Top 3 caffeinated drinks to buzz up your mid-autumn blues

Scott Powell

(Graphic Illustration by Trin Bonner)

If there’s one thing Freddy Krueger taught us, it’s that sleeping is a dangerous experiment that leads to you, your Walkman and your portable plug-in lap TV getting swallowed alive by your bedsheets. 

And let’s not forget that it’s Marion Crane’s inability to stay awake while running from the law that leads her to pull over at the murderous Bates Motel, where she eventually meets her death in “Psycho.”


Plus, it was after falling asleep at a house party last Friday night that I ended up having someone draw an enormous schlong on my forehead with the unspeakably lewd caption “party foul-ice” in Sharpie marker — effectively murdering my self-respect and social standing among my peers.

Sleep is a killer, and yet as we move into the latter days of the fall semester and the days get shorter, the homework assignments longer and your mind and body more exhausted, it becomes easier to succumb to sleep’s lethal allure. If you’re looking to guard yourself against this deadly snooze siren, here is our list of the top three caffeinated beverages to help keep you alert and (more importantly) alive this fall.

1. Straight black drip coffee

In the U.S., letting one second of your life slip away from you without having accomplished something productive within it, such as knitting a sweater or reading up on the Stamp Act of 1765, is a cultural offense so egregious it would be on par with wearing an “I Heart Oliver Cromwell” T-shirt in Dublin or refusing to admit that Kim Jong-un has mad break dancing skills in North Korea. 

Thus, we must ensure that we do all we can to be as productive as possible at all hours of the day. In fact, chances are, as you’re reading this, you’re simultaneously listening to a podcast, writing a history paper and baking a triple-decker unicorn cake so as to ensure that you are using this precious little time you have as effectively as possible. 

With this constant urge to stay productive, it can be nearly impossible to find time to fix yourself a more elaborate coffee drink like a latte or a cappuccino in the mornings.

For times like these, there’s the classic straight black drip coffee, which offers all the perks of caffeine but still allows you time to speed-knit a scarf while you wait for your java to percolate, making this a perfect buzzy brew for busy bean heads.

2. Cold brew coffee

Of course, there are the people who are so strapped for time they have to type out lab reports with their nose, and then there are the people who are so unbelievably obsessed with remaining hyperproductive at all possible points, they do all this while doing pilates and eating spaghetti with their toes.

These are the true timesavers. The kind of mega-multitaskers who are so unbelievably efficient with their time that they finish wiping before their poop even hits the toilet water and inhale their meals through a straw so they don’t have to expend any extraneous seconds chewing and swallowing.

For these people, there’s cold brew coffee, which comes ready-made in a pitcher that can easily be poured into a to-go cup with the rest of their breakfast to be inhaled through a straw, allowing them to bypass the tedious, time-wasting process of measuring out two tablespoons of coffee grounds into a filter and pressing the “brew” button on their percolator every morning. 


This highly concentrated version of everyone’s favorite caffeinated quaff is just as accessible to those of us social pariahs who enjoy the occasional break. Made by steeping coffee grounds in cold water for 12-24 hours, this drink is best served over ice with a little dollop of sweetened condensed milk and a tablespoon of half-and-half for a stimulating start to your morning.

3. Yerba mate

I feel I need to preface this entry clarifying that, if it were up to me, yerba mate would never be allowed within sniffing distance of a top-five caffeinated beverages list.

In fact, if it were up to me, yerba mate would be given a permanent, legally binding lifetime restraining order from ever being mentioned within two sentences of any caffeine-related words — including but not limited to “buzzy,” “stimulating,” “energizing” or “aorta-pummeling.” 

This is because yerba mate is one of the biggest, most shameless scams in the history of caffeine. It’s advertised as a magical morning pick-me-up whose mind-freeing benefits are not on a par with but actually exceed those of more traditional berserk-ifying brews like espresso and black tea, offering upward of 180 mg of caffeine per cup.

This two-faced tea’s otherworldly powers can, apparently, not be fully reaped from our lame-brain American methods of brewing tea via tea bags or loose leaf in a French press, both of which, according to, only extract about 30-70 mg per serving — roughly the same amount as a standard bag of green tea.

Yerba mate tea as most of us are able to consume it is really just average. But you can’t say that out loud because, like all great scams, yerba mate has developed a large and rabid cult following of soccer moms, Trader Joe’s cashiers and Gwyneth Paltrow look-alikes who will hunt you down and burn you alive on a pyre of used bombillas if you ever dare to so much as frown in the presence of their Amazonian beverage. 

So for the sake of preserving my life, I feel I ought to give a nod to the tea beverage and its mystical, mind-bending benefits, which are a perfect pick-me-up on groggy mornings.

Reach Scott Powell at or on Twitter @scottysseus.