I’ve always been a caffeine junkie– even as a kid, I had an unhealthy love of Dr. Pepper. You’ve probably seen my article on how to quit caffeine– which I’ve done about a dozen times now (not a joke– it’s worth doing even temporarily, to reset your tolerance).
That said, I’ve never been much of a coffee guy. In fact I hated it until five years ago, when a visit to a Balinese coffee plantation taught me that I could enjoy the taste…as long as it was heavily flavored with chocolate, coconut, vanilla, sugar, and other stuff that usually adds a bunch of calories.
So, still more of a tea guy (I’ve ditched the sugared sodas), but I can drink coffee. I’ve just always wished it was a little lower in caffeine, and a little tastier without needing so much stuff added to it.
Now, I’ve spent a lot of time looking for low-caffeine beverages and caffeine alternatives. So when I found out about MUD/WTR last month– a nootropic-infused, low-caffeine coffee alternative– I was naturally intrigued. An ultra low-caffeine coffee, mixed with nootropic/adaptogenic mushroom powder, and flavored with chai spices? Hell yes.
According to the company website, “With 1/7th the caffeine of coffee, mud gives you natural energy, focus and more without the jitters and crash.”
As it turns out, MUD/WTR isn’t really coffee at all– more on that later. But does it live up to the hype? In my experience, it has.
Why Go Low-Caffeine?
I love caffeine, personally. That said, the downsides set in more quickly than most people realize.
You know that caffeine makes it harder to sleep, and you probably know that caffeine impairs sleep quality even when you do sleep, but the effect is greater than you may realize. Even two cups of coffee in the morning can reduce the amount of deep-wave sleep you get 16+ hours later.
Also some people– myself included– have a gene that makes them metabolize caffeine more slowly. If you’re one of these people, even one cup of coffee in the morning might impair your sleep.
Caffeine tolerance also sets in at very low doses, around 100 mg of caffeine a day. That’s equal to or just a little higher than a typical cup of coffee, or two Diet Cokes.
Finally, caffeine can cause anxiety at only slightly higher dosages, usually around 150 mg. On the other hand, athletic performance enhancement mostly requires even higher doses, like 200-300 mg.
On the flip side, while hundreds of caffeine are needed to get “wired,” I still find it only takes 20-30 mg to at least wake me up in the morning, which is all I really need.
How Does MUD/WTR Taste?
In a word, excellent– and I say that as someone who doesn’t like coffee without a lot of other stuff to flavor it. MUD/WTR tastes like masala chai tea, mixed with coffee as well as a bit of sugar-free dark chocolate and cinnamon.
It’s definitely spicy, not sweet like hot chocolate and not nearly as bitter as coffee. I still prefer to add a little bit of hot chocolate powder to sweeten it. But unlike coffee, I like the taste as-is, and I love the taste once I sweetened it up a bit.
The MUD/WTR starter kit which they sent me also comes with a packet of their powdered creamer, made from coconut milk and MCT oil. This is a healthier alternative to typical sugary creamers, but I didn’t find it made much difference to the flavor. Maybe I was supposed to use more of it, I don’t know. It did add a slightly creamier texture which was nice.
The ingredients are a mix of things that are in there for flavor, things that are in there for health, and things that serve dual purposes.
Flavor-wise, you’ve got a masala chai blend of black tea, ginger, cardamon, cloves, nutmeg, and black pepper. The black tea is where the caffeine comes from– there’s actually no coffee in Mud, which is what they call the powdered coffee substitute before water is added to it (har har).
There’s some cacao, turmeric and cinnamon, which enhance the flavor but also have some health benefits.
Reishi, chaga, lion’s mane and cordyceps are three different fungal supplements– the first three are mushrooms, cordyceps is not– that have been shown to improve some combination of cholesterol status, mental performance, athletic performance, and overall subjective well-being.
And then there’s a pinch of Himalayan pink salt in it for some reason. I don’t know why.
The packaging and website say that MUD/WTR has 1/7 the caffeine of a cup of coffee. I can’t find an exact milligram number anywhere.
Subjectively, this feels correct as a ballpark figure– it’s about as stimulating as a quarter to a half a cup of coffee, but some of the other ingredients contribute to that too. Even several cups doesn’t make me jittery. So around 15-25 mg sounds about right.
I’ve seen other reviews quote a 14 mg figure; I don’t know where they got it from. If it’s that low, than the mushrooms are definitely contributing to the stimulation, because that’s almost no caffeine at all.
Exact dosages for the ingredients, including reishi, chaga and cordyceps, are not listed on the packaging. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they are on the site however– each serving has just over half a gram of each.
Since each of these is typically dosed at one or one and a half, up to three to five grams a day, that means you’d need to consume two or three cups of MUD/WTR to get the minimum effective dosage of any one of them. On the other hand, they do have some degree of synergistic effect– but even so, you’re looking at a two cup minimum to really benefit from these ingredients.
That’s the unfortunate reality of adding dietary supplements to food products– you have to err on the side of dosing low because it’s better to do that than have people get sick when they drink five cups of your coffee substitute.
That said, MUD/WTR strikes a great balance– the synergistic effect means even one serving will give you some effect, and two or three servings– spread out over a few hours if you prefer– might be enough to provide the full effect, or close to it. Overdosing is virtually impossible, as it would require consuming an impractically large amount.
Most products like this throw in a bunch of supplements in minuscule doses to add perceived value without really doing anything. MUD/WTR doesn’t do that; it has to err a little on the low side, but the dosing is significant, and high enough to work.
How Does MUD/WTR Feel?
In short: it feels really, really good in my experience. As mentioned, it’s about as stimulating as a quarter to a half a cup of coffee, but that doesn’t really fully explain the feeling, since the effects come from a mix of low-dos caffeine and adaptogenic, nootropic mushrooms.
The website claims that MUD/WTR enhances alertness, stamina, focus, and mental performance. I haven’t noticed an increase in physical stamina from it, but the mental benefits are real in my experience.
One cup is enough to wake me up reasonably well, which 14 or so mg of caffeine wouldn’t normally do. Two cups makes me alert and focused.
Three cups in quick succession gives me a slight buzz, but not like a caffeine buzz– there are no jitters, my heart rate barely goes up, but it’s like my brain is slightly overclocked and trying to run at about 120% of normal speed. It’s not unpleasant, but I feel the best when I have two cups, with maybe a third cup 2-4 hours later, to spread the effect out a bit more.
As far as productivity goes, I definitely notice I work a little faster and stay on task a little better. It’s not a huge effect, but definitely noticeable. It’s a sharp contrast from a typical caffeine buzz, which gives me strong motivation but terrible focus. There’s no urge to get up and move every twenty, and the motivation isn’t counterbalanced by a constant, overwhelming urge to open a new tab in my browser.
Overall, it’s one of the better productivity supplements I’ve tried– up there with huperzine, modafinil and oxiracetam.
Where To Buy MUD/WTR
You buy MUD/WTR from the Mud/WTRD web store, mostly. They also have a store locator that shows the locations of a small but growing number of coffee shops, supplement shops and gyms that carry MUD/WTR, but those are still few and far between.
Final recommendation: I love MUD/WTR coffee substitute and highly recommend it. Pass on the frother though (too powerful, splashes a lot), and the creamer I could take or leave. But the “coffee” itself is incredible, and there’s nothing else like it on the market right now.