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But first, coffee. According to The National Coffee Association, 63% of American adults drink the brewed beverage daily, with more than half of U.S. workers admitting to needing that hug in a mug—and the caffeine buzz, laser focus, and increased physical and mental function that comes with it—before heading to the office. In total, stats show more than 2.25 billion cups of java are consumed globally every day. With numbers like that, you gotta respect the drip.
But what if you don’t think the best part of waking up is French roast in your cup? Not everyone is a fan of coffee, which is why a number of good coffee alternatives have become available in recent years. The best coffee alternatives are great for people who have a venti-sized dislike for the taste, or who perhaps can’t stomach the gastrointestinal or urinary side effects, the afternoon crash (aka rebound fatigue), the jitters, or the accelerated heart rate.
Swapping your coffee for a coffee alternative is also helpful if you’ve become too drip-endent. Or maybe you’re just bored and want to shake up your morning routine. No matter the reason you want to make a (fair) trade, there are plenty of coffee alternatives including teas, juice shots, chocolate milk, lattes made with beets, matcha, kombucha, chicory, and other functional or fermented concoctions that are good to the last drop. Here are some of our favorites.
The idea and the name for this California-based coffee-alternative empire came to its founder in a dream. That was 28 years and more than 24 gluten-free, caffeine-free, and acid-free flavors ago.
The rich, full-bodied beverage is made of a proprietary blend of seeds, fruits, and nuts, and organic herbs like chicory, carob, dandelion, and barley that gets roasted and ground like coffee. The “coffee” options get brewed while the “tea” options get steeped.
No matter which preparation method you prefer, there are plenty of health reasons to pour a cup of Almond Amaretto, Pumpkin Spice, Snickerdoodle, or Vanilla Nut. For starters, there’s more potassium, an electrolyte that stimulates the rapid transmission of nerve impulses and increases tissue oxygenation, per serving than Gatorade. Unlike caffeinated drinks, Teeccino doesn’t trigger stress hormones or a blood sugar spike. There are also antioxidants to fight free radicals produced by cells and a good dose of inulin, a soluble prebiotic fiber that supports beneficial bacteria in digestive systems.
Recently, Teeccino’s portfolio has expanded to include the Mushroom Adaptogen line—which harnesses the wellness power of fungi and natural adaptogens like chaga, ashwagandha root, eleuthero, and reishi to help the body cope with stressors and give an endurance boost—and Prebiotic SuperBoost Blends, which sate sugar cravings with date and fig sweetness and allow gut flora to thrive.
With 1/7th the caffeine of coffee, the Insta-famous single-origin substitute is a strange brew of organic ingredients like masala chai (which is where the dash of black tea caffeine comes from), turmeric, sea salt, cacao, ginger, cardamon, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and several types of fungus (chaga, cordyceps, lion’s mane and reishi).
MUDWTR arrives in powder form, and it can be made with hot water, milk, or faux dairy products. The starter kit includes an USB-rechargeable frother to give it a latte consistency. Or the spiced dust can be prepared bulletproof style, served with honey, or mixed into smoothies and protein shakes. No matter what form you ingest, the company say the product promotes mental clarity, increased immunity and alertness, enhanced performance, anti-aging, decreased inflammation, and optimized oxygen uptake. It’s also gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO, kosher, and Whole30 diet-compliant. They’ve also recently introduced a plant-based creamer made with coconut milk and MCT powder.
3. Blue Stripes Cacao Espresso
Even though Oded Brenner spent more than two decades shepherding Max Brenner: Chocolate By The Bald Man dessert emporiums, he never realized just how little of the cacao pod is used to create chocolate (70% of the plant is usually wasted) or how super of a superfood the sweet’s starting point actually is. To make a more sustainable, farmer-friendly, and healthy treat, he founded Blue Stripes Urban Cacao which finds uses for the shell, fruit, and beans.
Cacao Espresso is an organic chocolate cacao powder that contains 188mg per serving of theobromine, an alkaloid that imparts longer-lasting energy than caffeine without jitters. Mix it with hot water and milk or a milk alternative to create a Cacaoccino. The company also makes electrolyte-charged cacao water from the ghostly white fruit that surrounds the beans inside the pod. One option is flavored with cascara, the dried skins of coffee cherries, and itself another wasted bi-product of the process used to make a more popular beverage, which has been linked to stress reduction, improved memory, and better brain function.
