It was a little over six weeks ago that the unthinkable happened. I was told that I am allergic to coffee.
But how? I’m not just a coffee aficionado, I’m a coffee addict. When I joined Prestige and the office lacked a Nespresso machine, I wrote a proposal to management lobbying for the purchase (and to this day I still operate the office Nespresso shop from my top desk drawer). I cold-brew at home daily. And when my favourite Central coffeeshop, Fineprint, changed brands of soy milk, I took part in the social-media campaign that brought back the Bonsoy (because yes, in addition to being allergic to coffee, I am also lactose-intolerant, because God hates me.)
And so the past six weeks have been an exercise in finding the city’s best coffee alternatives that aren’t a lame Earl Grey or a prosaic chai – some of them contain caffeine, but most boost the body’s natural energy levels to get you hyped up without hurting your heart.
Kombucha – tea fermented with sugar and a bacteria/yeast complex – has been a firm fixture on the hippie scene for more than a while, and Hong Kong has had its own producer for years, with Taboocha selling from retails spots that include grocers Green Common and JustGreen Organic Convenience Store as well as health-focused cafes and coffee shops like The Cakery, Fresca and Coco Espresso. These fizzy drinks are high in probiotics, so aid digestion and overall gut health, and come in special flavours like Geung (goji berry and ginger green tea), Sawadee-cha (lime basil black tea) and Woof-long (Osmanthus Oolong).
Prestige-rs head to Elephant Grounds on Caine Road when we’re busy bees so we can become buzzy bees – the coffee here is strong. But there are also plenty of coffee alternatives available, including the healthful Maccha Coconut Latte (maccha, coconut oil and raw honey), the sinful Red Velvet Latte (vanilla plus hot white chocolate) or the pride-filled Rainbow Latte (“white chocolate with a double rainbow finish”.)
Clair’s Teas of Joy
Launched in Hong Kong by traditional Chinese medicine practitioner Clair Beardson, Clair’s Teas of Joy aren’t purpose-built teas for specific ailments, so you don’t just tear open a bag of stress-release blend when the in-laws are in town. Teas are marketed in specifically harmonised sets, comprising the Blossom collection and Flourish collection. Each set comes with three tea blends, and all three are to be consumed daily at different times to help the body reach total balance. Blossom – which includes the morning Immune Booster, the afternoon Emotional Balance and evening Relax and Sleep – aims at achieving a strong immune system, while Flourish – Purify & Detoxify, Stress Reliever and Gentle Digestion – aid your system in flushing out toxins and creating a solid foundation.
Habitu café’s multicoloured Wellness Lattes are Instagrammable alternatives to the espresso-based versions – we like the pale pink hue of the Beetroot Latte, but we also dig the health benefits that come with the golden Turmeric Latte. From now until January 14, there’s also the festive White Truffle Chestnut Chocolate – probably no specific health benefits there, but yumminess sometimes translates into good vibes and energy, right?
With iHerb’s vast selection of products, it’s hard to determine what’s worth buying. Give Dandy Blend a go: gluten- and caffeine-free, it contains extracts of barley, rye, dandelion, chicory and beetroot, and gives you a natural boost of energy, though it’s admittedly an acquired taste. There’s also CocoCeps, an instant dark cocoa made from cordyceps and reishi mushrooms that’s a natural energiser, purported to give you all-day energy along with an uber-chocolatey flavour (it can also be used in place of cocoa powder in baking recipes).
This one’s a no-brainer. Even coffee lovers will want to put down their hot mugs for a sip of Flamingo Bloom‘s colourful, Instagram-geared concoctions. Our favourite is the Matcha Latte x Boba Pearls x Jasmine Tips Green, which tastes like dessert in a cup and includes the best boba pearls in town, but all the antioxidant-packed blends are all-natural and juiced up with fresh-cut fruits, from the Fresh Fruits x Highland Oolong to the tummy-slimming Lemon Lime x Chrysanthemum Pu’er.