I am pro-coffee. I want to begin there, by acknowledging my bias in favor of coffee. I have been writing a lot about coffee during the pandemic, which has made me even more dependent on and enamored with the caffeinated beverage and all that goes into perfecting it. A number of years back, though, I kicked coffee in favor of only hot tea — blame stomach acid and caffeine anxiety — favoring Irish and English breakfast. Strong, highly caffeinated strains. I was never a fan of chai, though, and all those spices that come with.

But when I was assigned to review MUD/WTR, a supplement powder billed as a coffee alternative, I wanted to keep an open mind. I tend to like powders; I’ve taken collagen powder and appreciated its effects on my skin and nails. I also tend to like supplements; I’ve tried a few new ones in quarantine (like these cold brew shots by Humblemaker, and these medicinal mushroom lion’s mane tinctures by Uphoric Urth for focus and memory) of which I liked both the taste and the effects (mental clarity, energy boost).

While we can’t speak to any of MUD/WTR’s purported health benefits, as it turns out, in both branding, brewing and taste, the drink nonetheless makes a compelling argument for abandoning that morning cup of joe for good.

The rundown

MUD/WTR
PHOTO: MUD/WTR

MUD/WTR, created by a former Silicon Valley designer who wanted to kick a jittery coffee habit and integrate the health benefits of chai and other supplements, is a powder blend: organic mushrooms — including lion’s mane, Chaga and reishi — cacao, a spice blend with a chai-like profile (cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, cardamom, black pepper, nutmeg and cloves), plus black tea powder and Himalayan sea salt. Most of those elements, on their own, are things I would be happy to ingest. So I was ready to give MUD/WTR a whirl, literally — the product comes with a motorized handheld frother so you can whip the mud powder into a foamy beverage.

MUD/WTR is pretty simple to administer. You scoop a tablespoon of powder into hot water, add whatever you like (sweetener, milk), stir or froth it up and drink. Like other wellness and coffee-adjacent brands on the market, MUD/WTR comes in a very modern millennial kind of packaging. The product arrives in a plain cardboard box with the bold letters MUD WTR VIP, reminding you that with this new supplement you’re getting special treatment! In the same bold but simple font on the inside top of the shipping box reads the mantra “Started from the mud now we here.” I didn’t necessarily understand this but assumed it’s a reference to all of our connection to the earth, dirt and, yes, mud. Then the type continues, instructing you how to use the powder, and the copy is cute and customer-affirming, reminding you to “stir that magic powder up real well before enjoying like the legend you are.” I like positive-attitude product packaging and am cool with being offered a self-help mantra with something I’m about to drink or eat, so the legend I am was feeling good about this unboxing. Until I got to the actual opening, that is.

The powder itself comes in a metal round cylinder, like you might get circular tea bags in. Unlocking this tin was a feat. I had to use a sharp knife to break the seal on the tin, and then I had to slowly loosen the lid, as if I were opening a cocktail shaker that was closed slightly off track and glued in place after being shaken. I almost gave up opening the tin, as I was afraid I was going to get cut. Finally, I did get the cylinder open but felt frustrated that it required that much effort.

The lowdown

MUD/WTR
PHOTO: MUD/WTR

The powder smells delicious, like a mix of high-end hot chocolate powder and cinnamon. I scooped a tablespoon of the powder into a cup of hot water. The MUD/WTR package comes with an envelope of coconut milk and MCT oil intended to “turn your mud into a super fueled latte.” I figured I would mix that into my first mud beverage. I’ve never had coconut milk MCT oil, and turns out it is…unpalatable. It tasted grainy, like drinking sand mixed with hot water. It wasn’t unlike drinking protein powder or collagen on its own, neither of which are very pleasant to me.

The next day I wanted to give MUD/WTR another shot. I had replaced the top of the tin and closed it securely, and it proved even more difficult to open than the first time. Again, I had to use a knife, this time just a kitchen knife, to loosen the lid, and this time the lid came flying off, spilling powder all over my kitchen. Something you’re intended to drink every morning before you’ve presumably had any caffeine shouldn’t be this difficult to open. I cleaned up the powder and tried making a different mud than the previous morning. This time I added a scoop of powder to hot water and added a big spoonful of honey and a little bit of cow’s milk. This administration was much better — like drinking a super-thick hot chai with a lot more texture. I could see the appeal. I wanted to level up my mud latte, so I broke out the whip.

The whip is a small, wireless handheld frother that’s rechargeable using a USB port. I’ve never owned a milk frother before, as I don’t do espresso or lattes at home, and I was really excited about now having one on hand. The frother didn’t need initial charging; it came ready to whip. It comes with a total of three frother heads, and it’s nice to have replacements on hand.

There was a tiny brochure of directions inside the frother that customers are intended to read before use, and which I assume most people will not read before use. I did, though. Nowhere in the tiny directions was I reminded that you do not put a milk frother into a cup that is pretty well full of hot liquid, unless you want the liquid to go flying. This might seem very obvious, and even borderline foolish, for those who are accustomed to using frothers, but again, I hadn’t used a frother in many years and had momentarily forgotten (remember, I was precaffeinated) that usually you use one in a milk pitcher that’s only maybe a third or a half full so there’s space for the milk to foam up without splashing. Instead, I put the frother directly into my fairly full cup of hot mud, honey and milk and, sure enough, for the second time that morning, I had (now liquid) mud all over my kitchen.

I was annoyed at myself for making a stupid appliance move but also annoyed that the directions didn’t warn me against this. Only after I made this mistake did I find the overall MUD/WTR brochure that spells out how to use the MUD/WTR, including the frother (you tilt it at an angle to avoid it flying out of the mug). Rewind! I poured my mud into a mug twice the size, with plenty of air at the top, and again attempted to whip it, and this time it worked out perfectly.

The bottom line

Aside from the user issues I had — the difficult tin lid and my overzealous frothing — there’s a lot to like about MUD/WTR. If you’re into funky, herby, chai kind of drinks, and the positive health effects therein, and if you like hands-on administration of your morning beverages with accompanying cute tools, you’re likely to enjoy this. The box also comes with sassy stickers, like one that says “F*ck your coffee.” This isn’t likely to do that, but I know it wouldn’t hurt to reduce my coffee intake and bring back more tea, particularly in the colder months. This is a good place to start.

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