4. Rishi Sparkling Botanicals & Tea
The highly-respected tea purveyor out of Milwaukee spent three years in R&D to perfect these plant-based potions—their first for the ready-to-drink category—and then built a specialty brewery to manufacture them in small batches using artisanal practices. They leveraged longtime trade and import relationships and used knowledge gained on scouting trips to source high-quality exotic ingredients like foraged maqui berries from Patagonia, a unique variety of pungent ginger and hibiscus from Burma, Japanese yuzu, and black lemons from Guatemala direct from farmers and the places they naturally occur. Then they combined those with complimentary dried teas.
There’s nothing manmade involved, and powders, sugars, or flavorings are never added so there’s no synthetic aftertaste. The layered ingredients pop with strong flavor but are ultimately light, aromatic, and refreshing. Unlike anything on the market, the current six flavors—Black Lemon, Dandelion Ginger, Grapefruit Quince, Patagonia Maqui, Schisandra Berry, and Turmeric Saffron—also relay added functional side effects to the imbiber such as reduced liver toxins, clean energy (some of the teas have caffeine), depression relief, metabolism boosts, anti-aging, inflammation reduction, circulatory support, and increased immunity. If all your pistons are firing properly, you naturally will have more energy and motivation to tackle projects.
If bubbles aren’t your jam, Rishi has plenty of tea types to meet your substitution and energy needs. There’s the whole line of teas and vibrant botanical powders (add to blended drinks, cocktails, and food) featuring nootropics, substances that naturally enhance cognitive functions like memory and learning, like butterfly pea flower, Thai gotu kola, and amla. Blue Jasmine is a highly-recommended loose leaf in that category. There’s also plenty of black tea and potent matcha mixes and sachets like Matcha Super Green and Matcha Ginger Buzz (low caffeine). Matcha is brimming with amino acids like L’theanine, which not only add bold umami but also balance out the caffeine so the focus high is elongated and mental clarity sharpened.
5. Cuzen Home Matcha System
Speaking of green tea, become a better barista with this all-in-one, easy-to-use system designed to reproduce the stone mill and bamboo whisk techniques traditionally used to make matcha. It was designed to best work in conjunction with Matcha Leaf products. (The starter kit includes three packets. Each makes 20 cups.) The machine, an Innovation Awards Honoree at CES 2020, grinds loose organic Japanese-grown leaves into fresh and fine matcha powder and then handles the pesky whisking-into-water step for you too. Enjoy it as a straight shot, with milk as a hot or cold latte, or mixed into mocktails, cocktails, or sparkling water. Thanks to the sleek modern design you won’t mind keeping it out on the kitchen counter.
6. Remedy Organics
Created by a certified holistic nutritionist, her plant-based, nutrient-dense ready-to drink protein shakes promise to aid in muscle recovery, digestion, and fortifying immunity while being free of dairy, gluten, soy, and GMOs. In the case of silky Matcha Oxidants, it’s also formulated with Japanese matcha and maca to deliver a boost in the a.m. or pre- and post-workout. Matcha is also one of the main ingredients in the new-in-2021 Energize Me Immunity+ Shots along with cayenne for a metabolism boost. The creamy Keto varieties including the chocolate and cold brew flavors pump up the total protein and also provide a portable pick-me-up. Note that these demand space in your fridge.
7. Organic India Tulsi Teas
There’s nothing new about this brand’s flagship herb, Tulsi aka holy basil aka the “Queen of Herbs.” The ayurvedic adaptogen has been used to promote calm and clarity in the mind, immunity and detoxification in the body, and an overall sense of well-being for centuries in India.
The Tulsi Focus line, launched last October, also benefits from bonus nootropics gota kola (healthy blood flow to the brain) and bacopa (memory and mood) and adaptogens ashwagandha (relieves stress) and shankpushpi (concentration). There are four functional flavors. Clementine Vanilla and Hibiscus Cinnamon are caffeine-free while Pomegranate Orange green tea and Raspberry Lemon black tea contain 13 and 30 milligrams of caffeine respectively. They also make a caffeinated Tulsi Breakfast tea that is an energizing infusion of three varieties of the herb: Rama, Vana, and Krishna.
