10 Best Coffee Alternatives to Try This Year
Move over, coffee. You've got competition.
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You’ve got options
Somewhere between hunting down the best coffee makers, the best cold brewers, and the best gifts for coffee lovers, we decided we should maybe take a coffee break, and ended up here. Maybe you’re a coffee connoisseur who’s tired of dealing with caffeine jitters or that dreaded afternoon crash, or maybe you’re just looking to spice up your usual morning routine. Whatever the reason that led you to read this article on coffee alternatives, you’re here now, and we’re in this together. Before we jump in, let’s acknowledge something: If you regularly rely on traditional java for your morning buzz and mental clarity, ditching it might feel like it’s anything but easy, but we’re here to tell you that it is, in fact, totally doable.
There’s a coffee alternative for pretty much everyone—yes, even hard-core java fans. (Side note: You officially qualify as “hard-core” if you can answer these coffee trivia questions.) Short on time? There’s a coffee alternative for that. Need a chocolate fix? There’s one for that, too. Still craving the taste of traditional coffee? Yep, there’s even one for that. The best part is that all of these have tons of health benefits and they wake you up, so you’ll be getting the energy and focus you need without the side effects of regular coffee. Sounds like magic, right? It sort of is.
Best for: Chocolate lovers
If you’re a fan of mocha-flavored java but want to venture into the world of coffee alternatives, we have a solution: brewed cacao (not to be confused with cocoa). Think hot (or iced) chocolate that’ll give you a serious boost of energy while also benefiting your health. You won’t need to give up your morning routine, either. You can brew cacao just like a regular cup o’ joe—sans the bitterness—and it’ll make your kitchen smell heavenly.
And that energy boost? You can thank theobromine, a naturally occurring stimulant in cacao that expands your blood vessels (as opposed to coffee, which constricts them), doesn’t activate your central nervous system, and lasts longer than caffeine. As an added bonus, brewed cacao is full of immune system–boosting antioxidants, as well as magnesium and phenylethylamine (aka the “love drug”). If you’re trying cacao for the first time, this sampler set from Crio Bru—which comes with five delectable flavors—is perfect for newbies.
Best for: When you really need some energy
We know what you’re thinking: How can I give up my morning black eye (ahem, drip coffee and double espresso) on those days when I really need the extra energy? We’re glad you asked. Enter matcha, the more nutrient-dense version of traditional green tea. (We’re talking twice the amount of antioxidants, people.) Traditional green tea’s nutrients come from the water that the leaves have been seeping in; with matcha, you consume the entirety of the crushed-up tea leaves after whisking the powder in hot liquid.
Matcha contains more caffeine than traditional green tea but less than regular coffee. One eight-ounce cup of matcha touts about 70 mg of caffeine, while an eight-ounce cup of coffee usually has around 95 to 200 mg. Health benefits aside, matcha contains something called l-theanine, which helps slow the process of your body absorbing the caffeine so you’re less likely to experience caffeine crashes. Plus, matcha is pretty versatile and can be used in smoothies, baking, cooking, lattes, and even skin care—but make sure you get the real stuff, like this organic Japanese matcha from Jade Leaf. By the way, here’s how to steep the perfect cup of tea every time.
Best for: Tea enthusiasts
You might be familiar with yerba mate (or “mate”) just based on how often you’ve seen cans of it lined up on the shelves at your local health-food store. If you haven’t tried it yourself, let us fill you in on why this traditional South American beverage is so popular. Yerba mate comes from evergreen tree leaves, which explains its tea-like flavor, and contains naturally occurring caffeine (albeit slightly less than how much coffee has), theophylline, and theobromine. Although it’s often purchased cold and pre-canned, you can also make your own yerba mate at home with tea bags. If you don’t like its bittersweet flavor, milk and sugar can be added, similar to how coffee is prepared.
Yerba mate is also full of things called polyphenols (coffee contains these as well), which can act as antioxidants, have antibacterial properties, and protect against diseases. In addition, yerba mate is a great option if you’re watching your blood sugar levels, trying to lose weight, or looking to reduce LDL cholesterol levels. If you don’t want to trade in your regular morning brewing routine for some canned “mate,” you can order a variety pack of this highly rated organic yerba mate from Kiss Me Organics and make your own at home.
Best for: When you’re short on time
You overslept, don’t have time to wait for coffee to brew, and need a serious energy boost—fast. Sound familiar? It happens to the best of us, which is why dandelion coffee is the perfect caffeine-free solution if you’re often on the go or want to minimize your morning routine so you can squeeze in every last minute of shut-eye. Dandelion coffee has a mildly sweet, rich flavor and is made with roasted dandelion root. It’s often blended with other ingredients, like barley rye, beets, and chicory root, all of which dissolve instantly in hot or cold liquid (think instant coffee, but better).
