Let’s make one thing clear right off the bat — we’re big fans of coffee here at Spy. Well, personally, I’m not. I don’t drink caffeine, but my fellow editors definitely are! I know, I know… I’ve just never liked the taste of coffee or felt the need for it, okay?! But there are plenty of people out there who adore roasting hot bean water every morning and I hold nothing against them. It’s a beautiful morning ritual, truly. You turn on your favorite standard coffee maker, Keurig coffee machine or cold brew maker, add in beans from your bougie coffee subscription and coffee creamer and boom! You’ve jump-started your brain, body and day with a single jolt.
However, alongside coffee and consuming massive amounts of caffeine on a daily basis can come some nasty side effects. These include but are not limited to: jitters, trouble sleeping, anxiety, tweaking, the want to say “this blend is over-extracted” or, the worst of all, coffee breath.
Whether you’re trying to cut back on your caffeine intake, want to try a new beverage out or need to switch up your routine to avoid the afternoon crash — I’ve gathered up some worthwhile coffee alternatives you should try. They range widely in terms of taste, style and caffeine level. Some are equal to and/or more caffeinated than coffee and others are gentler drinks that’ll wake you up without that surge of adrenaline and fight-or-flight response. I’ll walk you through each one, discuss the pros and cons and discuss options for making it a part of your morning routine.
First, Some Supplies
For all of the methods below you’ll need some supplies. Mainly, an electric kettle and mugs. You probably have these things, but I wanted to share my favorite versions in case you need something new for your kitchen counter.
Fellow Stagg EKG
This kettle might be expensive, but I can assure you it’s not overrated. It’s pretty and works well with a 1200 watt heating element that can heat up the full capacity quickly and maintain water at a certain temperature for 60 minutes. You can select your exact temperature from a range of 135°F to 212°F and keep track on the sleek LCD screen. It comes in five different colors including matte white, copper and silver — but I prefer the matte black.
BTaT Coffee Mug Set
With a new caffeine (or lack thereof) routine should come a fresh set of mugs. I love these ceramic marble mugs for their simplistic look colorful interiors. This set comes with six different mugs, and each one has a black matte finish on the outside and a different color inside. Each one has a large handle so you can comfortably hold the cup, and they’re dishwasher and microwave-safe.
Stojo Collapsible Coffee Cup
This collapsible travel mug from Stojo is convenient and sustainable, made from food-grade silicone and recycled materials. It comes with a silicone straw and is virtually indestructible. It’s a perfect travel cup as it’s got a narrow base for fitting in cup holders and comes in two different sizes for larger or medium beverages.
Alternative 1: Matcha
Matcha tea is a well-known coffee alternative and has become trendy because of its gentle, flavorful and comforting offering of caffeine in a healthy package. Matcha is made from ground up green tea leaves and is packed with antioxidants. It may lower high blood pressure and has been tied to reduced weight, body fat and a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes. Plus, it’s green and looks great in the ‘gram. Here’s how to make it:
- Sift 1-2 teaspoons of matcha powder using a mesh strainer into a small bowl.
- Add a little hot water between the temperatures of 160-170°F, and stir slowly until all the powder has dissolved. A whisk helps with this step.
- Once a light foam forms across the top, your tea is ready! You can add creamer, milk or a non-dairy alternative at this step to complete your latté.
Pros: Healthier, earthy flavor, pairs well with dairy and non-dairy creamers.
Caffeine Level: High — Matcha typically has more caffeine than green tea and and sometimes more than coffee depending on the blend and size of the cup.
Jade Leaf Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder
This matcha green tea powder is grown without pesticides or artificial fertilizers, and comes from authentic Japanese farms that are certified organic. All tea is sourced directly from Uji and Kagoshima in Japan. This is a culinary-grade powder that can be used to brew tea, mix in smoothies, bake with and more. It has fantastic ratings on Amazon, with a 4.5-star rating and over 47,000 reviews.
PureChimp Matcha Green Tea Powder
This is another top-rated matcha powder that’s slightly less expensive per ounce than the previous option. It’s ceremonial-grade and comes from Japan, where the leaves to make it are grown without pesticides. It has 137x more EGCG (antioxidants) than regular green tea because it uses the whole leaf, and can boost your metabolism and energy levels as well.
Artcome Japanese Matcha Tea Set
This matcha tea set comes with everything you need to make a delicious, tea-ceremony-worthy matcha drink at home. It’s got the mesh strainer, ceramic bowl and whisk we mentioned in the directions above, as well as a tiny scoop for the powder and whisk holder. All of it is decoratively designed and made of all-natural bamboo too. These are authentic Japanese tea ceremony tools and have a vegetable oil finish that enhances durability.
