Science Behind Arrriba Horchata Energy

If you eat breakfast at 6am, is the meal you eat at 10am really lunch? Not wanting to feel like a Hobbit with Second Breakfast and Elevenses, I wanted an energy drink that would help me wake up without irritating an empty stomach; one that wouldn’t replace the breakfast I intended to have at 8am and one that wouldn’t require me to wait in a long line. At my local 7-11, I found a product that did the trick.

The Energy Drink of the Month for August 2014 is Arriba Horchata Energy.

Energy Drink of the Month Horchata
Energy Drink of the Month

I am naming this Energy Drink of the Month not because I want to encourage more people to drink it, but because I find this product fascinating in my adorable, dorky food scientist sort-of-way.


Don’t mention Vampire Weekend. According to the dictionary:

definition by Oxford Dictionary
definition by Oxford Dictionary



Have you ever eaten a bag of chips and realized later that one bag was supposed to be 3 servings? I hate that. Always check the Servings per Container. Checking that first will put the rest of these point in context.


For any product featuring the word “ENERGY” on the label, always look for a caffeine statement and where the caffeine (if any) is coming from. In this case, there are 76mg of caffeine, and it comes from guarana (the 7th ingredient in the ingredient’s list). To learn more about where guarana comes from, what green tea extract and guarana have in common and what dosages of guarana are safe, see this energy drink guide.


Always check the amount of sugar per serving (and per container). There’s a whopping 38g of sugar in this one can, and all of it comes from Sugar. I try to limit my added sugars and some days I’m more successful than others. I know this product is not going to help me reach that goal for the day, but I’m committed to trying this product at least once.

After my first few sips of the product, I decided 38g was too much; it was way too sweet for me (and all my colleagues in Product Development would tell you that’s really saying something). If Arriba made a lower-sugar version of this I’d be all over it. But alas…

Horchata Nutrition Facts Panel
Horchata Nutrition Facts Panel


There are quite a few B-vitamins in the product but unfortunately none of them are included with the Daily Value percentages on the Nutrition Facts Panel. Here are the vitamins included, and some notes pulled from Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks — How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely

Calcium D-Pantothenate = vitamin B5; note “pantothen” in Greek means everywhere, and this vitamin is so abundant in every food group that no one has ever had a pantothenic acid deficiency.

Niacinaminde = vitamin B3; note niacin deficiency, pellagra or Mal de la Rosa reached epidemic proportion is the USA in the early 1900s.

Pyridoxine HCl = vitamin B6; note this vitamin participates in over 100 chemical reaction on the body but consuming over 100mg per day (5,000% DV) can cause nerve damage.

Thiamin mononitrate = vitamin B1; note thiamin deficiency is called beriberi which means “I can’t, I can’t” in Sri Lanka.

Folic acid; note folic acid is the poster-child for vitamin fortification success.

D-Biotin; note biotin is a key player in carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism.

Cyanocobalamin = vitamin B12; note B12 can be a hurdle to Veganism because plants don’t make it; all B12 is made via fermentation of bacteria, fungi or algae (side-note: algae ingredients like spirulina and chlorella can be vegan sources of B12).


Yes, this product contains carrageenan, which is a thickening agent like Xanthan Gum (Read The Xanthan Gum Disaster here). Carageenan may be a controversial ingredient but I don’t believe there is cause for panic. Some useful, credible resources for reference:

In “Harmful or Harmless: Carrageenan”, Chris Kresser points out that there are two types of carrageenan, and the one most associated with harm is not the form used as an effective thickener.

Chris Kresser on Carrageenan
Chris Kresser on Carrageenan

The European Commission Health & Consumer Protection Directorate-General, Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) states that intakes of carrageenan are of no concern if the amount consumed is below the No Observed Effects Level (NOEL) of 750 mg per kilogram body weight per day. (Read the complete Opinion of SCF on Carageenan – free, here)


Because I am a Quality Assurance professional (and I can’t help myself), when I look at a product like this and the lack of information on their website, I ask questions. I can’t help but wonder, How big is this company? Do they have a HACCP plan to ensure product safety? Do they do microbiological testing on incoming ingredients? What tests do they do on the finished product before it’s cleared for release/shipping?