The roasted dandelion root is rich in probiotics, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, so its health benefits are pretty darn impressive. It also tastes super similar to regular, full-bodied coffee, but without the acidity or bitterness. In lieu of caffeine, the root (pun intended) of post-dandelion energy is thanks to its trace minerals that can support adrenal functions, according to Gina Reale, director of development of Dandy Blend. There’s a reason Dandy Blend has more than 8,200 five-star reviews on Amazon, by the way. But don’t just take our word for it—try it out for yourself! Before you check out, you may also want to take a look at these other brilliant buys on Amazon with practically perfect reviews.
Best for: If you love the taste of coffee
Just because you switch over to a coffee alternative doesn’t mean you need to give up the beloved flavor of a traditional cup o’ joe. Brewed chicory mimics the flavor of regular coffee pretty seamlessly without containing any caffeine or upsetting your digestive system. “Chicory is a prebiotic, and it is the botanical with the highest content of inulin, a soluble fiber that nourishes the microflora in the microbiome,” Caroline MacDougall, the CEO and founder of Teeccino, tells Reader’s Digest. Its high levels of inulin (not to be confused with insulin) can help increase your gut’s good bacteria, tame blood sugar levels, and even reduce the risk of colon cancer. Plus, brewed chicory can improve brain health, courtesy of its levels of manganese and vitamin B6.
Now that we know some of its health benefits, let’s move on to what makes chicory such a convenient source of natural energy, starting with its high levels of potassium. Some chicory beverages, like Teeccino’s, contain even more potassium than popular sports drinks, which helps restore electrolytes, providing a boost of energy without the crash that caffeine gives you. How can you test out some of this stuff for yourself? Teeccino offers herbal chicory “coffee” that can be brewed like coffee, steeped like tea, or prepared like an instant beverage to cut down on time. Since you’ll be brewing this as usual coffee, you’ll still need to know how to clean a coffee maker.
Barley (orzo) coffee
Best for: If you have an espresso machine
If you’ve already dropped hundreds (if not more) on an at-home espresso machine and don’t want it to go to waste by ditching espresso altogether, barley (or “orzo”) coffee will be your best friend. Also known as caffè d’orzo, this Italian coffee substitute is caffeine-free and made from roasted ground barley grains. As you could probably guess, barley doesn’t exactly taste like traditional espresso; instead, it touts an “earthy, slightly bitter taste, with less body and richness,” according to The Kitchn. Although its most popular preparation method is via espresso machine, barley coffee can also be made using a regular coffee pot or a stove-top Moka pot.
It’s important to note that barley coffee doesn’t necessarily have “energizing” qualities besides its potassium content, which can help restore electrolytes; although, if you’re trying to wean off traditional coffee, it might be a good, caffeine-free alternative to periodically switch off with. Plus, you’ll be taking advantage of all the other nutrients found in barley, like vitamins B and E, phosphorus, and magnesium. The best part? You don’t have to travel to Italy to get it. Orzo Buono sells bags of organic barley on Amazon for just $9.
Best for: If you love spices
First, we need to talk about the common misconception of the word chai. Chai translates as “tea” in Hindi, so if you say “chai tea,” you’re really just saying “tea tea.” Masala chai, on the other hand, means “spiced tea,” which is what we’ll be discussing here.
Masala chai is a strongly flavored, full-bodied black tea that’s usually accompanied by hot milk. Much of its taste comes from added spices, which usually include cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, or other varieties. And yes, like most black tea, masala chai is pretty caffeinated—but it still has less caffeine than a cup of regular coffee. Besides giving you the perfect morning buzz, masala tea can also improve heart health, lower blood sugar levels, minimize nausea, improve digestion, and aid in weight loss. If you want to save some money, masala chai is super easy to make at home using masala concentrate and the milk of your choice. Our personal favorite? Dona Masala Chai Concentrate, which has notes of cinnamon bark, cardamom, vanilla bean, cloves, black peppercorns, and cold-pressed ginger.
Best for: When you want to wean off traditional coffee
If fig coffee isn’t already on your radar, we have some pretty good reasons why it should be. First of all, figs are full of vitamins and minerals, like potassium, iron, vitamins A and E, and alkaline. They’re also naturally caffeine-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, and processed sugar–free, which makes fig coffee a smooth, rich, and healthy substitute for traditional java.
If you’re trying to wean yourself off the latter, Coffig, a company that exclusively creates fig-based beverages, has an entire program dedicated to precisely that. It’s called the Coffig Replacement Program (CRP). The process begins by mixing a 20:80 ratio of Coffig to coffee for three days. Then, the ratio increases to 50:50 of each beverage for the next three to four days. After a week passes, a ratio of 80:20 of Coffig to coffee is used for two to three more days. At about the ten-day point, you might find that you’re finally able to ditch coffee for good, says William G. Paúl, cofounder of Coffig.