8. So Good So You Energy Probiotic Shot
Don’t hesitate to send these shots down the hatch as they are a blend of organic juices and superfoods known for imparting energy like coffeeberry extract (which adds 95 mg of caffeine), moringa powder, and orange, spinach, and mango juices. They’re also chock full of probiotics to support digestive and immune health. Nothing made in a lab makes the ingredient list, but the shots are made with 100% renewable energy in a zero-waste facility so your conscience can feel So Good too. The brand also offers shots aimed at correcting other complaints like a lack of endurance, terrible sleep, fading beauty, or a need to detox.
When a Tennessee momtrepreneur couldn’t find a satisfying coffee proxy for her percolator, she got creative and wound up inventing one. Her artisinal roasted root brew contains only six ingredients—organic quinoa, chicory root, orange peel, cloves, allspice, and superfood MCT coconut oil—yet delivers a full-bodied mouthfeel that doesn’t wreak havoc on the stomach. Mommy’s little helper is sugar-free, caffeine-free, gluten-free, vegan, and low-carb. MCT has been associated with a natural rush and increased mental focus. Comes as grounds (can use with coffeemaker and French press), single-serving pouches (great for travel), and ready-to-drink cold brew. Part of the proceeds are donated to National Angels, a nonprofit that provides goods and services to the foster care community, so your heart and your body will be warmed by nuJo.
Don’t call it a comeback. The ancient buzzy beverage has been here for years. In fact, it dates back to 220 BC China. Made when sugar-sweetened tea is fermented with a starter culture of symbiotic bacteria and yeast called a SCOBY, it’s a probiotic like kimchi and kefir that can help keep you regular, improve digestion, fight inflammation (often linked to chronic fatigue symptoms), and level up your immunity. It’s also rich in folic acid, phytochemicals and phytonutrients (delivery systems for beneficial antioxidants), and B-vitamins, which are proven liver and kidney helpers and improve neurotransmitter production, memory, and nerve and blood cell maintenance. All eight B vitamins help convert food into fuel which becomes body energy.
Booch can also be a source of extra vigor as it starts its life cycle as tea and therefore contains caffeine but know that the dose is far lower than coffee. It used to be something you had to cultivate in your closet or track down at hippie co-ops and health food stores, but the current upswing in popularity means the tangy drink is stocked just about everywhere these days. Health-Ade, a favorite of model Ashley Graham, pulls its wide range of flavors like pink lady apple, mint limeade, Cayenne Cleanse, and pomegranate from juices cold-pressed out of real organic produce. They also offer Booch Pop, which drinks more like a soda while still benefiting the belly, and the Health-Ade PLUS line, which takes the classic formula and adds adaptogens and functional ingredients to achieve certain moods like relaxed or address target issues like beauty or stamina. PLUS Energy uses lemon, basil, and guarana to deliver an extra perk pop.
And if you’re looking to add a little effervescence to your day drinking or wellness to your late-night imbibing, opt for a quality hard kombucha like JuneShine (mmmm, Blood Orange Mint) or Flying Embers, which gives back 1% of revenue to firefighters and first responder charities after a heroic effort saved their brewery during the 2017 Thomas Fire. The ABV varies but the products are usually still low on sugar content and the probiotic qualities are still present.
11. Slate Milk
Slurping down chocolate milk makes you feel like a kid again. But when that milk is Shark Tank alum Slate, the decision to nostalgically indulge is actually a solid example of adulting. Slate’s cocoa creations are made using ultrafiltration which makes the milk lactose-free and results in less sugar (nine grams a can) and 50% more protein (17 grams a can). As protein takes longer to break down in the ol’ bod than carbs, it becomes a longer-lasting energy source and helps muscle recovery after the gym.
Both the classic and dark chocolate versions are caffeine-free, but the espresso chocolate packs an extra two-shot punch (150 milligrams) of caffeine from Columbian coffee. All can be enjoyed hot or cold and do not require refrigeration. And come April, the team will unveil an improved formulation that promises to be more indulgent and provide even more nutritional benefits.
12. Blume Beetroot Blend
This pretty-in-pink latte replacement is a mug-nificent way to start your morning. Not only is it a creamy warming blend with hints of clove and ginger, it’s also bursting with beetroots. Seriously, there are more than 20 per bag.