HACCP basics
HACCP basics –

Bottom Line

Due to the sugar content, lack of B-vitamin information and lack of information on the company making this product, I would not encourage consumption. Nor would I discourage anyone who wanted to try it as an alternative to another energy drink or coffee beverage.

Additional Resources

Arriba Horchata Energy main page

Caffeine Content in Arriba Horchata Energy – Caffeine Informer

Science Behind Vitaminwater Energy

It just stopped snowing in Wisconsin a few days ago but somehow I’ve already missed all the swimsuit sales. Headed to Florida for a 3-day weekend (which is as close as I’ll get to Spring Break in Grown-Up Land) and forced to fork over more than I intended for a nice swimsuit, I was looking for a bargain wherever I could. I found it at 7-11 where, aside from my pre-flight protein shake, I found a collection of tropical-looking energy drinks that were 10 for $10! Colorful, affordable, low-cal and, better yet, they passed the Food Scientist Label Inspection (meaning they actually had substance and not just amateur combinations of caffeine and sugar) – SOLD!

The Energy Drink of the Month for May 2014 is vitaminwater® energy beverage Berry Punch.

vitaminwater energy
Energy Drink of the Month – May 2014

This is not to be confused with the vitaminwater® Energy that comes in a plastic bottle and looks yellow. Other flavors of this vitaminwater® energy beverage product line include Strawberry Lime, Raspberry Citrus, and Orange Mango. I enjoyed all four flavors but I think I prefer Berry Punch, and not just because the can matches the color scheme of my phone, my shoes, my watch and my new swimsuit. Anecdotes and silliness aside, let’s look at the science behind what makes this drink the Energy Drink of the Month.

3 Pros and Cons of vitaminwater® energy drink – from a Food Science, Product Development and Quality Perspective

Read more

Science Behind Avitae Caffeinated Water

Could you pick an energy drink out of a line-up? Every so often, I read a news story that makes me either laugh or grit my teeth because of how energy drinks are portrayed as dangerous concoctions of sugar and caffeine. To me this portrayal seems like saying all water tastes exactly the same. Ocean water, bottled water, carbonated water etc. While some energy drinks do contain extreme amounts of sugar and caffeine, condemning all energy drinks without addressing the specifics is both folly and counter-productive to safe caffeine consumption. To combat this grievous over-generalization, each month I try to highlight an energy drink that breaks the mold and counters the stereotype.

The Energy Drink of the Month for April 2014 is Avitae (“ah-vee-tay”) caffeine+water.

There are currently no flavored versions (and thus ends, temporarily, the pomegranate theme I’ve had going since January’s pick). There are three caffeine levels of this Avitae line available: 45 mg, 90 mg and 125 mg.
As far as energy drinks go, it doesn’t get much cleaner or simpler than this. With the three levels of caffeine available, this product line is suitable for Level 2, 3 and 4 of the 5 Levels of Fatigue.  Also note that since it comes in a bottle you can sip it and reseal it, regulating your caffeine intake in ways that aren’t possible with an open can or a hot coffee.

For more, see:

Redefining “Energy Drink” — 5 Qs with Avitae

Science Behind FRS Healthy Energy

Planning for spring break or for bikini season? Feel sluggish and off-schedule due to Daylight Savings Time? Want a healthy energy boost without the sugar, the long lines at the coffee shop, or the concerned stares of your friends and colleagues?

If so, I’ve got the perfect energy drink for you. Yes, such a thing does exist, but this product is another energy drink in disguise so you don’t have to conceal your can or worry about those “(all) energy drinks are dangerous” lectures. (I’ve had 5 of those incidents thus far this year, anyone else?)

The Energy Drink of the Month for March 2014 is FRS Healthy Energy Citrus Pomegranate.

Energy Drink March 2014 Healthy Energy

Other flavors are available, but I don’t like to drink my calories so I prefer the Low Cal option. Furthermore, I’m happy with the coincidental pomegranate theme I’ve got going on right now (see the picks for January and February).

5 Reasons to Pick FRS Healthy Energy

1-Alternative Energy Read more

Science Behind Starbucks Refreshers

Energy Drink of the Month – February 2014

Fluffy Soft Valentines
How cute is this?!?

Many people have a love/hate relationship with February. Maybe you’re happy there are so many three-day weekends in February or maybe you feel like it’s harder to meet your monthly deadlines because the month is so short. Perhaps you’re looking forward to receiving something cute and fluffy on Valentine’s Day, or perhaps you’re excited about that pint of Half-Baked ice cream on Singles Awareness Day. Whether you like it or not, love is in the air, and I love this month’s energy drink.