Alternative 2: Mushrooms
Mushrooms have become much more mainstream for their neurological benefits and health benefits in general. You’ve probably heard of Lions Mane, Reishi, Chaga and other ‘shrooms known for their brain-boosting powers. Well, instead of mixing mushrooms into their coffee some people have skipped the middle man and started guzzling mushrooms every sunrise. It might sound weird, but it could give you that mental clarity you’re looking for in the morning without the crash.
Drinkable mushrooms come in powder form and can be mixed with hot water or into another beverage depending on your preference. Some mushroom blends have no caffeine, and some have a very small amount when compared to coffee, so you get the boost of cognitive power without jitters later on.
Pros: Healthy for your brain, easy to drink or mix into other beverages, superfood powers.
Caffeine Level: Low to none.
Here are three of my favorite drinkable mushroom options:
Four Sigmatic Chaga Mushroom Elixir
Four Sigmatic makes excellent mushroom blends that can be mixed into coffee, smoothies, teas or enjoyed on their own. This blend contains 1,500mg of chaga, a mushroom that was used as a coffee alternative in World War II. It supports your immune system, has adaptogenic properties that help your body respond healthily to stress, and has antioxidant properties as well. This blend also contains rose hips for a natural, rich source of vitamin C. It tastes like a tea but contains no caffeine.
Cocotropic Wild Superfood Elixir
This powder is a blend of a whole bunch of healthy, cognitive-boosting ingredients that promote overall well-being. The base is raw cacao and it contains herbs and mushrooms like Reishi and Chaga that support immunity health and mental focus. This is another powder that can be mixed into other drinks or enjoyed on its own in hot water with a little sweetener of your choosing.
MUD\WTR is actually what inspired me to write this piece in the first place! It’s a coffee alternative made with the purpose of helping you focus, achieve mental clarity and get a natural energy boost without jitters, anxiety or an afternoon crash. It’s made of a bunch of delicious, healthy ingredients that have been used by cultures around the world for centuries including mushrooms, masala chai, sea salt, turmeric, and cacao. It has 1/7th of the caffeine of a cup of coffee, and tastes pretty good too. I was sent a sample of MUD\WTR to try and while I admit it tastes earthy, I’m a fan of that palette and love that it gives me energy without frying my nerves. If you’re caffeine-sensitive and that’s why you’re searching for coffee alternatives, I recommend you give this a try.
Alternative 3: Yerba Mate
Yerba Mate is a naturally caffeinated beverage made from the leaves of the South American holly tree. The caffeine content of a yerba mate tea typically matches that of coffee, and it’s loaded with plant antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. The taste tends to be a bit smokier than coffee or other teas and is best enjoyed steeped in hot water and served plain.
Pros: Equal to coffee in caffeine level, easy to make, can buy in cans as well.
Caffeine Level: Equal to coffee
Guayaki Yerba Mate Drink
Anyone else drink these in high school? The lemon flavor disguises the smokiness of the tea itself, and the cans are convenient to grab and go. This tea blend also has accents of ginger and elderflower in it, and is USDA organic. Each can has 150mg of caffeine which is more than the average 95 mg of caffeine in a cup of coffee. It’s designed to give you a “high energy infusion” through a blend of the strength of coffee, health benefits of tea and euphoria of chocolate.
Organic Yerba Mate Tea Bags
If you prefer to steep and brew your own tea beverage, these Yerba Mate tea bags enable you to do just that. This Yerba Mate is 100% Brazilian and comes in four flavors including green mate, green mate with mint, lemon and roasted. Each bag is vitamin-packed and contains antioxidants. This pack contains 80 tea bags, so if you’re not sure you like the taste of Yerba Mate I might start with a smaller purchase.
ECOTEAS Unsmoked Yerba Mate Tea
This unsmoked Yerba Mate is more environmentally-friendly than its fellow Mate blends, and the packaging is designed to create minimal waste. The drink is easy to make with a simple one tea bag to one cup of water ratio. The tea makes for a great detox as it boosts metabolism, reduces appetite and burns calories all at once. It’s naturally caffeinated for a low-acid, long-lasting energy effect that’s formulated to be jitter-free as well.
Alternative 4: Chicory Coffee
Chicory root is similar to coffee in that it can be ground up and brewed into a deliciously hot morning beverage that tastes similarly to coffee but is caffeine-free. It’s a root that aids in digestion and supports a healthy gut through containing inulin, a soluble fiber that promotes the growth of helpful bacteria.
Chicory root can be purchased pre-ground and roasted, just like coffee beans, and you can use all the same equipment to make a beverage with it as you would coffee — a French press, espresso machine or regular coffee maker.
It may cause stomach upset in some people due to the digestive benefits, so if you’re got a sensitive stomach try it in small doses at first.
Pros: Similar taste to coffee, can use all the same equipment, caffeine-free and aids in digestion.
Caffeine Level: None.