Beets have earned a rep as caffeine-free consistent stamina builders that also do wonders for heart health (relaxes blood vessels), liver detoxification, inflammation, and muscle recovery. Everything is ground for better absorption but it also adds versatility. If you aren’t in the mood for a hot beverage, sprinkle Blume into smoothies, oatmeal, or homemade snack balls.
13. Cascara Tea
Remember cascara from a few paragraphs ago? It is more than a flavorful addition to cacao water. The husks of coffee cherries, usually left behind as waste from the coffee-making process, are dried to create a product similar to herbal tea with a sweet and fruity taste with a touch of tobacco. The product’s biggest benefit is in the cleansed-colon arena but the antioxidant-rich elixir also improves digestion, skin, and sleep, reduces stress, and aids memory and clarity.
14. Anthony’s Chicory Root Granules
Chicory root has been used by various cultures including Egyptians for centuries who valued its curative effects on jaundice, gout, and enlarged livers. When Union blockades cut off the port of New Orleans during the Civil War, Louisianians added it to grounds to extend the coffee supply. It’s still served in popular NOLA spots like Café du Monde.
Recreate the unique flavor profile at home by augmenting your stash with these organic caffeine-free granules during brewing. If you’re looking for something caffeine-free to sip instead, simply brew Anthony’s solo in a coffeemaker. Chicory is high in inulin, like Teeccino, which studies have shown promotes healthy gut bacteria colonization, weight loss, constipation relief, and blood sugar control. Warning: As the chicory plant is in the dandelion family, folks with ragweed or birch pollen allergies should avoid this coffee alternative as it has been known to cause similar reactions.
Available in 12 sparkling and non-carbonated flavors like watermelon, limited-edition Peach Vibe, and raspberry acai green tea, this sugar-free, low-carb energy drink is a monster help at the gym. CELSIUS is fortified with seven essential vitamins including C, B6, B12, niacin, and riboflavin but lacks junk like aspartame and high fructose corn syrup. Its MetaPlus strange brew of guarana, ginger extract, caffeine, and other items with fueling properties has been clinically proven to accelerate metabolism and help bodies burn calories and body fat when exercising.
16. Yerba Mate
This substitute is a south-of-the-border special. Way south as in Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, or Argentina (it’s the national drink in that country), where, usually using a specialty gourd cup and metal straw with a flattened opening, they suck down yerba mate post-hikes, at social gatherings, and after rolling out of bed in the mornings, as it has a similarly high caffeine content as coffee.
It is made by soaking the leaves of a native holly tree found in the rainforests in hot water. Regular drinkers swear it doesn’t cause the shakes or an intense crash. More reasons to make friends with mate: B and C vitamins and polyphenol antioxidants like chlorogenic acid.
17. Mushroom Coffees
Stubborn potheads who perk up at the mere mention of macchiatos and aren’t ready to retire the robusta should still consider upgrading their java jolt for wellness purposes. One way to do that is by pouring a cup of morning joe infused with functional fungi.
Four Sigmatic, early adopters who brought the concept to the U.S. mass market, adds lion’s mane and chaga to their single-origin arabica grounds claiming the mushrooms help smooth out the caffeine intake to avoid a mid-day crash. The feline-named fungus is a nootropic long thought to fine-tune cognitive duties of memory, focus, and concentration. It tastes and smells like coffee. The “Think” line, which also contains rhodiola root to combat stress, also comes in instant packets and coffee pods. The brand also puts lion’s mane in its Focus shots, which taste like pineapple and have 50 milligrams of caffeine from guayusa (a type of holly tree) instead of coffee.
Mushroom Cups are another option for trying this trend. Owned by a former professional Croatian basketball player who became obsessed with the medicinal properties of fungi when his father fell ill, M.C. sources its single-origin beans from Peru’s Cajamarca region, employs specialty shroom hunters, and offers a variety of recipes to achieve different results.
Go Tireless! aims to enhance stamina and energy through chanterelle and cordyceps extracts. Go Sharp! is powered by lion’s mane and chanterelles to boost learning and focus. The main flavor is coffee but with a dark chocolate note. All formulas come in instant powder form so they can be used to whip up another pandemic-era trend, Dalgona coffee. Bonus points: the packaging is 100% recyclable.