been a fan of beets._DSC0235

So why did I buy a drink made entirely of raw beets? That is the same question I asked myself every time I took a sip.

Actually I had a few reasons:

  • It’s made from a raw, organic, healthy vegetable
  • It’s a detox cleanser
  • Contains probiotics
  • Supposed to be a great source of energy
  • Has a low sugar content

I’ve been going to Whole Foods for the past few weeks in search of new drinks to try and every time I went, I would see kvass next to all the Kombucha. Apparently they keep all the fermented drinks next to each other.

I never had a desire to try this beet drink but I decided that after having seen it so many times, I should just go for it; so I did. I made my way to the check out line and asked the cashier if he had tried it. He said no. I was scared.

I carried the drink around with me for about 20 minutes before I had the courage to even try it but I finally got there. I opened it, smelled it and gasped. It smelled exactly liked it tasted: a dirty ol’ beet. It literally tasted like a juiced beet straight from the ground.

Like I have with all the other drinks I’ve tried, I kept an open mind of course, but this drink is one of a kind. I like the idea that it is completely and utterly health beneficial but I had the toughest time drinking it. I would wince after every gulp but I still kept drinking it- slowly.

I think I drank it so slow that I didn’t get the full potential of this energy-packed drink. However, I did feel like my poor college-abused body greatly benefitted from this drink. I felt refreshed, clear-minded and almost ready to start studying for my 100-question Anthropology exam; all I needed next was an actual energy booster.

I truly love the idea and health benefits of this drink but I absolutely loathe the taste. I didn’t see them when I was at Whole Foods this week, but Zukay has several other flavors that I think would be more suitable for my tastebuds such as Carrot Ginger or Veggie Medley.

If you like beets, I would definitely recommend this drink but it’s just not for me.

In regards to an immediate jolt and on a scale of 1-10, I would rate Zukay Raw Kvass a four.