Most mornings start with a good cup of coffee for me. Not that I'm too picky about my coffee though. Although I can't get enough of the stuff my mother-in-law brings home from Vietnam, and frequently pick up the blends used in my favorite coffee stouts when I visit breweries, most of the time I'm content with store brand grinds. It's not about what I drink, but about the comfort of starting my day in a way that reminds me I'm home. On mornings like this one, that means my favorite stoneware mug, and a French press that I've started the water for as soon as I stumble down the stairs.
Traveling complicates things though, and the ability to impose my usual morning order onto the day can provide a needed reset after even the least restful of nights. Easy enough to deal with on most vacations maybe, but climbers have a habit of waking up in places where our options are limited to what we bring in ourselves, and having drinks that travel well without sacrificing taste can make all the difference.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to chat with Ryan Schueler, one of the creative minds behind JavaZen. Started by three friends who bonded over the joys of caffeine at University of Maryland, they resolved their ongoing debate over the merits of coffee and tea by blending them together with other natural flavorings to create drinks that bring out the best of both. Currently offering their blends in 9 ounce bags, JavaZen is also perfecting their single serving compostable brew bags, ideal for space-conscious travelers who only need to carry a serving or two along.
Of the flavors that I tried, Balance was my favorite. The matcha flavor was there, but light enough that I still felt like I was drinking coffee. What I really liked though was the strong taste of the cocoa nibs balanced by the light spice of the cinnamon. The Boost blend was an interesting concept, especially considering the amount of yerba mate we go through in my house, though admittedly it was a little strong for my tastes. The new Pumpkin Spice blend was fantastic though, adding tulsi tea, lucuma, and turmeric to the cinnamon, ginger, and cloves that find their way into everything this time of year. While I didn't get to try to Relax blend, I love drinking rooibos, and am intrigued by the thought of mixing it into decaf coffee.
Prefer your coffee straight? Don't worry, Alpine Start has you covered. Climber owned and operated, Alpine Start takes a minimalist approach with single serving packets that weigh next to nothing and are thin enough to use as bookmarks, all while challenging the idea that instant coffee can't be as good as the real thing. That's right, it's instant.
Alpine Start co-founder Matt Segal gave me a few samples when he was in town recently, and I'm hooked. Rather than the reddish crystally stuff that I associate with instant coffees, the packets opened easily to reveal a fine dark powder that looked more like fresh espresso grinds, which dissolved almost instantly in hot water. While the result did feel a little thinner than regular coffee, the flavor was rich and smooth, without the acidic bite I've tasted in other brands. Had I not made it myself, I'd have never known it was instant!
Have another portable caffeine solution that's worked for you on climbing trips? If so, I'd love to hear about it. In the meantime, check these guys out!