My friends have always joked that they wouldn’t recognize me without a warm beverage in hand. Yes, I was that girl in the mid-2010s, perpetuating the “I studied abroad” cliché of taking pics in any and all Parisian cafés. However, I’ve never considered myself a coffee addict. I enjoy a warm drink in the morning, but don’t need the caffeine to stay awake. So while my life is punctuated by these coffee-adjacent rituals and routines and I enjoy the habits I’ve associated with it, I’m all for shaking things up. I’m on the hunt for a caffeine-free alternative that adds health benefits in addition to the coziness and warmth of my morning coffee. Especially as we near the coldest time of year, I’m in need of a few more bevvie options to stay cozy during the Chicago winter. Enter: MUD WTR.
What is MUD/WTR?
What’s in a name? Sure, MUD/WTR might check the on-trend boxes of including a backslash and dropping most of the vowels, but… mud? Turns out, there’s intention behind the moniker. A video posted on the brand’s YouTube channel shares some insights. In a post-Mad Men world, it’s clear that much of what we buy is influenced by a brand’s or product’s image. “Instead of playing the cute-name game, we decided it’s what’s on the inside that counts,” said MUD/WTR founder and CEO Shane Heath.
As for what’s inside, every scoop of MUD/WTR contains a long list of superfoods. Cacao, masala chai, turmeric, cinnamon, and four types of mushrooms: chaga, cordyceps, reishi, and lion’s mane. With this buzzy blend of wellness-oriented ingredients, MUD/WTR claims to boost focus and energy during the day while ensuring sound sleep at night.
As with most wellness products, there’s a financial barrier to entry. The Morning Ritual Starter Kit—which includes a 30-serving tin of mud, a frother, samples of the brand’s creamer, sweetener, and :rest (MUD/WTR’s evening elixir)—sets you back $40 a month. But if you compare one serving of MUD/WTR per day to a cup of coffee purchased outside of your home, there’s no comparison. We’re talking about $1.33 per cup of MUD/WTR versus whatever you pay at your local coffee shop. Before even thinking about replacing my beloved coffee, I needed to try it out. Read on for my ritual, whether or not I actually felt health benefits, and if it’s worth the hype.
My MUD/WTR ritual
With new brands popping up on our social feeds every day, there are countless options for buzzy coffee alternatives. And I won’t lie—I’m mostly suspicious of any ad sent my way. But to prove the power of word of mouth, my sister had recently shared that she’d tried MUD/WTR and was obsessed. This is coming from a girl who’s an avid hiker, cross-country skier, half-marathon champ, and a hockey player. If there’s anyone whose wellness recommendations I’ll trust, it’s hers.
As I said, she was obsessed—not only with how good she felt (she wakes up at 5 a.m. for morning runs with enviable energy), but how much she liked the taste. While she admitted that it tasted nothing like coffee, she did love the drink’s spicy-sweet flavor. Unlike me, my sister consumes coffee in abundance, drinking sometimes four cups a day. But in a matter of weeks, she’d completely kicked the habit and was all in on MUD/WTR.
So when I had the opportunity to try MUD/WTR for myself, it was a hard yes. I maintained my reservations: Would it be worth the price? Would I feel focused and alert? Most importantly, would I like how it tastes? I gave my darling beans a temporary goodbye and dove in. This is how my week on MUD/WTR went.
Wanting an easy transition into my experiment, I started my MUD/WTR ritual on a Saturday. I had low-key plans for the day: clean up around the house, grocery shop with my partner, catch up on my reading, and go for a long walk in the afternoon. So if I did end up missing the caffeine boost, no part of my day would suffer. I like to drink my coffee before breakfast, so I headed into the kitchen to make my MUD/WTR first thing. I dove into the kit’s guidebook for inspiration, following the recipe for a Mud Latte 2.0. A tablespoon of MUD/WTR, a tablespoon of the creamer sample (coconut milk and MCT oil), and a little steamed almond milk. Here’s how it’s done:
- Add 1 tbsp of mud to a mug
- Add 1 tbsp of creamer
- Add hot water and mix with the frother
- Top with steamed milk
My initial thoughts: It sure looked like a latte, with a fluffy, frothy texture, and a few bubbles for good measure. While I knew it wouldn’t taste anything like my morning coffee, I was surprised to discover that the flavor was earthier than I anticipated. The website’s copy tells you to expect a flavor “like masala chai and hot coco had a baby. A really healthy baby.” I won’t lie—the “healthy” part came across the strongest. But as someone who’s come to enjoy a cup of of slightly sweetened cacao, I trusted this was something I could get used to.
