Coffee is the go-to beverage option for most people. It contains a compound, caffeine, that may boost your metabolism, mood, and mental and physical performance. While it’s safe when consumed in low to moderate amounts, high doses of caffeine can have serious side effects (1).
For some, the 95mg per serving can lead to nervousness, often interpreted by most people as “jitters.” Others may experience mild migraines or digestive distress. It may also lead to psychological dependency that develops into an addiction (2)(3)(4).
What if there were an alternative to coffee? A healthier option that gave you more energy and fewer jitters? Well, there is. This post will explore nine coffee alternatives you can try out today:
1. Matcha Tea
Matcha is a type of green tea sourced from the Camellia sinensis plant. However, Matcha has a different growing technique, resulting in a unique nutrient profile. Farmers cover the tea plants 20-30 days before harvest. This process produces a darker hue and increases the leaves’ caffeine and amino acid concentration (5).
Matcha is particularly rich in catechin-oligomers (known as EGCG). These are plant molecules that act as natural antioxidants. Increasing your antioxidant intake can help prevent cell damage and lower your risk of developing certain chronic diseases (6)(7).
Additionally, drinking Matcha tea can result in a potential boost in attention, attentiveness, and reaction time. You can avoid feeling cracky and worn out. A review of 11 studies also showed that green tea consumption could help reduce weight and maintain weight loss (8)(9)(10).
You only need to add one or two of matcha powder in a mug through a fine-mesh strainer before pouring in water. Whisk back and forth to dissolve the powder until light froth forms on the surface.
Note that the amount of caffeine can be higher or lower than coffee, depending on how you prepare the matcha tea.
Related: Our top 10 matcha tea picks
2. Yerba Mate
Yerba Mate is a herbal tea native to South America. It’s brewed from ground twigs and leaves of the Ilex paraguariensis plant. Its growing popularity worldwide can be majorly attributed to its anti-oxidation properties.
- Caffeoyl derivatives
Yerba Mate typically has 85 mg of caffeine per serving, a little lower than coffee but higher than tea. You may enjoy certain health benefits, such as increased alertness, and physical and mental performance, without consuming high doses of caffeine(13).
Animal studies provide evidence of increased metabolism, which can potentially help you reduce weight. It may also help keep your sugar level low and minimize your risk of cardiovascular disease (14)(15).
You can prepare Yerba mate by steeping the ground leaves in hot water before using a fine mesh to strain the brew into a cup.
3. Brewed Cacao
Often confused with its more popular ‘cousin,’ cocoa, cacao is a bitter, more nutritious product of the Theobroma Cacao tree. The difference between the two arises from cacao bean preparation(16).
Processors often use high temperatures to roast the beans to produce cocoa. However, cacao nibs are roasted at low temperatures, maintaining most of the bean’s nutritional value.
Cacao is an excellent beverage option for those battling blood sugar regulation. Cacao is packed with blood-sugar stabilizing antioxidants that modulate insulin action (17).
Additionally, cacao polyphenols play an active role in eliminating free radicals within the body. Animal studies show that the administration of cacao-enriched diets stopped the spread of colon cancer in rats (18)(19).
Cacao flavonoids reduce inflammation, improving the body’s immune response to pathogens. The polyphenols minimize the activity of NF-kB, a protein that plays a key role during inflammation (20).
You can prepare a cup by placing the cacao nibs in a mug before adding hot water. Stir till the powder dissolves, and enjoy a mug of bitter chocolate.
4. Roasted Figs
Figs are arguably the first fruit domesticated by man. Drying and roasting the figs provides a delicious, alkaline, caffeine-free brew packed with multiple nutrients. Brewed figs resemble real coffee when added to milk, making it the ideal coffee alternative.
Figs have excellent antibacterial properties, improving the body’s immunity levels. Besides, figs have for centuries been used as a home remedy for digestive issues. Animal studies on fig fruit extracts show better food movement through the digestive tract and improved symptoms for digestive disorders such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome (21)(22)(23).
