Here, we take a look at instant beverages that have been designed to reduce time spent slaving in front of a coffee maker or other device, freeing up much more time for you to unplug, get back to basics and enjoy a hot (or cold) cup of delicious goodness.
A good cup of tea can’t be beat, but can be pretty hard to find—especially if you are a tea connoisseur. That gas station Lipton tea is just not going to cut it.
But the convenience factor of steeping your favorite variety in the wilderness is pretty much non-existent, when you are miles from the closest sign of civilization. No one wants to carry used tea bags around with them.
The idea behind Cusa sprung from a backpacking trip in the Colorado Rockies. Jim Mancusa, who had spent two and a half years living in southeast Asia where he developed a true love of premium tea, was sitting around a campfire with friends as they prepared instant coffee. As he steeped his tea, he realized he would need to pack the tea bag out at the end of the trip, and found himself wondering why no one had developed a high-quality instant tea.
The tea is sourced from organic specialty plantations and is USDA-certified organic – the only instant beverage with this certification that we tried. We gave several of Cusa’s teas a try, including the Oolong and Green tea, both hot and cold.
The Oolong has a strong caffeine profile, containing 79 milligrams of caffeine per serving, but is fairly smooth to drink, especially in an iced tea format. It was equally refreshing and energizing.
The green tea is calming as a hot beverage and doesn’t contain as much caffeine (65 milligrams per serving).
Tester tip: If you are making an iced beverage, make sure to dissolve the powder with a small amount of hot water first, and then add your cold water and ice. We learned this lesson the hard way, and were stuck with some concentrated amounts of tea at the bottom of our glass.
In addition to making a unique blend of coffee containing brain-boosting mushrooms, Four Sigmatic jumped on our radar as a company making some truly original elixirs with healthy benefits.
Their hot cacao mixes are a USDA organic certified blend of organic cacao powder, coconut palm sugar, guarana extract, cayenne and several different mushroom types including Cordyceps (known for its antioxidant properties), Chaga (which contains compounds to elevate mood and memory, and improve the immune system) and Reishi (to support sleep and relieve occasional stress).
The hot cacao is really tasty, especially the blend containing Reishi, which Four Sigmatic likens to a “warm hug from grandma.” The only complaint was that the aftertaste was a little too sweet for our liking, possibly due to the stevia extract in the short list of ingredients.
After a climbing expedition to the Bugaboos in British Columbia, Boulder, Colorado-native and professional climber Matt Segal returned home and partnered with foodie friend Alex Hanifin to develop an instant coffee that tastes good, too.
The result was Alpine Start, named after the term used by alpinists, mountaineers and climbers to describe a pre-sunrise expedition. Upon trying the original blend, this coffee gave an awakening jolt on the very first sip.
These little packets are extremely potent; if you’re looking for something to get you going in the morning—this is it. Alpine Start calls the original blend a medium, full-body roast with “pleasant acidity and a hint of dark chocolate.” While we agree that this is a full-bodied blend, the acidity level was a bit higher than expected, leaving a slightly bitter aftertaste.
All in all, with a bit of creamer to soften this blend, we are sold on keeping this instant coffee stashed in our bags and ready at a moment’s notice.
Hailing from Bend, Oregon, Voilá came together when two friends—joined by their love of specialty coffee—teamed up with local and International coffee roasters to create a more sophisticated, high-quality instant coffee.
Voilá offers blends from Kenya, Peru, Brazil, Ethiopia and Mexico, among others. We had a chance to sample one of the instant brews from Huckleberry, which is sourced from La Cuesta, Mexico.
Right away, we appreciated how subtle, smooth and mild this blend tastes. The words “chocolate, gingerbread and dried fruit” appear on the packaging to describe undertones in flavor, which were pretty spot on.
Overall, we’re looking forward to trying more offerings from this up-and-coming instant coffee maker.