It’s been a several years now since I’ve kicked my coffee addiction now opting for a morning chai tea or sometimes a low or no caffeine option like the ones listed below. It wasn’t easy, and coffee has definitely been my greatest vice in life. I started drinking it at a young age after getting some of those sugary frozen drinks from Starbucks and discovering caffeine. I used to spend a lot of time at my grandparent’s house growing up, and I’d sit with my grandma in the morning while she drank her cup of coffee and watched morning shows. I remember it smelling sooo good, but tasting sooo bad (when I was young, but not for long 😈). Drinking coffee is a deeply sensual experience and it’s easy to get triggered just by walking into a coffee shop. The smell, the warmth in my hand (or nice cold beverage in the summer), the bitter yet delicious taste. Mmm. Well, if you’re here, maybe you’re like me and wondered: “What else could replace this delicious morning beverage?” Below I’ll go through a few alternatives to coffee that are often used that you can explore when making your own blends and recommend a few of my favorite products, too.
1. Herbal Roots
There are a lot of commercially available blends of herbal roots, like roasted dandelion root, that have a similar flavor to the bean. If you don’t like the wired feeling that coffee gives you and want to build up more resilience and energy over time a blend of herbal roots and adaptogens might be a better choice for you. Coffee often leaves us feeling depleted and the highs and lows can make it tough to get through the day without drinking more. For some of us at this point, sleep becomes a challenge and the cycle continues. As for herbal roots, most commonly I see roasted dandelion root and chicory root being used in herbal coffee blends as the flavor profile is similar to coffee. However, you can use other roots such as burdock, shatavari, astragalus, ashwagandha, etc. to name a few. You may want to look at the herbal properties to decide which of these herbs would be best for you–are you going for effect, flavor, or a combination? All things to consider when deciding on your roots.
Dandelion root is the most often used root alternative to coffee. It has a roasty, nutty flavor reminiscent of coffee. It’s bitter, drying, and cooling–good for the liver and digestion. You’ll find it as an ingredient in detoxifying blends as well. It’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antiviral, and antibacterial. For these reasons, many cultures have viewed dandelion as a tonic, and what a great choice to replace coffee with all these beneficial properties.
As an aside, you know what has really been the reason that I feel like sharing herbal information? I feel like there are some big plant medicines out there that steal the light from some lesser known stars. And I've often felt that way in my life, I don't like the spotlight, but I know I am special in a lot of ways. So I relate to these lesser worked-with plant friends. The ones that are often seen as garbage to others are actually grand treasures. I know that herbalism has really gotten popular in the last few years, but my whole life I've been a plant person and I feel that we should really be looking at what plants and mushrooms grow in our regions, growing them ourselves if we can, and getting them from local growers when we're able to. Better yet, learn the native plants near you, learn their medicines, steward them. Make sure they don't go away. Help pick invasive species and use them as medicines. Cheers friends.
Chicory root is actually in the same family as dandelion–Asteraceae. It has a woody and nutty flavor, and it’s often added to coffee in New Orleans. It’s especially high in inulin, which if you look back at my article on gut health, is extremely helpful in rebuilding the gut and aiding in digestion. This may be a good option for you if you’re looking for an herb to support weight loss or help balance blood glucose levels.
Who wouldn’t want to drink a hot chocolate to get you going in the morning? This can be a delicious alternative to coffee, although it still does contain a small amount of caffeine for those looking to kick caffeine altogether this may not be the best choice or you may want to just add a small amount to a blend. Cacao is a rich source of antioxidants, polyphenols, and flavonoids. However, its treasured taste has led to myriad social and environmental issues. As with all resources from the earth, please make sure you’re sourcing from a sustainable, ethical place. Many cacao companies work with plantations that employ child labor, don’t offer fair prices to the farmer, or don’t work with farms performing proper agroforestry practices. With both coffee and cacao as commodities there are many unethical brands out there!
With all that being said, cacao has a long history of relationship in Mesoamerican indigenous cultures which is important to acknowledge. It has been seen as divine and used in ceremonies and rituals, it’s included in creation myths, used as currency, worked with as an offering–just to name a few. A part of healing yourself, I’ve found, is taking a moment of gratitude and reflection for all the time it took for certain foods to get to you. I think of the seed, of the tree, of the forest, of the farmer, of the processing, of the buyers/companies, of me buying the product, of those delivering the product, etc. What a blessing to even be able to have cacao! It takes a lot to get to you for consumption. If you want to know more about cacao, I highly recommend checking out my herbal teacher Damiana’s work on her Patreon here. She has offered a recipe for a cacao elixir.
