I’m that rare breed of human who doesn’t drink coffee. No Americanos, no espressos, no cappuccinos. In fact, I never even had caffeine until I was in my 20s! After graduating from college, I spent some time in Japan and experienced both green tea and chai—the latter after befriending an Indian family who was always kind enough to offer me a cup of homemade chai when visiting. It was so aromatic and spicy, and I loved the way it made me feel. Looking back, that was some of the best chai I’ve ever had.
For the next two decades, I would go years without having caffeine, and then get into a chai habit every once in a while. Because I was so sensitive to caffeine when I did have it, I found it very disruptive to my sleep. I was always grateful because I long felt that I didn’t need caffeine to feel my best, and those chai tea lattes that came in and out of my life were more like a special dessert. But then, life got really tough, and I started to consume more and more caffeine just to help cope with everything going on. Fast forward to today, I find a little caffeine can really help with focus, energy, and mood. But what’s the best way to consume caffeine, and how much is enough? I know that when I consume too much, my anxiety is exacerbated, I have trouble sleeping, and I can get irritable. No fun.
There’s an entire body of science dedicated to the study of caffeine and its health-supporting properties, and the research is extremely compelling, particularly where brain function is concerned. As a stimulant, caffeine has been shown to enhance athletic performance, boost memory function, and improve mood. It’s no wonder why I find myself craving a second cup during those rigorous editorial deadlines! Research also suggests that caffeine consumers live longer than those who abstain.
If you’re looking for a plant-based beverage to pep-up your day, the options are many, but not all caffeinated drinks are created equally. Explore the benefits before you imbibe to choose the perfect pick-me-up for your lifestyle.
The treasure trove of polyphenols—beneficial plant compounds—found in black tea have salubrious superpowers! They’ve been shown to support cardiovascular health, stave off strokes, and protect cells from cancer. My favorite way to drink black tea is blended into a spiced chai redolent of ginger, coconut, and vanilla. My go-to recipe has just the right amount of sweetness, and tastes delicious hot or cold.
Like black tea, green tea is teeming with bioactive compounds with good-for-you properties. Studies show that L-Theanine—the potent amino acid found in green tea leaves—not only lowers blood pressure, but enhances cognitive function. And paradoxically, this caffeinated elixir has been shown to lower anxiety! Green tea is loaded with antioxidants that help stave off free-radical damage, making it a beverage with some serious benefits. For a spot of zen on the go, I love these super-convenient instant matcha latte packs.
Even though I don’t imbibe, I still appreciate coffee for working its magic on my colleagues every single day. Would our team be as productive and chipper without their morning oat milk flat whites? I’d like to think so, but even if not, those daily doses would still support their liver health, decrease their odds of getting Alzheimer’s, and lower their chances of getting colon cancer. Win-win-win!
Okay, so it’s not technically a caffeinated beverage, but chocolate—and raw cacao, in particular—is a potent superfood that imparts a feel-good buzz backed with a hefty dose of magnesium and iron. Its secret ingredient, however, is anandamide, a compound that binds with the cannabinoid receptors in the brain, lifting your mood naturally. I love to indulge in cacao smoothies, ceremonial hot chocolate, homemade nutella with strawberries, chocolate-peanut butter bliss balls, and these artisanal chocolate truffles made by a French woman in Los Angeles.
Whatever liquid lift you choose, make sipping it a ritual that you truly relish. Drink from a pretty cup, breathe in the steamy aroma, sip slowly and with intention, and take the time to engage your senses to maximize the pleasure of the experience. I promise it will set a positive tone for your entire day. Enjoy!
P.S. Whenever I make a latte at home—whether it’s a chai latte, green tea latte, or superfood hot chocolate—I always use my beloved frother. It makes a super-foamy, café-style beverage that is a wonderful start to my day!