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Coffee is one of the world’s favorite beverages. It’s tasty, customizable (like, adding butter), and contains high amounts of one of the most researched-backed cognitive and physical performance enhancers—caffeine.

While it’s extremely popular, you might not find coffee to be extremely tasty. What’s more, coffee does contain a decent amount of caffeine which, while beneficial for some people, is not tolerated well by others. For this reason, many are looking for alternative beverages that could substitute for a morning (or afternoon) cup of joe.

Even if you love coffee and don’t want to give it up, perhaps you just want to mix up your morning beverage rotation or add some other healthy drinks to your routine. If that’s the case, look no further. This article provides some coffee alternatives you’ll love, many of which also come with nutritional benefits.

Why Ditch Coffee?

The first question is, why look for an alternative to coffee in the first place?

If it’s for health, that reason might not be good enough. In fact, coffee drinking has been shown to be inversely related with death from all causes (known as “all cause mortality”) in large prospective studies.

Even people who drank up to eight cups of coffee per day had a lower rate of death compared to non-coffee drinkers.Loftfield2018 Several other studies also found that coffee is “beneficial” to health. Good news for those who love their java.Gunter2017,Freedman2012

In addition to the apparent health benefits of coffee, caffeine in coffee (or as a standalone substance) has several benefits for mental and physical performance. For instance, a review on the effects of caffeine for exercise performance found that there were significant benefits for caffeine supplementation on muscle endurance, muscle strength, aerobic power, aerobic endurance, jumping performance, and speed.Grgic2019

In addition, caffeine might be a mild cognitive enhancer, especially in a fatigued state. Caffeine can promote arousal and improve mood and concentration when consumed acutely, and might even benefit memory in some instances.Nehlig2010

Regardless of the benefits caffeine and coffee may provide, some people are trying to drink less of the stuff. Being a stimulant, caffeine can definitely cause anxiety and hyper-arousal if consumed in higher doses—this is sometimes called the “caffeine jitters.” Some people may find this feeling unpleasant. Caffeine can also lead to short-term increases in blood pressure and heart rate.

Too much caffeine can also cause sleep disruption, especially if consumed too late in the day or close to bed-time.

In some cases, even a lunchtime coffee might leave you lying in bed wired, tossing and turning all night.

Some people just don’t like the taste of coffee. The acidity or bitterness of coffee may also be another reason to seek alternatives. While a bitter flavor is enticing to some taste buds, others find it unpleasant.

The high acidity of coffee may also lead to an upset stomach. Resorting to flavored creamers and sweeteners can mask the bitterness of coffee, but these also can add additional sugar and calories to your beverage. If you’re on the ketogenic diet or trying to practice intermittent fasting, you don’t want to be putting unnecessary additions in your plain coffee—which is keto- and fasting-approved when you drink it black.

Whatever the reason, if you’re looking to find a beverage as a suitable coffee substitute, you’re in luck. Several coffee alternative exist—some with caffeine and some without—all of which can give you the energy you’re looking for in coffee, without the negative side effects you might not want. Even better, you won’t have to give up your love for a nice hot beverage and the atmosphere of a cozy coffee shop.

Give some or all of these a try. One might just become your next go-to beverage or convenient supplement as an alternative to coffee.

Five Alternatives to Coffee

What do we mean by “coffee alternative?" Well, a coffee alternative should be a beverage that simulates the feelings, warmth, aroma, and other comforting aspects that many people seek in a cup of coffee. But, it should also be a beverage that can provide you with a mental or physical jolt, or exert some health-enhancing properties. If it’s a supplement, find something convenient that provides that same mental or physical kick.

We’ve found four great coffee alternatives that provide some or all of the above. Some are traditional herbal beverages, and some are concoctions of multiple tasty, soothing ingredients. All of them are healthy alternatives to plain old morning joe.

Matcha Green Tea Powder

Matcha green tea is becoming a pretty popular beverage in the west. While you might be familiar with green tea, matcha is different.

