Coffee is a daily ritual for many people looking for a caffeine boost first thing in the morning, but the taste isn’t for everyone. For those looking to switch it up, whether that’s due to the unpleasant effects of too much coffee or a taste for something different, there are other options.
There’s a coffee alternative waiting for you no matter what you’re after, even if you just don’t like the taste of coffee. Read on for the 11 best coffee alternatives on the market today.
Is coffee bad for you?
In moderation, coffee isn’t bad for you, but too much coffee can lead to sleep disruption, jitters, and gut issues.
If regular old coffee just isn’t your style, there are plenty of other options to enjoy, from teas to turmeric-based drinks! Additionally, if your stomach is the issue, a low-acid coffee is gentler on digestion. This can be an excellent way to still enjoy your morning cup without discomfort.
What are good coffee alternatives?Some good coffee alternatives include:
- Matcha Tea
- Decaf Coffee
- Brewed Cacao
- Chicory Root
- Golden Milk
- Masala Chai
- Herbal Tea
- Dandelion Root
- Yerba Mate
- Gold Coffee
1. Matcha Tea
Matcha is a style of green tea that has its roots in East Asia. It’s a favorite of Zen Buddhist monks and a key component in Japanese tea ceremonies. Since then, it’s exploded in the United States as a health-conscious coffee alternative.
You’ll find the flavoring in everything from vibrant teas and lattes to cakes and ice creams. Matcha is high in a special kind of antioxidant found in green teas called catechins. It has even more nutrients than traditionally brewed green teas because you’re using the whole leaf.
The taste of matcha depends on the quality. A high-quality cup of matcha tea will be finely ground using young leaves, sifted, and then whisked with hot water. The end result should be just a little sweet, not bitter.
Pros of drinking matcha green tea:
- It provides a boost of antioxidants.
- Matcha has a subtly sweet flavor when made properly with high-quality ingredients.
Cons of matcha tea:
- If you’re looking to cut down on caffeine, matcha has even more than standard green tea.
- Lower-quality matcha can taste bitter and earthy.
2. Decaf Coffee
Decaffeinated coffee has been around since the early 1900s but really rose in popularity with the growth of the instant coffee market.
The process of decaffeination does include some chemicals to strip the coffee beans of caffeine, but the process has been deemed safe for consumption by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Decaf coffee isn’t technically caffeine-free, though. Most brands remove about 97% of the caffeine in their decaf options. A general rule of thumb is that decaf contains about 3-4 mg of caffeine in each cup.
Decaf coffee can be a decent option for those who crave a cup of joe in the middle of the day but don’t want to affect their sleep, or for people who can’t resist the tempting smell and taste of coffee.
Pros of decaf coffee:
- This is a good option for coffee lovers who can’t have caffeine (e.g., in pregnancy).
- Decaffeination retains some of coffee’s benefits, like protection against some chronic diseases.
Cons of drinking decaf:
- The flavor may be affected in the decaffeination process.
- Decaf may cause digestive issues, just like regular coffee, due to acidity.
3. Brewed Cacao
A cup of brewed cacao may be just the ticket for mocha lovers looking for a bit of chocolate flavor in their morning cup.
Enjoying cacao as a beverage has a history dating back to the Mayans. This people group used it as their drink of choice on special occasions. Variations of drinking cacao have been enjoyed ever since, with today’s varieties as easy to brew as your morning espresso.
Cacao — this isn’t the hot chocolate of your youth — contains trace amounts of caffeine, but the energy boost here comes from a natural pick-me-up, the stimulant theobromine.
On top of giving you an added spark of energy, theobromine in moderation has shown some positive effects on heart health and blood pressure, placing cacao among other superfoods.
For a nuttier taste with mild hazelnut notes, carob tea is another option similar to cacao.
Pros of brewed cacao:
- Brewed just like a cup of coffee in your coffee maker.
- Dark chocolate notes that will delight chocolate lovers.
Cons of brewed cacao:
- Brewed cacao can lead to sleep disruption if consumed late in the day.
- It is common to add a large amount of refined sugar or cream to a cacao-based drink.
