and let’s not forget, it’s water, so you’re also doing double duty by hydrating. It comes in three flavors—blackberry chai, peach ginger, and pomegranate citrus—along with concentrated juice and organic ginger to help mask the CBD taste. My favorite flavor is blackberry chai, because it reminds me of the chai that my fiance, who grew up in New Delhi, introduced me to on our first trip there.
When I first heard about this drink, it sounded a little too Peak 2018 for my liking: La Croix vibes, CBD, and adaptogens?! Even for a CBD obsessive, it was a bit much. But then I tried a can, and I was hooked..
Launched in October, Recess is a La Croix-esque sparkling-water drink infused with CBD and adaptogens (herbs that help your body adapt to stress). While there are other CBD-infused drinks on the market, like Dirty Lemon’s +cbd, sprig, and Kickback CBD Cold Brew, Recess is the only one made with both adaptogens and the millennial Kool-Aid that is sparkling water.
With Recess, you don’t have to put anything under your tongue, you don’t have to worry about
A can of Recess—which contains 10 mg of cannabidiol from full-spectrum hemp extract—simultaneously relaxes my body and gives me this low-key productivity buzz. I’m able to peacefully get my work done without checking Instagram every two seconds or taking a Very Important quiz to find out what my Zodiac sign reveals about what type of sandwich I am. And Recess’s founder, Benjamin Witte, says that’s no accident. For starters, using full-spectrum hemp extract as opposed to CBD isolate (the other option) means that the extract also has other cannabinoids found in the hemp plant, which some research has shown may help create a more potent product. He also sources the CBD from a high-quality farm in Colorado, where the hemp is grown under strict guidelines using only 100% organic farming practices. I love their slogan, too—“not tired, not wired”—because that’s legit how I feel when I drink a can.
But, for me, Recess’ biggest draw is that, unlike other CBD products, there isn’t any sort of ick factor involved to get the benefits. When I take CBD oil pills, I end up burping up little tastes of weed throughout the day. And when I get a CBD latte from the place on my corner, the hemp oil also comes on a little too strong and then chills on my tongue, like when someone stares at you for just one second too long.
But with trendy CBD—the non-psychoactive cannabis compound found in both cannabis and hemp plants that the New York Times recently called “the new avocado toast”—I’m more than adjacent; I’m a straight-up evangelist. And my latest CBD discovery is Recess.
I consider myself a fairly trend-adjacent person, enough in the loop to casually know what everyone’s obsessing about, but not so in the loop that I am actually one of the obsessors. Waiting until the hype has waned is my move, which explains why I am currently cruising through Mad Men on Netflix.
Because they’re so drinkable, I end up casually sipping on a can all day long, which sets me up to chill in my concentration cocoon throughout the day. And then, before I know it, I have magically conquered my to-do list, and it’s already time to chill in my other go-to cocoon: the pile of blankets on my couch.
The business of “wellness,” whether old- or new-school, continues to boom, arguably thanks in large part to the anxiety economy, the high cost of health care, and our accompanying desire for easy (and affordable) fixes to big problems. Patterns that began in the tumult and stress of 2016 could reach even greater heights with next year’s presidential election, creating new avenues for capital that appeal to generational and gender-based fears. All that intensity could have the “wellness ideology” coming for us all, one $5 beverage at a time — because even if chill can’t be canned, it will be commodified.
McGregor says that Cha Cha Matcha doesn’t consider itself a wellness brand, but its recently launched line of canned iced teas — with pastel hues and flavors like activated charcoal matcha and ginger turmeric — hits all of the aesthetic and ingredient marks of the wellness beverage genre. And McGregor recognizes that people seeking “chill” might pick up a can along their journey to anxiety reduction. “Chill is a big part of contemporary culture, probably for a lot of reasons,” he says. “I feel like we’re living in a time of high anxiety and as an antidote to that, people are looking for all sorts of ways to calm themselves, whether that be yoga, adaptogens, or more exercise.”
And there’s not enough known about how to scale products that use medicinal herbs, some of which are threatened. Not even kombucha has been immune to marketplace exploitation: Coca-Cola recently invested $20 million in Health-Ade, while the PepsiCo-owned KeVita Master Brew Kombucha is just a sparkling water combined with probiotics, added sugar, and flavorings that provoked a class action lawsuit about the definition of “kombucha.” And in a dispute stretching all the way back to 2012, a Massachusetts beverage company sent herbalists into a tizzy by trademarking the name of a well-known and openly shared recipe known as fire cider; it eventually lost the case.
It was also in 2016 that Laurie Penny wrote in the Baffler about wellness as a capitalism-driven ideology: “The wellbeing ideology is a symptom of a broader political disease,” she wrote. “The rigors of both work and worklessness, the colonization of every public space by private money, the precarity of daily living, and the growing impossibility of building any sort of community maroon each of us in our lonely struggle to survive. We are supposed to believe that we can only work to improve our lives on that same individual level.”
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Taking back control is, ironically, why, around the same time, millennials had begun to question the concept of “chill” — at least as it applied to women, whose emotions have always been a subject of fascination, scorn, and marketing dollars. Writer Alana Massey’s 2015 viral essay “Against Chill” described shedding, once and for all, the expectation of men and society at large that women contain their emotions and desires:
Kin Euphorics, meanwhile, embraces “wellness” with enthusiasm; born and still lodged firmly in the nightlife realm, it is, per its website, “All Bliss, No Booze.” Like Recess, the company launched in 2018. Its “Chief Euphorics Officer,” Jen Batchelor, says its big inspiration was her desire to go to the bar and have fun without intoxicants. “I was also just sort of seeing the detriments and destruction of alcohol for so many women in my life at that time,” she says.
The “wellness” drink exists along a continuum whose origins can be viewed on the shelves of health food stores, where Bragg apple cider vinegar drinks, numerous kombucha brands, and shots of ginger and ginseng contain simple, recognizable ingredients that adhere to Michael Pollan’s various adages about eating real food. These drinks are of the hippie old school, offering earth-bound health with the promise of a smoother bowel movement or a quick recovery from a seasonal cold. GT’s kombucha lists one of its primary ingredients as “100% Pure Love. ”
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Both Kin and Recess build their own promises of vague-but-wholesome health effects on adaptogens, ingredients that usually have a place in the realms of herbalism and naturopathy. When combined with soothing colors and winsome fonts, they are effective in selling “calm” and “bliss” — or “chill” — words that encapsulate these companies’ respective definitions of wellness. The question is why people, namely women, need to be sold these feelings, to the tune of more than $4 trillion.
The individual level is where wellness products come into the picture; it’s Witte’s “anxiety economy,” built upon what he describes as “[products] we’re starting to take in our bodies, as well as lifestyle choices designed to help us kind of take back control.”