Guayusa: The New Alternative to Coffee
For many of us, coffee is the natural go-to when we're in need of a pick-me-up (or even when we're just looking for an excuse to leave the work desk!). And while coffee tastes great and consistently gives us that much needed perk, it can also cause a many of us to feel jittery and even downright anxious. Not only that, the quick caffeine rush of coffee is usually followed by an equally rapid crash, while our stomachs can often feel more than a little uneasy after the day's first cup. Add in coffee breath and stained teeth and you can see why, despite its great taste and many benefits, there is a growing awareness of coffee's less desirable effects. This is leading many people to begin lowering their intake or even to quit coffee altogether.
However, while you might assume that caffeine is the problem, that isn't necessarily so. The jitters, crash, and stomach issues of coffee is not common to all caffeinated drinks. Matcha tea is caffeinated and thanks to its balance of caffeine and L-theanine, it promotes a feeling of alertness but without those unwanted shakes. However, many people don't enjoy the bitter and somewhat grassy taste of matcha, as well as the effect it can have on our stomachs and the amount of sugar that often comes with it (a matcha latte from Starbucks contains 32g of sugar!). Green tea is also unlikely to give you that jittery feeling, but it also has a somewhat bitter taste and can also cause an upset stomach for many people. At the same time, the relatively low caffeine levels in both green and black tea mean they don't provide the same kick as you get from a coffee.
But what if we told you there was something that could provide the uplifting effects of caffeine without any jitters, crash, stained teeth or upset stomach, and which didn't require sugar to make it taste good? Well, it turns out there is! And while it's something that you may not heave heard of yet, we suspect you will be hearing a lot more about it in the months and years to come.
Guayusa (pronounced "gwhy-yoo-sah") is the caffeinated leaf of a holly tree native to the Amazon rainforests of Ecuador. Indigenous communities in the region have been drinking tea made from guayusa for centuries, but it's only in the last decade that it has started to become available internationally. It has since become a well known product in the US, with celebrities such as Channing Tatum, Leonardo DiCaprio and Olivia Wilde even becoming investors and collaborators in the industry. After passing European health and safety tests in January 2018, guayusa is now making its way to the other side of the Atlantic, where it is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to coffee, green/black tea, and even energy drinks. Below are just a few reasons why:
- It provides a focused and sustained energy with no jitters and no crash. This is thanks to its unique balance of slow-release caffeine (almost as much as coffee), L-theanine (the prized amino acid found in matcha), and theobromine (a stimulant similar to caffeine which is said to be responsible for the pleasant feeling one gets from eating dark chocolate)
- It has a deliciously smooth, earthy and slightly-sweet taste which doesn't require any sugar or milk
- Unlike green/black tea, it has virtually no tannins and so doesn't stain teeth, prevent iron absorption, or cause an upset stomach
- Due to its low acidity level and the fact that it is taken without sugar or milk, guayusa doesn't cause bad breath. In fact, indigenous communities in Ecuador even use it as a mouthwash - although we don't recommend throwing out the Listerine just yet!
- It contains more antioxidants than many superfoods, including green tea
Importantly, guayusa is not only benefitting those who drink it, but also the communities who grow it. Smallholder farming families in the Ecuadorian Amazon are paid 15% above Fairtrade rates for their guayusa, and this is having benefits not only for those communities, but also the Amazon itself. This is because guayusa is grown differently to most crops. Rather than land being cleared for the growing of one type of crop/cattle, guayusa is grown alongside other crops, in indigenous farming systems known as chacras. These systems stand in stark contrast to the slash and burn agriculture that were the major cause of the Amazon forest fires last year. The growing guayusa industry is helping to demonstrate a more sustainable form of agriculture in the Amazon, whereby local communities can earn a living without having to degrade their environment and destroy the important ecosystem services (such as carbon capture) that we all benefit from.
These are just some of the reasons for which guayusa is becoming an increasingly popular choice for office workers, busy parents, eco-conscious consumers and even athletes on both sides of the Atlantic. At Nú Infusions, we have created three organic-certified blends made with premium, sustainably sourced guayusa. Those are available on our online shop, with free online delivery currently being offered in Ireland (just use code COMMUNITY at checkout!).
So, have you tried guayusa yet? Got any thoughts or questions? Post them in the comment section below!