4. Chicory Root
Chicory root has entered the scene of coffee alternatives with good reason: Fans say it tastes a lot like coffee, but it doesn’t contain caffeine.
The flavor from brewed chicory comes from the root, not the flowers, which have been brewed as a hot beverage since the ancient Egyptians.
The French started adding chicory to their coffee in the 1800s when they were short on coffee. New Orleans followed suit later that century. Chicory root has been around ever since as a popular coffee alternative.
Additionally, chicory is the richest source of inulin, a prebiotic that stimulates the good bacteria in your gut for healthy digestion. It can also provide excellent levels of potassium.
Pros of chicory root coffee:
- There is no caffeine in chicory root coffee.
- It has a similar taste to coffee for fans of the flavor.
Cons of chicory root coffee:
- It is not recommended during pregnancy, as it has caused serious complications in pregnant women.
- Chicory root may cause allergic reactions in some consumers.
5. Golden Milk
Golden milk, sometimes listed as a turmeric latte at coffee shops, is having a moment in the spotlight.
The history of this drink dates back centuries to India as a medicinal drink, and it certainly makes for a beautiful cup. The yellow color you see comes from the turmeric used as the base, which gives it a striking glow.
The taste of golden milk can be a bit bitter, but most shops will add a sweetener like sugars or vanilla on top of spices like nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon. For an added boost, you’ll often see ingredients like Chaga tea or ashwagandha, an Indian medicinal herb, added into the mix.
Quick note: Ashwagandha and other herbs steeped to make teas are adaptogens, a key component in herbal stress relief remedies. Adaptogenic remedies for stress and fatigue are centuries old and also becoming more widely available.
At-home recipes for golden milk may vary, but the base is always the same: turmeric and hot milk.
Turmeric is good for the immune system and anti-inflammatory, particularly in joint pain and arthritis cases. It’s also a proven antioxidant, with some studies showing positive signs of anticancer properties.
Pros of golden milk:
- Golden milk is simple to make at home and customize to your liking.
- Herbal add-ons make it easy to get additional health benefits while complementing the flavor.
Cons of golden milk:
- Some popular additives can create a drink high in sugar and carbohydrates.
- This beverage may be an acquired taste for some due to its spice.
6. Masala Chai
Black tea blended with herbs and spices creates a fragrant Masala chai. This traditional Indian drink has been a fixture since the 1900s, when locals sought ways to make bitter black tea more palatable.
Today, it’s a regular staple in mugs around India. Odds are, it’s also a popular option at your local coffee shop.
The chai is usually served up with hot milk to make it a little milder. Common spices added include ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. The result is a hot beverage with a spicy, comforting smell.
Much like green tea, black teas like chai are heart-healthy and boast antioxidant properties.
Pros of black and chai teas:
- These can easily be made dairy-free with plant-based milk (or no creamer at all).
- The spices included in brewing have many health benefits.
Cons of black teas like masala chai:
- These teas have less caffeine than coffee but are not caffeine-free.
- The taste is bolder than some other coffee alternatives, which won’t suit those looking for a milder flavor.
7. Herbal Tea
Herbal tea comes in a wide variety of flavors with a wide variety of properties.
Tea itself is linked to cultures worldwide, from southwest China to the Amazon. Herbal options have been popularized more recently as consumers look for added health benefits in their beverages.
Herbal teas like chamomile are a well-known calming cure, supporting sleep and an improved mood.
What can I drink instead of coffee for anxiety?You can drink caffeine-free coffee alternatives instead of coffee for anxiety. Caffeine doesn’t necessarily cause anxiety, but it can make any anxiety symptoms you’re experiencing worse.
Many people who drink our gold coffee tell us that it doesn’t exacerbate their anxiety symptoms like other coffee.
There are so many others that may make you feel a little bit better. Peppermint is suggested for digestion, while ginger gives your immune system a boost and acts as an anti-inflammatory. Rooibos and rosehip teas have been shown to lower inflammation.
Pros of herbal teas:
- Herbal tea comes in a variety of flavors and offers caffeine-free varieties.
- It’s easy to prepare and available in tea bags for portability.
- More research is needed to back many health claims associated with certain teas.