When you consume matcha (typically as a powder mixed into a liquid), you’re consuming the entire green tea leaf, not just drinking the extracts from the leaf. This gives matcha powder some pretty potent health benefits—including higher amounts of polyphenols, free amino acids (in particular, L-theanine), and caffeine.Dietz2017

The grinding of matcha into a fine powder means it can be mixed into hot liquids like water or steamed milk of any variety, so it’s pretty versatile. You can even use matcha to bake, but we’ll focus on the beverage here.

In addition to caffeine (1tsp contains about 25mg of caffeine), matcha tea is particularly high in a compound known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).

This compound is considered a catechin, which are polyphenolic molecules that have antioxidant properties in the body. EGCG has been shown to promote calmness, reduce stress, and even may have cancer-protective properties.Dietz2017 The EGCG you get from drinking matcha tea is 137x higher than what you’ll get from drinking a typical green tea.

Matcha also contains high levels of L-theanine—an amino acid that has been shown to enhance sustained attention and arousal, promote cognition, reduce mental fatigue and anxiety, and help the brain suppress distracting information.Dietz2017,Nobre2008

Even better, caffeine and L-theanine consumed together might have the exaggerated effect of boosting attention and cognitive performance while also promoting calmness.Owen2008 It's a super potent combo.

There have only been few studies on matcha tea per se, but some data exist.

In one study, consuming matcha tea in the form of a drink or a snack bar was shown to improve speed of attention and to a low degree, some aspects of memory.Dietz2017 The same study showed that those drinking the tea out-performed those who ate the snack bar, meaning the food matrix may influence matcha’s beneficial effects. In another human study on matcha tea consumption, it was shown to reduce the anxiety response to stress.Unno2018 Unfortunately, these are very few studies on matcha tea, but the results of studies that do exist suggest that groups consuming matcha tea outperform placebos on a variety of outcomes.

How to make Matcha

Traditionally, matcha is prepared as a tea using a special bamboo whisk. This tool allows you to stir the matcha into fine particles, which prevents the matcha from “sedimenting” at the bottom of the cup or forming clumps. Matcha tea usually has a frothy, creamy texture, and the bamboo whisk helps to produce these qualities.

Whether you have a whisk or not, preparing matcha is quite simple. First, boil a few tablespoons of water. Place about ½ to 1 teaspoon of matcha into the bottom of a bowl or mug (without the water), and then add the hot water. Use a spoon (or your whisk) to stir the matcha until there are no longer any clumps and the beverage turns “creamy” or into a paste. Then add warm milk or more hot water and any sweetener or additives like honey or a collagen protein powder of your choice.

Yerba Mate

Yerba mate (maté) is an herbal tea that is traditionally consumed in Latin American countries but has become popular as a consumer beverage in America and around the world. While traditional cultures drink maté out of a gourd using a metal straw, it can be purchased in tea bags and also as a concentrate.

Why drink yerba maté? This beverage has been associated with several health benefits including cardiovascular protection, inhibition of DNA damage, antioxidant properties, and obesity and lipid management.Heck2007

These benefits might occur due to the presence of numerous bioactive compounds that can be found in yerba maté tea. Among these are polyphenols, caffeine and theobromine, flavonoids, amino acids, minerals like iron and calcium, and B and C vitamins.

Caffeine in maté is similar to what you might find in a cup of coffee— eight fluid oz of maté has about 85 mg of caffeine.

If you’re looking for the energy boost of caffeine but want something with a bit more herbal flavor than coffee, yerba maté might be just what you’re looking for.

How to Make Yerba Mate

How you make yerba maté will depend on which form of the tea you buy it in. Maté can be bought as individual tea bags or loose-leaf tea.

If the convenience of tea bags is more your thing, get some from the store (or online) and steep them like you would a regular tea.

For loose-leaf maté, you can use a French press coffee maker or loose-leaf tea holder to steep the maté. It’s recommended that you moisten the matcha leaves prior to steeping and use water with a temperature of around 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Steep for around five minutes, then enjoy.

Chicory Root Coffee

Even though “coffee” is in the name, chicory root coffee isn’t really a coffee at all. Rather, this coffee-tasting beverage is made from the dried and ground root of the chicory plant, which is actually part of the dandelion family.