Starbucks Refreshers GreenEyedGuideTo commemorate all the days I used to spend at Starbucks either studying, surfing POF, or hoping to catch the eyes of someone smart and good looking (see reference [4]), the Energy Drink of the Month for February 2014 is Starbucks Refreshers Raspberry Pomegranate.

There are a few other flavors of Refreshers available, but I rather enjoy pomegranate flavors (as you may note the trend from last month’s pomegranate blueberry flavored pick).

5 Reasons to Admire Starbucks Refreshers

1-Alternative Energy

This is another product that doesn’t quite fit the image of an energy drink. When most people hear “energy drink”, they think of the Big Three, but more and more “alternative energy” products like this one are cropping up. Granted this product has been around for a while, but it’s a great swap for someone who wants an energy drink without the health and safety lectures or condescending stares. (My word, the stories I could tell…do you have one to share?)

Coffee versus Energy Drinks

2-Green Coffee Bean Caffeine

Not to be confused with green tea, green coffee beans are Arabica coffee beans that are spared from the roasting that turns them brown and delivers the signature coffee flavor profile. It may seem like getting caffeine from green coffee beans is healthier or more natural, but honestly once it’s in your body caffeine is caffeine is caffeine. The only difference is the purity of the caffeine extracted. For instance, green tea and coffee both have high antioxidant contents so unless the caffeine is purified and isolated from its food matrix, you would be getting the subtle benefits of the phytonutrient package. Let me clarify with this picture:

Green Tea Analogy
Caffeine is caffeine is caffeine but what package is it delivered in?

3-Sweetened by Fruit

Paracelsus, the Father of Toxicology, said (paraphrasing) the difference between a poison and a cure is the dosage. The dosage makes all the difference; I don’t think sugar is toxic, but too much sugar isn’t good for anyone. This product contains 13 grams of sugar, primarily from fruit juice. There are no added sugars, and the sweetener system involves erythritol (good for the teeth) and stevia (yay, a non-artificial sugar).


4-Widely Available – There’s an app for that

With the Big Three dominating the energy drink market, it can be difficult to find healthy alternatives at your local grocery store or gas station. There are a few potentially-wonderful energy drinks that I’ve read about but have not tried because I didn’t want to commit to buying a whole case off the web. No offense, but I’m jaded from my experience in Quality Assurance – I need to know that the person manufacturing the product I’m about to consume has taken a few courses in food micro, and knows what a critical control point is.

The advantage of energy drinks like Starbucks Refreshers is that you can find them wherever you can find a Starbucks, and there’s an app for that. So many people rely on caffeine during road-trips or long drives so it’s good to know these drinks are showing up in more gas stations and grocery stores. Consuming caffeine safely means being able to choose between a product that delivers a little boost and one that provides a high-powered shove. Which brings me to…

5 Levels of Fatigue – Level 2

Due to the 25% juice content and the 50 milligrams of caffeine per 12-ounce can, this product is a Level 2 in the 5 Levels of Fatigue. This product is perfect for those times when fatigue is not due to boredom or dehydration (Level 1) and when you don’t need to pull an all-nighter or wake up early after a night on the town.

Bottom Line

Starbucks refreshers provide a gentle energy boost without the overloaded vitamin content, added sugars or artificial sweeteners. Finding your soul mate is hard; finding a healthy alternative to the stereotypical energy drink has never been easier.


Test your caffeine IQ with this pop quiz – Only 5 questions!

*To learn more about the complexities of caffeine, the 5 Levels of Fatigue and any of the B-vitamins mentioned above, flip through the caffeine reference guide, Are You a Monster or a Rock Star, available wherever books are sold.

Follow the GreenEyedGuide on twitter, “Like” the Energy Drink Guide on Facebook and enter the monthly contest for your chance to win. Contests and winners announced every “Lucky-13th” of the month.

Additional Resources

  1. Starbucks Refreshers Main Site – click here
  2. Caffeine Informer Info on Starbucks Refreshers – click here
  3. 5 Levels of Fatigue from the Energy Drink Guide – Free Excerpt available here
  4. Top 10 Ways to Start Talking to Attractive Strangers