- Some teas may come with side effects or cause unintended reactions.
8. Dandelion Root
Dandelion root, or dandy blend, is a good substitute for coffee because it mirrors the taste of coffee without caffeine. In fact, it’s often described as an herbal coffee.
Since ancient times, the dandelion plant has been viewed as an elixir. There’s evidence of its use by both the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. British chemists in the late 1800s began using the roots to make a tasty beverage.
Today, it’s a fixture at the hippest coffee shops as an option for coffee lovers who don’t want to give up the comforts of their morning routine but can’t have caffeine.
The flavor is just a little bit sweeter and less bitter than coffee. Dandelion root tea looks just like a traditional cup of coffee, too.
Pros of dandelion tea:
- This tea tastes quite similar to coffee.
- It contains no caffeine for those looking to avoid the stimulant.
Cons of dandelion root tea:
- Dandelion tea may cause an allergic reaction in some people.
- There is little research regarding use in pregnant women.
The kombucha-making process is somewhat of a complicated one. It’s the result of fermented black or green tea using a SCOBY, which stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.
How long the brew ferments depends on the taste you’re going for. A shorter fermentation makes a sweeter kombucha. A longer fermentation process may produce a kombucha that is sour or funky.
Kombucha originated in China centuries ago, spreading throughout Europe by the 20th century. Its popularity today has been somewhat of a media blitz due to its probiotic powers.
Pros of kombucha:
- Kombucha is full of probiotics that may aid in digestion.
- It is available in a variety of flavors to suit your preferences.
Cons of kombucha:
- The health benefits of kombucha can be overshadowed by added sugars.
- The tart and tangy flavor can be an acquired taste.
10. Yerba Mate
Yerba mate’s roots are in South America. Indigenous people in Paraguay were eating the naturally caffeinated leaves well before it became a popular beverage across Brazil and Argentina.
Today, it’s still only grown commercially across a handful of South American countries, but it’s become a growing brand in North America as a caffeinated coffee alternative.
If you’re looking for something that’ll wake you up in the morning, the caffeine in yerba mate is similar to that of a cup of coffee. The taste of yerba mate can be slightly more bitter than coffee, resembling a strong tea. However, its notes are decidedly less acidic than coffee.
Brands throughout North America offer canned varieties that may be sparkling, with added sweeteners and flavorings that cut the taste of natural yerba mate.
Like many other teas, yerba mate includes polyphenols, antioxidant-rich compounds found in plant-based foods and beverages.
Pros of yerba mate:
- Yerba mate can be prepared like coffee with milk and sugar to cut bitter notes.
- It provides a caffeine boost similar to coffee
Cons of yerba mate:
- Traditional preparation of yerba mate can be challenging.
- Many store-bought options contain less-healthy ingredients.
11. Gold Coffee
Gold coffee is a delicious alternative for those looking for a healthier coffee. We know firsthand that regular coffee can be tough on the stomach. Thankfully, there’s an even tastier option with less acidity.
Gold coffee is a low-acid brew that’s easier on digestion with the same good benefits of a regular cup of coffee: antioxidants, an energy boost, and even disease-fighting properties.
Its smooth taste means you may not even need other additives to mask the bitterness of some darker cups, like French roasts. Some tea drinkers even say this resembles their favorite black teas, with a similar golden color.
You won’t need a French press for these, either, as they’re single-use. The convenient pouches act like tea bags and can be brewed hot or cold.
What do you know? Golden Ratio is all about golden coffee. Check out our regular special offers.
Sip It or Skip It?
Choosing one of these coffee substitutes to try depends on what you’re looking for in that cup. Chicory and dandelion root offer the closest taste substitute without caffeine. If you love tea but want that energy boost, try chai or matcha tea.
Golden coffee is a great option for those who like coffee, but not the tummy troubles that can follow. It’s also an excellent fit for people in search of a smoother-tasting blend for their morning cup.
Coffee doesn’t have to come with a side of intestinal distress or taste bitter. Golden Ratio gold coffee comes in original gold, chai spiced, vanilla coconut for those with a sweet tooth, and a sampler variety pack.
Find your favorite alternative to regular coffee — and turn water into gold!
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