Teeccino Chicory Vanilla Nut Coffee Alternative
This chicory herbal coffee from Teeccino is a Vanilla Nut blend that provides a natural energy boost from nutrients rather than a stimulant. This blend is acid-free and designed to not interfere with digestion. It contains prebiotics that support your gut microbiome and the all-purpose brew works in any kind of coffee maker.
Herbaila Chicory Root Roasted Granules
This chicory root coffee is ground for a rich, dark roast with a woody, nutty taste and robust flavor all around. The chicory powder is high in inulin and aids in digestion. The coffee-like taste is robust but it contains no caffeine. Herbaila sources their chicory from all-natural, clean sources in India that ensure purity in every package.
Anthony’s Instant Chicory Root Coffee Alternative
This is an instant coffee version of chicory root coffee that’s been batch-tested and verified gluten-free. It’s a caffeine-free alternative to coffee that’s non-GMO and contains no sugar. You can mix this clean powder in with another drink or enjoy it on its own. Simply mix three teaspoons of Anthony’s powder in with 8 ounces of hot water, milk or other liquid and stir.
Alternative 5: Chai Tea
Chai is a favorite caffeine alternative of mine if I’m at a coffee house and feel like I must order something. Chai tea is a black tea blended with herbs and spices that’s a common morning beverage in India. It contains less caffeine than coffee at only 47mg per cup, but it may improve cognitive alertness and help wake up your brain each morning.
Black tea is different from green tea in that it goes through a fermentation process that changes its chemical structure. Both have antioxidants and both may help improve cardiovascular health.
Here’s a simple chai tea recipe you can follow to make your own blend from scratch at home:
- Grind four cardamom seeds, two black peppercorns and four cloves until they’re a soft powder.
- Combine the spices with two cups of water, a slice of fresh ginger and a cinnamon stick in a saucepan. Bring the whole thing to a boil and then remove it from heat.
- Add two black tea bags and steep for 10 minutes.
- Strain the tea into two mugs and combine with your favorite milk or non-dairy creamer alternative for a chai tea latté, or drink it plain.
Pros: Great taste, less caffeine than coffee, combines well with dairy and non-dairy creamers.
Caffeine Level: About half that of coffee.
Here are a few of my favorite chai tea blends if you prefer to not make your own:
FGO Organic Chai Tea Bags
Each tea bag in this bag is a blend of black tea and spices, as described above, and is certified USDA organic. The bag contains 100 tea bags and is made of eco-conscious packaging. You can steep these tea bags in water and combine with milk for a latté, rather than combining your own spices.
Taylors of Harrogate Classic Chai Tea
This is another bagged chai tea variety that contains the Taylors family Chai recipe. It has a secret blend of spices paired with robust black teas from East Africa and Assam. Each one is rich with a hint of sweetness and enjoyed best steeped in boiling water with a little warm milk thrown in.
Blue Lotus Traditional Masala Chai
This authentic Indian tea contains no sweeteners and is made instant, with no steeping required to enjoy. You mix the powder with water, milk and sweetener and enjoy. This chai is clean and pure with no added spices or additives inside. The tin comes with a bamboo scoop for measurement and makes 100 cups.
Alternative 6: Rooibos Tea
Rooibos is a caffeine-free red tea that’s originally from South Africa but is now available in coffee shops around the world. Unlike caffeinated teas and coffee, rooibos is low in tannin antioxidants, the kind found in red wine, which are beneficial sometimes but can also interfere with your body’s ability to absorb iron. Rooibos does provide a good amount of other antioxidants, and it’s got a longer steep time than other teas so you don’t need to worry about steeping it for too long.
Concrete evidence when it comes to health benefits is limited, however one test-tube study found that rooibos may help prevent heart disease, and another potentially found a reduction in cancer risk.
Pros: Healthy antioxidants, easy to prepare, fruity herbal taste, beautiful red color.
Caffeine Level: None.
FGO Store Organic Rooibos Tea Bags
This bag contains 100 foil-lined rooibos tea bags packed in California. They’re made of Abacá Hemp Fiber paper so they’re eco-conscious and contain no staples, thread or extra waste. The tea is certified USDA organic and the tea itself is sourced sustainably in South Africa.
MY RED TEA Rooibos Tea
This rooibos tea from MY RED TEA is 100% pure, non-GMO and naturally caffeine-free. It’s from South Africa and is sustainably-sourced on friendly, USDA-certified organic farms. 10% of the profits from this purchase will go towards supporting culture and education in farming communities, so your tea drinking is serving a larger purpose than just breaking with caffeine.
Twinings of London Pure Rooibos Herbal Red Tea
This familiar brand that specializes in all types of tea has a rooibos blend as well. Twinings works with trusted growers all around the world to source the finest leaves for their tea blends. This 100% pure rooibos blend has an uplifting aroma for a boost of energy despite being caffeine-free, and it’s got a naturally sweet taste that’s perfect on its own or with a little honey. Twinings started off in the tea business with a storefront in London in 1706 and now specializes in blends of all kinds all over the world.