I had an epiphany: maybe my single cup of coffee is taking a toll on my sleep. Because readers, the previous night’s sleep was heavenly. I never have a hard time falling asleep and I tend to get a solid, uninterrupted snooze. But I woke up this morning feeling completely refreshed and restored. And as someone who can’t sleep in past 7 a.m., to get a solid nine hours and open my eyes at 8 a.m. was a dream come true.
The guidebook contains six recipes, so this morning I opted for the Slightly Sweet Mud Latte. It was essentially what I had made the day prior, but I omitted the steamed milk and added a tablespoon of the brand’s sweetener to the mix. This was definitely better than yesterday’s drink because the sweetener-creamer combo masked the earthy flavor.
I started the day with a 6 a.m. barre class, and afterward, I noticed my body felt strong while my entire being felt calm. Not tired, just calm. Sometimes after I work out (especially in the early morning), I feel a frantic kind of buzz move through my body, and the feeling can get exacerbated when combined with start-of-the-week work anxiety. But I got home feeling focused and clear-headed, ready to take on my work day.
I got caught up with a few work tasks and didn’t make my mud until later in the morning. Relying on the trusty guidebook, I decided to make the Mud Shake—essentially a mud-infused almond butter banana shake. Spoiler: It was way more delicious than that description makes it sound. In a blender, mix together a tablespoon of mud, almond butter, a banana, and ice. The result is a smooth, slightly frothy, thick smoothie that I could definitely drink every morning.
Similar to my experiment with Athletic Greens, it took a few days before I hit my stride. While I never have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, today I shot up not only feeling energized, but also motivated to make my way through my to-do list. By this point, I was feeling committed to my Mud Shake and blended up another. To round out my breakfast, I had a protein bar and a bowl of fruit.
My high-vibin’ energy continued all throughout the day. I typically experience a mid-afternoon slump and either grab something sugary or take a 10-minute walk. Today, I opted for the latter and didn’t crave my usual sweet snack (though I did make this pumpkin bread over the weekend and opted for a slice after dinner #balance).
Another day, another early morning workout (my motivation and energy is at its peak!). This morning, I felt both grounded and energized as soon as I opened my eyes. Bonus: This was one of the best workouts of my life. I was able to bring intention to every movement and posture, connecting to my body in a way I hadn’t before.
I mixed up my Mud Shake again in the morning, and in the evening post-dinner, I brewed a cup of the MUD/WTR Rest—the brand’s calm-inducing, caffeine-free blend. I added a little honey to sweeten it and was surprised to find that I liked the flavor a lot more than my plain morning mud. The rooibos gave a slightly caramel flavor, and though I’ve never enjoyed the taste of ashwagandha in the past, it was mostly covered up by the spicy cinnamon and turmeric blend. I didn’t even make it through two pages of my book before falling asleep at 9:30.
Curious to hear what my partner thought of the flavor, I blended a smoothie for him as well. Reporting back via text from his morning commute, he said that while he definitely wouldn’t be skipping his morning coffee again, he could see having this in the morning alongside it.
Throughout the week, I noticed that I woke up with more energy, and it stayed consistent throughout the day. Deciding to switch things up, I opted for an afternoon workout as opposed to my regular early morning class. Mud Shake, work, lunch, barre. I’ll admit, intentionally pulling myself out of my routine did trip me up a bit, and I left the studio feeling more depleted than usual (apparently there’s only so much experimenting you can do in a week). I’ll attribute feeling less than great to a change in routine, because I got back home and was able to wrap up my work tasks with ease. Helloooo, weekend!
Despite sleeping better and having clearer energy, this isn’t a routine that feels sustainable for me in the long run. While some reviews on the website say that they like the taste, I wouldn’t be able to consistently drink mud—and thus reap its health benefits—every day unless I made the Mud Shake. And as someone who thrives on routine but needs variety throughout her week, this just isn’t feasible. If you’re looking for a way to replace your daily coffee, MUD/WTR could be a good option. Just don’t expect it to taste like your morning cup of joe—it definitely doesn’t. But if you’re someone who enjoys an earthy, slightly bitter beverage, MUD/WTR just might work.