The brewing process is an absolute breeze. You can make this stuff in virtually any coffee maker, although Paúl recommends using a French press. One thing to keep in mind: Fig coffee can be pretty concentrated—almost twice as much as regular coffee—so keep that in mind while brewing.
Best for: If you want flavor options
If you like swapping flavors every now and then, Café Capomo comes in hazelnut, caramel, classic (notes of cinnamon and chocolate), and turmeric—but its variety isn’t even the best part of this deliciously nutty, mocha-like coffee substitute. Before we get into why capomo coffee is worth investing in, let’s dial it back to the basics. What the heck is capomo, anyway?
In short, capomo (also known as Maya tree nut) is a seed that’s harvested from capomo trees, which are native to the rainforests of Latin America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. It’s naturally caffeine-free, has no alkaloids, and comes jam-packed with fiber, potassium, calcium, iron, and other antioxidants and vitamins. Not to mention, capomo can help keep your blood sugar in check and promote cognitive function and serotonin production. In case that’s not impressive enough, capomo is also rich in anti-inflammatory compounds and even provides 19 of the 20 amino acids essential to the human body. “These amino acids are the building blocks for proteins that are important for many functions in the body, including building muscle, stimulating antibodies, repairing cells, fighting bacteria and viruses, and carrying oxygen throughout the body,” notes Peter Bowes, owner of Tattva’s Herbs and Café Capomo. Even though you’ve switched to alternatives, you’ll still get a kick out of these hilarious coffee memes.
Best for: If you don’t want to give up coffee completely
Maybe you don’t want to give up on coffee completely, but you still like the idea of packing in all those extra nutrients in your morning brew. Allow us to introduce mushroom coffee. Before you jump to conclusions about the “odd” flavor combo of coffee and mushrooms, hear us out: This stuff is delicious. Our favorites are made by Renude and Four Sigmatic.
Renude’s Chagaccino is made from a combination of cacao, cinnamon, vanilla, and monk fruit, with chaga (750 mg per packet!) being the main star of the show. Chaga has crazy high levels of antioxidants. Plus, it is the most alkaline food on the planet, helps improve gut health, and contains more than 215 phytonutrients. It also helps relieve stress, boosts immunity, aids in anti-aging, provides long-lasting energy (a boost of up to 25 percent compared to just coffee, in fact), and helps improve brain function. All you’ll need is a cup of hot coffee (or a double shot of espresso), one packet of Chagaccino, some milk, and ice if you want to enjoy it cold.
If you’re looking for a two-in-one kind of deal, Four Sigmatic supplies both the coffee and the mushroom goodness. Similar to Renude, Four Sigmatic’s products also utilize the magic of chaga mushrooms—sometimes with their own twist. For instance, Four Sigmatic’s best-selling product contains chaga and another mushroom called lion’s mane. Both fungi are combined with organic ground coffee to create a jitter- and crash-free experience that can also help with stress management and balancing out the energy high from caffeine in coffee.
Best for: If you want extra health benefits
Trendy Golden Milk, a creamy golden-hued turmeric latte with complex, spiced, gingery flavors, dates back thousands of years—to Ayurvedic medicine in India. Its star ingredient, curcumin, is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that studies suggest can boost heart health, help fight cancer, and ease arthritis and depression. It’s also delicious! Gaia Golden Milk is made with organic turmeric, dates, cardamom, and vanilla bean, plus ashwagandha (an ancient herb known as an adaptogen for its ability to help the body manage stress). Mix it with heated milk or plant-based milk—fans love it with almond milk, cashew milk, and maybe a dash of honey—when you’re ready to savor a piping hot cup of golden goodness.
- Women’s Health: “Does Matcha Have As Much Caffeine As Coffee? Here’s What To Know”
- Livestrong: “Yerba Mate Vs. Coffee” livestrong.com
- Healthline: “What Are Polyphenols? Types, Benefits, and Food Sources”
- HuffPost: “So What Is Dandelion Coffee, Anyway?”
- The Spruce Eats: “What Is Chicory Coffee?”
- The Kitchn: “Caffè d’Orzo: The Italian Espresso That Isn’t Actually Coffee”
- Healthline: “How Chai Tea Can Improve Your Health”
- Food & Wine: “What Is Chai and How to Make It”
- The Spruce Eats: “The History of Masala Chai”
- Healthline: “All You Need to Know About Figs”
- Blue Zones: “Maya Nut: Traditional Mayan Superfood and Coffee Alternative You Need to Know About”
- WebMD: Turmeric
- WebMD: Ashwagandha