I Tried Two Popular Wellness Beverages. This Is the One I'd Buy Again

I put MUD\WTR's coffee replacement tea and Recess's carbonated beverage line to the test.

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Image for article titled I Tried Two Popular Wellness Beverages. This Is the One I'd Buy Again
Image: Zoë Hannah

When it comes to wellness beverages, you can consider me a skeptic. I’m generally not one to go for gimmicky mixtures that don’t really have any proven health benefits. So, when MUD\WTR and Recess both sent me samples of their drink lines, I was excited to see whether they could live up to the hype I’d seen all over social media.

It might seem like these drinks are too different to compare—MUD\WTR is a dissolvable powdered tea usually served hot, and Recess Mood is a carbonated flavored drink usually served cold. But they both advertise lofty claims of focus and energy, and they’re both pushed hard to the wellness community, so I think they’re worthy of comparison.

Image for article titled I Tried Two Popular Wellness Beverages. This Is the One I'd Buy Again
Image: Zoë Hannah

MUD\WTR bills itself as a coffee alternative or replacement. The product, also called MUD\WTR, is made from a blend of masala chai, cacao, four types of mushrooms, cinnamon, turmeric, and salt. The company also sent me its evening tea, called :rest, which has rooibos chai, several types of mushrooms, valerian root, passionflower, turmeric, cinnamon, ashwagandha, and chamomile. Both teas are totally blended into a dissolvable powder, which you drop into hot water and stir. You can also add :creamer, which is coconut milk and MCT oil powder, and :sweetener, made from coconut palm sugar and lucuma.

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Recess, on the other hand, is a carbonated beverage line. I tried Recess Mood, which doesn’t contain CBD (unlike Recess’s other lines) but does have magnesium, ginseng, L-theanine, and lemon balm. Recess Mood comes in strawberry rose, peach ginger, blood orange, and black cherry flavors. It’s best chilled and, in my experience, drunk straight from the can.

At the end of my testing, I was really only compelled to buy one of these products again. Here’s what went into my decision.

General Experience: MUD/WTR

Image for article titled I Tried Two Popular Wellness Beverages. This Is the One I'd Buy Again
Image: Zoë Hannah
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I’ve been wanting to try a mushroom-based beverage for a while, so I was really excited to try MUD\WTR. I know about all the amazing focus-enhancing and immune-strengthening properties of mushrooms like lion’s mane and reishi, and wanted to give it a shot.

The inside of the box was super dusty when it arrived. It seemed like the MUD\WTR lid didn’t fit on the can tightly enough, and the tape wasn’t enough to keep all the powder inside during transit. This is a bit disappointing considering the price (more on that later), and considering the :rest tea didn’t leak at all. I assume the powder is placed right in the can for a reason, but it would probably help with mini explosions like mine if the powder came in a bag that I could transfer to the can for storage once I received it.

I tested MUD\WTR as it’s often advertised—as a coffee replacement. Yes, that means I quit coffee for a week or so while trying this out. I’ve reigned in my caffeine addiction in the past few years, usually relying on matcha and green tea when I need caffeine during a break from coffee. On a normal coffee-drinking day, I have two-ish cups of black pour-over coffee.

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With the MUD\WTR, I made myself one cup after waking up, then usually had 2–5 more cups throughout the morning and early afternoon. MUD/WTR has one-seventh the amount of caffeine as a normal cup of coffee, so you can imagine that I was a bit tired at first, but I got used to it after a day or two.

The daytime drink, made by dropping the powder and any other accoutrements into hot water, is an interesting flavor, and one that I was fond of right away. It reminded me a bit of miso soup, with a slightly savory flavor, but it still felt like a hot drink I could have first thing in the morning. With steamed milk mixed in, it was even better. That said, it doesn’t remind me of coffee at all except for its nice brown color. I could see myself drinking this on a daily basis after one cup of coffee or one large cup of water on non-coffee days. But I don’t think of MUD\WTR as a coffee replacement—perhaps more of an afternoon coffee alternative.

The evening drink, made the same way, is a sweet, familiar tea that feels like a souped-up version of your classic sleepytime or sweetened chamomile tea. I seriously love :rest—it’s a relaxing tea that fits in perfectly with your other wellness activities. I made it for myself before a yin yoga practice, during my journaling sessions, and while doing puzzles. It really does calm your nerves—thanks in huge part to the ashwagandha inside—and make you pretty relaxed before bed or meditation.

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If you like the smell or taste of coconut milk, you’ll probably enjoy the creamer, which has a sort of nutty flavor and adds a bit of fat to the drink. The sweetener is also delicious if a bit forgettable, so I’d probably stick with less expensive honey or agave.

I should also note that there are countless ways to use MUD/WTR and :rest, and I definitely haven’t tried them all. The powders can be blended into smoothies, cooked with, made into foamy lattes, and even added to coffee, and it’s nice having something so versatile and also so good for me in my tea pantry.

