Alpine Start has been making delicious instant coffee since 2016. Founded by pro climber Matt Segal and Alex Hanifin, the brand offers convenient single-serving pouches that are perfect for getting your caffeine fix in camp, on a portaledge, or for—yes—an alpine start. In 2017, Segal was involved in a serious paragliding accident. The event, and his recovery, eventually led to the brands new line of health-focused drinks.
Segal says: "I had months and months of recovery. Mike [Crouch, Alpine Start CEO] knows a lot about medicinal mushrooms. He actually grew up on a mushroom farm. In that time he started giving me these different mushroom blends to help me with my recovery and help me with my immunity and cognitive function and all these things, and basically we're like 'Oh cool, let's start experimenting with all these different ingredients.'"
Coffee With Benefits and Matcha With Benefits are the result. Like Alpine Start's previous offerings, both are instant powders. Just pour a scoop, mix with hot water, and you're good to go. Each pouch offers 12 servings (these are not single-serving like Alpine Start's previous offerings). Additional ingredients claim to offer a range of benefits. MCT oil improves focus, lion's mane improves mental clarity, and reishi mushrooms, which include 50% of the daily recommended value of vitamins A and D provide immune system support. The package is rounded it out with 110mg of caffiene per serving.
I tried the new coffee and matcha drinks across a number of cold Colorado winter mornings. They hit the spot. The powders dissolved easily in both cases, without leaving any clumps floating in my mug. The coffee is exceptionally smooth. There's no acidity to speak of, making it an excellent choice for hot drinks as well as iced drinks, which can make already-acidic coffees too astringent. (Yes, I'm one of those people that drinks iced coffee even when it's zero degrees outside.) A coconut, non-dairy creamer enhanced the body without adding any coconut flavor to the drink. And while there was no overt mushroom flavor, I did note a subtle umami flavor coming through. I thought it added to the drink, but it will come down to personal preference. The matcha, on the other hand, just tasted like pure, good matcha. Once again no coconut flavor from the coconut creamer, and no hint of mushroom flavor whatsoever. The coffee was a good strength as measured with the scoop, but I did find myself adding a little extra matcha powder because I prefer a strong drink. Either option would hit the spot sipped from a thermos in between ice climbs.
As for the health benefits, I certainly felt alert and focused after finishing my beverage. Was it the MCT, lion's mane, and reishi mushrooms or just the caffeine? It's too close to call. The important thing was that I had a tasty beverage to start the day and help me shake off my morning sleepiness, and the extra ingredients were a bonus.
Alpine Start just launched Coffee With Benefits and Matcha With Benefits on Kickstarter. Both drinks are $3.99 off the MSRP through the campaign which will run until late February. The upper-tier rewards even include a photography session with Keith Ladzinksi or a climbing day with Emily Harrington and Adrien Ballinger.