I don’t believe in superfoods. I believe in a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables and dead animals, washed down with copious amounts of caffeine and liquor. Everything else is just a fad; what’s supposedly great for you now will give you cancer tomorrow and vice versa. That said, when someone offers me a concoction of cocoa, green tea and coffee, they’re allowed to call it whatever they want.
JavaZen, the “superfood coffee-blend,” is the latest and (possibly) greatest invention our campus has granted the world. Each package is personally blended by Maryland alumni Ryan Schueler, Eric Golman and Aaron Wallach, and then packaged in our very own Food Co-Op in Stamp Student Union. According to Schueler, they wanted to make the coffee drink as nutritious and mood-enhancing as it possibly could be, hence the so-called superfoods that are part of each bag.
Already, JavaZen is carried by hundreds of health food markets in the Midwest and East Coast, including MOM’s Organic Market and (of course) the Co-Op where it’s packaged. Schueler tells a great story and I get excited by anyone that puts as much heart into their product as he and his friends/business partners seem to. Nevertheless, the taste is for the testing, not the telling.
Whether it’s brewed with your standard-issue coffee maker or a French press, the instructions on the back of the package are precise, so there is a clear jumping-off point from which to gauge the strength of your perfect cup.
Our testing was done with a common Hamilton coffee maker, the kind most offices and dorms would have. The testing location was incidentally, the Multicultural Involvement & Community Advocacy (MICA) office here at UMD, where the coffee-hardened employees were our assistant judges.
Upon first brewing, it was already clear that the emphasis in “coffee-blend” was very much on “blend.” The nourishing liquid that dripped into the cup was closer to the color and clarity of an herbal tea than that of a cup of joe. The smell was similarly fragrant.
The taste test confirmed it: JavaZen is more like a very strong tea than the humble coffee from which it descends, both in caffeine content and taste. It has none of the bitterness of a Dunkin’, Starbucks or Seattle brew and the cocoa is quite clear. As for the green tea, it’s the weakest link in the peppy power trio of the blend.
You see, because green teas aren’t oxidized the way black teas are, their aroma is much more delicate, like your prom date compared to your college one-night stand. This means that the temperature of water that’s perfect for brewing coffee or black tea tends to burn said aroma, which is a problem when you’re using an automatic coffee machine like we were. While the taste of green tea became more noticeable as the drink cooled, consider this a word of warning.
But what about the promised mood-enhancement? I’m going to say: “confirmed.” My craving for caffeine was sated and I also got the feeling of contentment a good green tea can give. It’s definitely not the Popeye’s-can-of-spinach kick in the pants you probably need after half an hour of sleep and a midterm on the horizon, but as far as hot drinks on a cold day go, it’s quite cozy.
Our assistant judges said something similar: It was too light for them, especially since they were expecting coffee, but they did like the taste. Though, they would have liked it more with cream and sugar. So much for the health benefits.
Here’s the verdict on JavaZen: If you’re looking for Trader Joe’s answer to Red Bull, keep looking. If you want something a bit stronger than tea and not as harsh as coffee, your search is over.