General Experience: Recess Mood

Image for article titled I Tried Two Popular Wellness Beverages. This Is the One I'd Buy Again
Image: Zoë Hannah
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Recess Mood is another beverage I’ve wanted to try for a long time. I’ve seen tons of social media posts from celebrities, influencers, and friends raving about this mood-enhancing drink, and I was super skeptical. While the blend I tried doesn’t have CBD in it, it still gave me a very noticeable mood shift, and one I really enjoyed.

I tried Recess Mood for the first time while working at my computer in the early afternoon. I started to hit a bit of a wall with work, so I tried one of these and sipped it slowly as I typed. I could feel myself getting a bit more focused and motivated, and feeling a distinct jump in energy and clarity (probably due to the magnesium and L-theanine). It felt like a similar buzz as the one I get from a good cup of matcha tea, but without the caffeine.

I ended up turning to Recess Mood during journaling sessions, just like MUD\WTR :rest. While it isn’t good for yoga because of the carbonation, I could see myself drinking this in so many scenarios. It’s a great alternative to alcohol (and even looks like beer when you pour it into a glass), and the muted flavor reminds me more of San Pellegrino than La Croix or Aha!.

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Flavored carbonated waters are usually not my thing (I like my sodas chock full of sugar and dark brown, thank you), so it’s genuinely surprising that I’m into these flavors. They have more flavor than your average seltzer, but also less carbonation, which is perfect for people like me who burp incessantly every time they drink something carbonated.

Whereas MUD\WTR has endless potential uses, Recess is really just an enjoyable beverage, and I’m fine with that. Without pushing a change in my routine or a total lifestyle shift that’ll result from drinking it, I’m naturally inclined to have one of these things on a regular basis, and that feels good.

Pricing

MUD\WTR costs $40 per 30-serving container of tea and $20 per 30-serving container of sweetener or creamer, equaling out to about $3 per serving. Recess Mood costs $35 per eight-pack, equaling around $4 per serving (one can).

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You might think this would make me want to head straight for MUD\WTR, but honestly, $40 for 30 servings of tea feels super expensive to me. Considering I can buy many of MUD\WTR ingredients online and make it myself for a lot less per cup, I’m not as willing to pay for this blend. Especially since MUD\WTR is billed as a coffee replacement, it’s tough to get on board for this price. My average cup of coffee made at home costs me about $0.15 per cup or less, and I take it black. Moreover, I’m good with a few cups of coffee a day, whereas I drank three to five cups of MUD\WTR’s daytime blend throughout the day.

Recess Mood does feel pricy for what’s essentially a thoughtful seltzer, but it also feels like a treat, and I’m really unlikely to chug them down because of the carbonation. If I could afford to drink these all day I probably would, but honestly, I’m probably better off with plain old water after one Recess Mood because of the potency of the experience. On the other hand, a CBD-infused Recess costs just $0.60 more per can, so you could argue it should be a bit cheaper.

Uniqueness

If I’m going to spend more than necessary on a beverage, I really want it to be something I can’t find elsewhere. Alternatives to both MUD\WTR and Recess exist, but both products have unique ingredients that make them stand out from the rest.

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That said, I can’t quite get past the fact that I can 1) get many of the same benefits as MUD\WTR from matcha including focus, energy, and L-theanine, and 2) make my own mushroom-and-chai-based blend for so much less. Powdered mushrooms, spices, teas, and herbs are easily accessible online, and since they’re powdered, you don’t have to worry about any weird inconsistencies in texture.

Recess, on the other hand, is something I would have no idea how to create on my own, and something I’m really comfortable spending money on every once in a while. It genuinely helps me focus, and I don’t have another drink that fulfills the same purpose in my fridge or cabinet.

Final Verdict: MUD\WTR versus Recess Mood

At the end of the day, I think both of these beverages are thoughtfully made and really delicious. But I would only buy one of them for myself, and that’s Recess Mood. While MUD\WTR is tasty and I’ll definitely finish what I have (and possibly order the :rest blend now and again as a treat), I just can’t afford to make the move over to this as a coffee replacement when it costs over $1 per cup. The cure-all-to-coffee framing doesn’t quite work for me, either.

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Recess, on the other hand, gave me a noticeable elevated mood and increased focus on several occasions (although my non-scientific testing can really only speak to my body’s reaction to both of these drinks). It tastes delicious, and I’d happily drink it as an alcohol alternative, a midday pick-me-up, and a pre-journaling relaxant.

All of this stated, I can genuinely recommend both of these brands on the basis of flavor and my general enjoyment of them. While I have qualms about price and the proposed use cases, MUD\WTR’s daytime and nighttime blends are tasty and make a great gift for a tea lover in your life. Recess Mood is expensive, but its delicious flavors and tangible focusing effects make it well worth the price when I’m in need of a treat.

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