Moderate caffeine consumption may be linked to positive health outcomes, including a lowered risk of heart disease and Parkinson’s. Some people, however, do not like the jitteriness associated with coffee. Many people experience an energy crash a few hours after drinking it. And others don’t enjoy its bitter taste. But adding sugar to your coffee drinks – which many people do in copious amounts – is definitely not good for your health.
Several companies are focused on offering modern, healthy alternatives to coffee. Here are three leaders in the industry: Tea Drops, MUDWTR, and Sorate.
1. Sashee Chandran, Tea Drops
Tea Drops are bagless, dissolvable tea blends for the modern tea drinker. They’re essentially bath bombs consisting of tea, spices and sometimes sugar, which dissolve instantly into your cup to create a ready-to-drink beverage. Drinking tea is a simple way to reduce your caffeine intake and feel less jittery while still gaining the energy boost you need for the day. Tea Drops are available in numerous flavors including chai, matcha, turmeric, chocolate and ginger.
Sashee Chandran is the founder and CEO of Tea Drops. As an avid tea drinker, she started to research tea bags several years ago and learned that the majority contain microplastics, are bleached, and generate a lot of waste. “I couldn’t believe what was going into my cup of tea!” she says. She determined to create a simpler way to enjoy a tea that was delicious, yet more friendly by design and mess free.
The Covid pandemic has positively impacted tea sales, but it did require the Tea Drops staff to learn to operate remotely. “It challenged our feelings of togetherness,” says Chandran. “We could no longer organically have conversations that would lead to the next great idea.” The company has combatted this by having more frequent team check-ins and touch points. They’ve also made adjustments to accommodate employees’ virtual fatigue and the increase of at-home responsibilities for the all-women team.
To aspiring entrepreneurs, Chandran says, “Don’t ever underestimate the value of persistence. If you have an idea and want to see it through, there is so much that can be done through sheer willpower. Setbacks are inevitable, so try to cultivate an accepting and even welcoming attitude towards obstacles.”
2. Shane Heath, MUDWTR
MUDWTR is a coffee alternative company whose product has 1/7th the caffeine of coffee but employs functional mushrooms for optimum health benefits. The unique powder consists of a blend of cacao, masala chai, turmeric, cinnamon, lion’s mane, chaga, reishi, cordyceps, and sea salt to provide energy, focus, and immune support without the jitters and crash associated with coffee.
Shane Heath is the founder and CEO of MUDWTR. In addition to running the startup, he is also a fine artist creating a new series called “Voices,” in which he sits down with homeless people to record their stories and take their photos. He then paints their portraits, films the process, and overlays the audio of their story on top of the video of their portrait coming to life. “Giving a voice to the unheard is something that inspires me deeply,” Heath says. “I think the homeless community can teach us a lot about the flaws of modern civilization.”
Growing up in the creative surf town of Santa Cruz, CA, Heath knew from an early age that he wanted to be an artist. But he was also entrepreneurial, starting a car detailing business at 12 and a clothing line at 16.
After spending most of his adulthood coping with anxiety and depression, he finally felt comfortable stepping into his own self. He then spent several years “bouncing around Silicon Valley starting and working for various companies.” This lifestyle lead to a “strong addiction to caffeine,” which Heath viewed as a performance enhancer. But he also noticed his anxiety and depression coming back strong. “Coffee had to go,” he concluded.
During a six-month stint in India, Heath fell in love with masala chai. He also started to explore plant medicine. His research revealed that lion’s mane is good for focus, chaga and reishi for immune support, cordyceps for physical performance, turmeric for anti-inflammation, cinnamon for glucose response, and cacao for mood and flavor. He began to mix these powders into a mug every morning and go about his day.
“I felt amazing,” Heath says. “Focused but not anxious. Energetic but not jittery.” People would ask him, “What are you drinking” He’d reply, “It’s mud.”
This led him to the birth of MUDWTR in May of 2018. Heath then brought Paul DeJoe, a former CEO, on board as his cofounder. “What started as something I drank to pursue my purpose and passion ultimately became just that,” Heath says.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, MUDWTR was just finishing its second year in business. The company chose to invest in content, leading a breathwork journey every week to give people a free tool to manage stress and explore consciousness, and starting a podcast with thought leaders in nutrition, lifestyle and psychedelics.
In the end, the radical cultural shift to online shopping and a general desire to improve immunity turned out to be a blessing for the business. MUDWTR grew over 5x this year. The company donates to MAPS, a non-profit conducting research into therapeutic usages of psychedelics for the treatment of mental health disorders. MUDWTR also began a carbon offsetting initiative powered by Pachamama.
“I believe that below your thoughts, feelings, ideas, and stories sits an intelligence,” Heath says to aspiring entrepreneurs. “It’s the same intelligence that guides us to breathe in and out. It’s the same intelligence that queues our hearts to beat. You see this intelligence throughout nature, in the geometry of plants, the programmed intelligence of insects and animals, and in the cycles of weather. I think we all have the ability to tap into that, and from that place we can find our purpose. From purpose we have intuition, and from intuition we know where to go and how to get there.”
3. Silvia Mella, Sorate
Sorate is a matcha and green tea company that recently launched in the US. Founded by Italian-born entrepreneur Silvia Mella, Sorate’s mission is to bring the plant-based medicine of Japanese green tea to today’s modern world. The company sources all its matcha and tea from the Uji region of Kyoto, Japan, from the family-owned farm of the renowned sencha tea creator Nagatani Soenon.
Mella built a career in fashion and advertising, working as a creative director before launching Sorate. She oversees all the digital marketing content, strategies, product development, design and research. She came up with the idea for Sorate during a solo trip to Japan, where she had gone to rebalance from a stressful life in NYC. “I had never felt so centered and mindful before, and I owe that to the Japanese people,” Mella says. Researching the green tea plant (camellia sinesis), she discovered that it has numerous health benefits. Thus, Sorate was born.
The company was still in beta when the pandemic hit, and Mella had to deal with order cancellations from a sizable number of corporate offices that had purchased the tea for their employees. She immediately shifted focus to the online direct-to-consumer business. Furthermore, Italy, her home country, was suffering a major health and financial crisis. Mella decided to give back 10% of Sorate’s profits to the World Health Organization to help further Covid-19 research, and to help frontline health workers.
“We work for 70% of our lives, so it is necessary to spend this time doing something that we like and that makes us feel good while doing it,” Mella says to those looking to tap into their life purpose at work. “Find what you love by going back to the memories of when you were a child. What did you like to do? What were your strengths? Everyone, and I mean everyone, was born with a natural talent. From there, you might find a general idea of your career path. Also, don’t be afraid to fail. If you do fail, try again. Life is about experiences, both the good and the bad.”