While the drink has become popular as of late, it might have originated as early as the 1800s when a French coffee shortage caused people to go seeking for their coffee fix elsewhere.

Chicory root coffee is described as being “nutty” and “woody” in flavor and having a smell akin to regular coffee. The biggest difference is that chicory root coffee is caffeine-free.

One of the potential health benefits of chicory coffee is that it contains a fiber known as inulin (not insulin).

Inulin is a prebiotic fiber that might benefit gut health and has also been shown to enhance calcium absorption and promote weight management by controlling satiety and hunger.Ripoll2010

Chicory coffee may have benefits for preventing health conditions like diabetes by helping manage blood glucose. Chicory extract consumption has been shown to lower HbA1C (a risk factor for diabetes that is an indicator of long-term blood sugar levels) and improve bowel movements in healthy adult participants.Nishimura2015 Consuming chicory coffee for one week has been shown to reduce levels of thrombosis (blood clotting) and inflammation, providing evidence that this beverage may have some cardiovascular benefits.Schumacher2011

The only concern about inulin-rich chicory coffee is that the higher fiber content could lead to unwanted gastrointestinal side effects. However, chicory coffee containing 5g of inulin is relatively well tolerated, even when consumed every day for one week. But short-term ingestion of a higher dose was shown in the same study to produce mild gastrointestinal discomfort.Ripoll2010

How to Make Chicory Coffee

If you want, you can go out into the wild, find some chicory, dry it, roast it, and grind it up. We recommend finding pre-ground chicory root at a local store or ordering some online. It’s packaged (and looks) exactly like coffee. This makes preparation quite easy.

Chicory root can be prepared just like coffee using your preferred method—whether it be traditional drip, pour over, French press, or chicory-root espresso.

If you love the taste, smell, and comfort of a warm cup of coffee but are trying to chill out on the caffeine, give chicory coffee a try. You can even drink it at night without worrying about disrupted or poor sleep.

Golden Milk

Also known as “turmeric tea,” golden milk is a popular Indian beverage that has been discovered by consumers in western and European cultures. It’s very similar to the popular Chai tea.

Golden Milk is a beverage of warmed milk, the spice turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger. Some varieties may also include honey, black pepper, cardamom, and vanilla.

Even the description is soothing. It’s like an herbal, flavorful latte.

Several of the ingredients in golden milk have potent health properties. For instance, the compound curcumin (found in turmeric) has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and may benefit certain health conditions like arthritis, metabolic syndrome, and anxiety. Ginger and cinnamon have also been shown to have antioxidant and anticancer properties.Rao2014,Wang2014b

Furthermore, turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger have all been shown to have effects on the brain. Curcumin may boost mood and lower the risk of depression, and ginger and cinnamon might protect against cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases.Sanmukhani2014,Khasnavis2014,Saenghong2012 It has also been shown that ingesting turmeric with black pepper helps increase the bioavailability of curcumin up to 2000%.Hewlings2017

It is likely that by combining these ingredients, we can get some pretty health-promoting effects throughout the body. Not to mention, this drink just sounds delicious.

How to Make Golden Milk

The ingredients for golden milk include milk (of your preferred kind), turmeric, grated ginger or ginger powder, cinnamon, a pinch of black pepper, and vanilla or honey (optional).

To prepare, just combine all of the ingredients into a saucepan and bring it to a boil while gently stirring. You’ll want to pour the golden milk through a small strainer before it gets to your cup in order to capture any small particles or debris that you don’t want to drink.

Your New Pick Me Up

Not only can healthy alternatives to coffee help reduce your caffeine intake, they’re all fantastic ways to diversify your diet and introduce some new beverages into what might be a boring routine of coffee and water.

While coffee is full of research-backed health benefits, coffee alternatives often have superb qualities too, ranging from disease prevention to anti-inflammatory actions to boosted metabolism and blood sugar control. So in addition to their taste, these drinks could be improving your health too!

Don’t be afraid to try new things. If you’ve been a coffee drinker for quite some time, switch it up; give coffee alternatives a try. Who knows, you might find a new obsession.

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