3. Medicinal Mushrooms
My personal favorite! 🍄 Many medicinal mushrooms have that roasted, savory flavor that you might find in some coffee beans. Not to mention, mushrooms have many beneficial medicinal properties making them an excellent replacement for coffee if you’re looking for a healthier option. I find chaga to be the most palatable, however, there are some concerns with over harvesting this one so just again look at your sourcing. Reishi is also a great adaptogenic mushroom that you’ll see often in medicinal mushroom blends. Other mushrooms you’ll find in medicinal blends are turkey tail, lion’s mane, cordyceps, agaricon, and many more. Explore to your heart’s desire! Here though, I’ll mainly talk to chaga and reishi as I see them as the most excellent coffee replacements.
Chaga, like many mushrooms, contributes to immune health and wellness and contains polysaccharides. It has a sweetness to it that I think lends itself well to vanilla and other flavors. If you like a sweeter morning beverage, you might want to try out chaga in your blend. Chaga helps to promote healthy cell turnover and there is also research that it helps with some of the side effects of chemotherapy and cancer treatments and works synergistically to prevent cancer growth. Chaga is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory. There’s a long history of use for folk medicine in Russia and Scandinavian countries.
Reishi is one of my favorite mushroom medicines and it also has a very bitter taste similar to coffee. It seems to be most well-known in Chinese medicine as the “elixir of immortality.” It’s a lung tonic and there’s research showing it as effective in supporting or being an alternative asthma treatment. As most mushrooms are, reishi is also a immunomodulator and mushrooms in general are very supportive in immune health which could make them a great coffee alternative during cold and flu season as well as right now as covid is taking its toll on the population.
The majority of modern medicines originate in nature. Although some mushrooms have been used in therapies for thousands of years, we are still discovering new potential medicines hidden within them.Paul Stamets
If you don’t want to create your own blend, there are many blends already out there for you to try! I’m not an affiliate on any of these brands currently, these are what I recommend from personally trying each of these.
Rasa: Adaptogenic Coffee Alternative: Rasa is an herbal adaptogenic coffee alternative. They have a variety of blends, I’m linking to the original here. Many of the alternatives I’ve listed above are included in this blend, like dandelion root, chicory root, reishi, and chaga. My personal favorite blend of theirs is the “Spicy Rose Cacao.” I love that the spicy rose one includes schisandra berry which is both very delicious and very helpful to me as an adaptogen and women’s health tonic.
Harmonic Arts: Kickstart Elixir: This company is owned by some very well respected herbalists in Canada. This blend does have caffeine, but less than coffee. It includes yerba mate. It also has chaga, cacao, and roasted dandelion root among other ingredients. This one really gets the nutty flavor of coffee down in my opinion, however, I do think it needs some sweetness. This company has a few other elixirs you may want to check out on their site, but this one I’d say is best for those looking to replace coffee.
Cacoco Drinking Chocolates: Cacoco are delicious drinking chocolates from a company that makes sure to source ethically and pay farmer’s fairly. I’ve tried several of their drinking chocolates and they’re sweetened just enough with coconut sugar. This also isn’t just cocoa powder, this also has cocoa butter. Many of their products also contain other adaptogens and herbs, depending on what you’re looking for. I love the 69% Love Potion. 😜
Rishi Tea’s Mushroom Hero: This blend is all the herbs and mushrooms I mentioned plus some other ones like licorice root, astragalus root, and maitake mushrooms. I think this one is deliciously savory. They also offer a loose leaf if you prefer that to the sachets. Rishi is one of my favorite tea companies, they have nice high end, single origin teas offered seasonally as well if you would like caffeine, but just less than coffee.
There are also a number of places you can get powders that you can add into smoothies, juices, teas, and other morning beverages. A few of these include the one I mentioned above the Kickstart Elixir, as well as Anima Mundi’s Adaptogenic 7 Mushroom Powder and Cacao and one of my herbal teachers Dr. Jacqui of Xálish Medicines also offers some herbal powders in her Etsy here or on her website here.
I’d love to try other blends and also promote more BIPOC and LGBTQIA owned businesses. If you have a product or know of a product that you think would fit on this list email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Lots of love to you all, and I hope you find what you’re looking for. 💖