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Reviewing Happy Valley United Yerbaé

I want to take you on a journey with me that happened last week and has been stuck in my mind ever since.

Walking into McLanahan’s in search of milk after coming back fresh from spring break and needing to stock the fridge, there was a curious display of perfectly organized cans at the front of the store. They were bright and colorful, decorated in shades of bright green, pink, yellow, and many others. They appealed to me and my monkey brain and I needed to know more. Those drinks, folks, were Yerbaé energy drinks.

Upon further investigation, there was also a banner advertising their partnership with Happy Valley United, the NIL collective that supports student-athletes at Penn State. At the top of the shelf was a white and blue can with an all-too-familiar Nittany Lion on the label.

I had never heard of Yerbaé before, and, keeping this experience in the back of my mind, I bought my milk and returned home to do some investigating.

According to its website, Yerbaé was founded in 2017 when Todd and Karrie Gibson discovered the benefits of yerba mate, a South American herb and a source of caffeine. Mate, as some folks may be familiar with, is a beverage common in South America that is shared in social settings similar to tea or coffee that is steeped from the leaves of the yerba mate plant. The founders of Yerbaé, the website goes on to explain, found a way to infuse it into sparkling water and flavor it with ingredients from nature, and created an energy drink.

As a resident editor on this silly little blog, I, of course, knew that I had to purchase some “Blue Razz” Happy Valley United-branded Yerbaés to try to find out what exactly an NIL collective should taste like if liquified and put in a can.

There was also a selfish element to this experience, too. See, I am also an energy drink snob and have pretty divisive opinions on just about every energy drink you can buy from a store. Seriously, you can pry my Red Bull Peach Edition from my cold, dead hands. Probably because it will end up killing me one of these days.

Interestingly, all of Yerbaé’s drink flavors, not just its Happy Valley United-branded ones all contain zero sugar, have no calories, are gluten-free, and meet a myriad of requirements for other types of diets and lifestyles. With 120mg of caffeine per can, needless to say, I was personally invested in this drink experiment working out because I really need to stop drinking my calories.

So, here it goes. Like an energy drink sommelier, I cracked open this bad boy and poured it into a glass for the ~experience~.

Putting this drink up to the nose, the smell of berries came out strong. The drinks are also flavored with stevia sweeteners and picking up hints of the sweetener was possible, too. Nothing I would describe as bad or uncommon for an energy drink, though.

The flavor of the Happy Valley United Yerbaé, though, is something I’m still torn on. The artificial sweetener comes off strong off the bat, and it has that feeling of being sweetened with stevia. However, I don’t think it’s a dealbreaker in this case. The actual berry flavor itself, though, was almost medicinal-tasting and really felt like someone described what berries taste like and this was the result. The flavor also wasn’t particularly strong, and a weak berry flavor with a strong artificial sweetener flavor was an unfortunate combination.

Throughout this review, I was reminded of a line said by Ted Danson on NBC’s “The Good Place.” While eating a cup of frozen yogurt, Danson says, “There’s something so human about taking something great and ruining it a little so you can have more of it.”

This is, in a weird way, exactly how I feel with Happy Valley United’s Yerbaé.

This drink being zero calories with no sugar is something valuable, and it’s not exactly fair to compare it to another energy drink that benefits from hundreds of calories and natural sugar.

Study after study shows that energy drinks are objectively terrible for you, and the added sugar in many of them certainly isn’t helping anything. In this regard, the Happy Valley United Yerbaé stacks up pretty similar to, and arguably better than, that of a Celsius. The drink is also pretty light, and, especially compared to something like my beloved Peach Red Bull, they are pretty similar in being something that won’t make you feel bloated and gross, which is a plus.

I probably would not purchase the berry flavor again from Yerbaé. Maybe I’m fake for not supporting Penn State student-athletes, but I really just don’t believe that the berry flavor is the best out there. I also am not a fan of Celsius’ berry flavors either, so this could also just be a personal issue and I should keep my mouth shut.

If you are looking to get your caffeine fix and can’t exactly stomach a sugar-free Red Bull, I think that Yerbaé is something still worth taking a look at. There are around 14 other flavors on its website, and I think that a few of them have the potential to be game-changers as they’re zero calories with no sugars added.

Finding a good, zero-calorie alternative to an energy drink is a bit of a soul-searching process, but I think that if you are able to find one you like, it’s absolutely worth the time spent searching in between.

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About the Author

Luke Pieczynski

Luke is a sophomore accounting major hailing from Pittsburgh, PA, and is one of Onward State's social media editors. He can often be found in the Starbucks line waiting for a nitro cold brew, or listening to one of Dua Lipa's latest releases. He's a fiercely loyal Sheetz Freak and will not settle for another Pennsylvania gas station. Please send your best political thriller to him on Twitter @lukepie11 or to his email [email protected].

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