You love the taste of your morning cup of joe but are less enthused about the pesky side effects. Signs that coffee doesn’t agree with you run the gamut: You might feel jittery or anxious after every sip, nauseous for seemingly no reason or plagued by a burning feeling in your chest that is decidedly not related to heart health. If any of this sounds familiar and you’re starting to suspect your caffeine habit is to blame, it might be time to find a better beverage for your daily routine. Fortunately, we did a little digging and found the best coffee alternatives so you can wake up to something new and equally tasty tomorrow (and never look back). From chicory blends to mushroom concoctions, here are some delicious substitutes to start your day of right.
1. Spicewalla Golden Milk Powder
Golden milk is a traditional Indian drink that consists of milk that has been spiked with a generous amount of health-boosting turmeric—hence, the beverage’s signature bright gold color—along with other robust spices. Latte lovers will appreciate this energizing spice blend as a stand-in for espresso, since a cup of this stuff boasts an ideal balance of bold flavor and creamy comfort, without any caffeine-related jitters. Plus, turmeric is loaded with curcumin, a compound with powerful anti-inflammatory properties that has been shown to benefit the body in more ways than one. If you’re ready to swap your morning (or afternoon) coffee for this healing elixir, we recommend this ready-made mix from Spicewalla for an expertly crafted blend of turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg and coriander that hits all the right notes.
2. Teeccino Chicory Coffee Alternative
The rich, smoky bitterness of barley and chicory are rounded out with an oh-so subtle hint of sweetness from figs and beets in this herbal coffee alternative. The end result is a deeply-flavored, acid-free brew that tastes like an almost flawless imitation of regular coffee and can be enjoyed in exactly the same way as you would any cup of joe. In other words, you’ll be able to enjoy your daily coffee ritual without the over-stimulating effects of caffeine, or the digestive woes that the acidity of real coffee can cause. Best of all, Teeccino’s chicory-based alternative is chock-full of inulin, a form of dietary fiber and a prebiotic that promotes overall gut health and supports immune function. Bottom line: This option addresses all the common coffee-related complaints without robbing you of the flavor you know and love.
3. Guayaki Traditional Yerba Mate
Approximately 40mg of caffeine per serving
This traditional South American drink contains only a moderate amount of caffeine—about half of what you consume with a cup of coffee—and fans of the stuff say it’s just enough to increase mental alertness and provide a physical pick-me-up without the jitteriness or anxiety that excessive caffeine consumption can cause. Aside from being an excellent choice for reducing caffeine intake, yerba mate also has an impressive nutrient profile in that it contains numerous compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Although yerba mate has a similar bitter quality, its earthy, vegetal flavor is entirely distinct from coffee—so if you’re more interested in a close imitation than a whole new jam, this might not be your best bet. That said, this particular yerba mate option gets rave reviews for being a pleasant pick-me-upper with an extra smooth and mild profile. (Bonus: This one comes in convenient tea bag form.)
4. Jade Leaf Organic Ceremonial Grade Matcha
Approximately 25 to 35mg of caffeine per ½ tsp
In case you missed it, matcha is a type of green tea from East Asia, made from special shade-grown tea plants that are processed and ground into a moss-green powder. In other words, when you drink matcha, you’re not imbibing a tea-leaf infusion, as with regular green tea, you’re sucking down the whole kit and kaboodle. As such, matcha contains more caffeine than a standard cup of green tea—but the amount is also much easier to customize, since you can simply decide to add more or less powder per your preference. (Note: One teaspoon of matcha powder makes a pleasantly strong brew that, nevertheless, contains roughly 30mg less caffeine than a standard cup of coffee.) The takeaway? This matcha powder melts beautifully into a cup of milk to make a beverage with a subtly sweet, vegetal character, creamy mouthfeel and an energizing kick that’s just right.
5. Teeccino Dandelion Tea Sampler
Dandelion root, known for its rich and bitter flavor, harmonizes wonderfully with organic carob and chicory here: Smooth, creamy and convincingly similar in taste to coffee, these herbal Teeccino teas are an excellent stand-in whenever the mood for coffee strikes. Best of all, these teas are equally tasty when served hot or cold—so they’ll even satisfy die hard ice coffee drinkers. The ingredients used here are also packed with polyphenols, probiotics and prebiotics—compounds that support digestive and immune function, among other things. In other words, if you’re looking to forgo your daily caffeine fix in favor of a healthier alternative, this palate-pleasing option is an easy choice.
6. Crio Bru Brewed Cacao
This coffee substitute comes from 100 percent pure ground cacao and can be brewed in a French press or coffee maker just like the regular stuff. (Change is hard, after all.) Don’t be fooled by the ingredient at work here, because this cacao coffee alternative is not like your average cup of Swiss Miss. This sugar-free beverage has a bold, rich and moderately bitter taste that pairs splendidly with the immune-boosting and antioxidant benefits it boasts. Even better news is that the pleasant burst of energy you feel after a cup of cacao ‘coffee’ isn’t just in your head: This caffeine-free brew does contain small amounts of a cousin compound called theobromine—a considerably milder (and totally natural) stimulant with a longer-lasting effect.
7. Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee Mix
Approximately 50mg of caffeine per serving
For those who loathe the nervousness that caffeine can cause but love the (seemingly) instant wakefulness and mental clarity, this mushroom-based alternative might be what you’ve really needed all along. Containing roughly half the amount of caffeine as a normal cup of coffee, you can consider this brew the next step down—though it’s worth noting that the caffeine here does, in fact, come from a small amount of high-quality instant coffee that’s added to the mix. The main ingredients, however, are chaga and lion’s mane mushrooms—two varieties that contain nutrients known to support the immune system and general health. The takeaway? Consider this one as either a weaning option or happy middle-ground between coffee buzz and dead tired—and don’t let the mushrooms deter you, because there’s nothing fungi about the coffee-like flavor here. (Sorry, we had to.)
8. The Maca Team: The Morning Motivator Maca Coffee
Maca, not to be confused with matcha, is a root native to South America and is the primary ingredient in this tasty blend (along with a bit of raw coconut sugar, cacao, mesquite and lucuma). But let’s talk maca for a minute: This Peruvian root is a cruciferous veggie that belongs to the same family as good-for-you-greens like broccoli and kale, so it should come as no surprise that emerging science suggests that maca root is also a superfood of sorts. Elevated libido, increased fertility, uplifted mood, improved energy and reduced blood pressure are just a few of the many benefits reported by those who have experienced (and those who have studied) the effects of maca root. Plus, maca drinkers say it tastes like a very mildly sweet and nutty treat and is easy on the stomach to boot.
9. Vadham Original Masala Chai tea
Approximately 50mg of caffeine per serving
Good old chai tea is an excellent substitute for coffee, given that it’s mildly caffeinated (so you don’t have to go cold turkey) and has a similar bitterness and depth of flavor. This Indian spiced black tea is considerably more aromatic than your standard cup of joe, but we think that’s a good thing: Much like coffee, just the smell of the stuff will make you feel happier to roll out of bed. Best of all, both the black tea base and the spices found in a typical chai tea blend have the potential to improve more than just your morning routine. (Think: reduced blood sugar and improved cardiovascular health.) Plus, this tea doesn’t have the same harsh acidity as coffee so it’s unlikely to break (or burn) your heart.
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