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Ritual for some, necessity for others, coffee is a beverage enjoyed the world over. This luscious brew is a rich source of antioxidants, higher even than in some fruits and vegetables, making it the single largest source of antioxidants in some peoples diets. With that said, factors including sourcing, processing and preparation can greatly affect its health factor.
In recent years, some companies have been attempting to elevate the drink further by doubling (or even tripling in some cases) the health benefits – adding brain-boosting mushrooms like lion’s mane and cordyceps, stress-balancing herbs like rhodiola and ashwagandha or skin-enhancing collagen.
But can our beloved cup of coffee serve as a supplement while still offering the flavours we expect?
We explored as many ‘health-boosting’ blends as we could find so you don’t have to. Discover our top five picks below…
5 healthy coffee brands to try
London Nootropics launched in January 2020 with a vision to make functional plants, mushrooms and other natural nootropics (substances claimed to improve brain performance) accessible through coffee. They have three blends – mojo, zen and grind – each supposedly offering something different. Mojo is said to support strength and endurance, zen combats stress and grind claims to aid focus. The flavours vary, too – mojo’s medium, nutty roast paired really well with milk, while grind offered a much lighter, slightly floral note. We loved the convenience of the individual sachets and the beautiful presentation in its slim-line, recyclable box. The coffee also came with small info cards, providing more detail on each of the ingredients used.
Key health additions: mushrooms, adaptogens, CBD oil
Available grinds: instant
Four stigmatic is one of the original ‘healthy’ coffee brands, with a range that now spans into mushroom coffees, herbal teas, adaptogenic blends and even plant-based protein coffee. We tried the original lion’s mane coffee mix (photographed), an instant coffee that comes in convenient individual sachets. It uses Arabica coffee beans and contains half the caffeine (50mg) of a regular cup of coffee. It also offers 250mg chaga mushroom, 250mg lion’s mane and just a hint of rhodiola per serving. Despite the reduced caffeine load, this coffee made us feel awake and alert (even at 6am!), without any jittery feeling. Four Stigmatic also offers its blends as a ground coffee for those who prefer to make their brew fresh in the morning. We enjoyed this blend both black and with milk.
Key health additions: mushrooms, adaptogens, protein
Available grinds: ground, whole bean, instant
Exhale claim to be the UK’s first and only company to source and roast coffee beans to maximise their natural benefits. While coffee is known to be a good source of antioxidants, levels can vary greatly between brands. Exhale lab-test their coffee for not only it’s antioxidant, niacin and polyphenol content (basically all the good stuff), but also test to ensure their coffee is free from common nasties such as pesticides, mycotoxins and heavy metals that can reduce the benefits.
You can tell Exhale is a coffee-lovers brand, as their beans are roasted fresh, in small batches and delivered straight to your door. We tried their Finca Nueva Esperanza roast, which was smooth, nutty and aromatic – perfect with oat milk. We prepared it with our moka, and couldn’t quite belive the barista-level results. While you won’t get any nootropics with this brew, if you’re first and foremost a lover of good coffee, this is a no-brainer as you’re still tripling down on the natural benefits. If you’re a decaf drinker, they use a chemical-free ‘mountain water process’ which removes 99.9% of the caffeine, while still allowing the beans to maintain their characteristic flavour.
Key health additions: antioxidants, niacin (b vitamin), polyphenols
Available grinds: ground, whole bean, decaffeinated
Cheerful Buddha offers a range of CBD-infused products, from coffee to chocolate and oil blends. We tried the CBD-infused Arabica Colombian blend, making it in a cafetière. This coffee was definitely on the lighter end of a medium roast and didn’t offer the same level of dynamic tasting notes experienced with some of other coffees. With that said, for those looking for a simple, straightforward cuppa, this blend certainly delivers. While its hard to tell if the CBD infusions have an effect or not, we didn’t experience any characteristically tell-tale signs of a caffeine overload such as jitters or mild anxiety, even after three cups.
CBD has a plethora of reported health benefits from reducing pain, anxiety and depression, to easing inflammation and supporting brain health. However, it should be noted that while research is promising, it is also ongoing and there are no medical claims on CBD products to date.
Key health additions: CBD oil
Available grinds: ground, whole bean, decaffeinated
Ancient + Brave is a wellness brand that specialises in supplements and nutrient-rich powder blends. Their collagen coffee is an organic Brazilian Santos roast, blended with collagen peptides for skin, ashwagandha to support stress resilience, raw cacao, baobab and chicory root. Thanks to the chicory root, each serving provides 3g fibre, along with 3g of type 1 collagen protein. While we enjoyed this brew, you can tell that it is a supplement brand first, as the coffee was a very simple, light roast without the depth of flavour offered by some of the other brands. If you’re more interested in the supplemental benefits that a drink like this can offer, this may be right for you. Not only is it an easy way to add collagen into your daily routine, but with the added antioxidants, fibre and polyphenols coming from the other ingredients, it’s a nice way to sneak in some additional nutrients.
Key health additions: collagen protein, adaptogens
Available grinds: ground
Tracey Raye is the health editor for olive and BBC Good Food. Tracey, MSc, is a registered nutritionist, holding a master’s degree in personalised nutrition. She is passionate about harnessing the power of all things health and well-being in a way that enhances, rather than limits, our lives. She covers our nourishing recipes and collections, oversees our health strategy and stays adrift of the latest health and lifestyle trends in order to bring you the tools and inspiration you need to find what health means for you.