Roasted figs are prepared similarly to coffee, using similar equipment. You may decide to french press, drip, or pour over to make a hot cup of caffeine-free beverage.
Kombucha is a fermented tea drink made by fermenting sweetened black or green tea with a culture of yeasts and bacteria. It’s been used for centuries as a health tonic and is rich in probiotics that keep your gut bacteria populations balanced.
Animal studies indicate that kombucha has antibacterial properties that can improve your immune system. The research alludes that the benefits arise from the high levels of B-vitamins from the fermented fungus (24)(25).
Additionally, scientists postulate that the drink may improve cholesterol levels and blood sugar regulation among people with diabetes. However, it’s essential to note that most human benefits remain anecdotal (26).
You should avoid preparing Kombucha on your own due to the high risk of contamination by harmful pathogens. Aspergillus, a mold that can grow in the Kombucha culture, can be fatal for individuals with immunocompromised systems (27).
Nonetheless, you can find different varieties of Kombucha commercially that may have a lower risk of contamination.
6. Golden Milk
Golden Milk is a traditional Ayurvedic drink made primarily with turmeric and milk. The warm beverage may also have spices such as ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper as additives.
The drink is loaded with antioxidants, making it popular for boosting immunity and starving off illnesses. The main ingredient, turmeric, contains high levels of curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory molecule (28).
A controlled study on rheumatoid arthritis patients showed that combining prescribed drugs and curcumin significantly reduced the pain experienced compared to those on placebo (29).
Research indicates that curcumin can potentially increase the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor(BDNF), a compound that helps the brain form new neural pathways. Low levels of BDNF are closely associated with brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s’ (30)(31).
Other ingredients, such as cinnamon and ginger, provide additional anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. You can prepare a cup of warm beverage in less than five minutes (32).
Pour a cup of milk or any non-dairy alternative into a saucepan and add half a teaspoon of turmeric, a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon, and an eighth teaspoon of ginger. Place the saucepan on the fire and warm the mixture on low to medium heat.
Pour the golden drink into a mug and enjoy.
7. Rooibos Tea
Rooibos tea is a caffeine-free beverage made from the leaves of the Rooibos bush. It’s been consumed in Southern Africa for centuries but is now widely available in grocery stores worldwide.
Rooibos tea has unique health benefits that make it an excellent alternative to coffee or caffeinated beverages. Rooibos has no caffeine and oxalic acid. Studies show a close relationship between oxalic acid and the development of kidney stones (33).
Red bush tea is also packed with health-promoting antioxidants that help fight off radicals from the body. Human trials showed a short-lived spike of antioxidants by up to 6.6% after consuming the red variety (34).
Moreover, rooibos tea may also help to lower blood pressure among hypertensive individuals. Studies indicate that rooibos modulates the function of the angiotensin-converting enzyme(ACE). ACE is a key vasoconstrictor that increases blood pressure (35).
To prepare a cup of red tea, you need to steep one to two teaspoons of Rooibos powdered leaves in a mug filled with hot water. You may require a longer steeping time to achieve the perfect flavor profile for your sweet tea.
8. Lemon Water
You can keep things simple by opting to switch to lemon water. The beverage is caffeine and calorie-free, making it an excellent alternative to coffee.
Lemon is a citrus fruit that delivers a healthy dose of vitamin C to the body. Deficiency in vitamin C leads to the development of scurvy. Squeezing the juice of a 48-gram lemon can provide up to 21% of the recommended daily vitamin C intake (36)(37).
Citric acid, a key compound in lemons, plays a vital role in kidney health. Studies show that citrate makes urine less acid and can help break down smaller kidney stones. Additionally, citric acid promotes gastric acid secretion in the stomach, a fluid necessary for the digestion of food in the gut (38)(39).
Lemon water may also help you keep hydrated by adding flavor to your water. This simple act may encourage you to take in more water, which is critical to keeping your kidneys healthy (40).
You can prepare the refreshing drink by squiring half a lemon(approximately 24 g) into a glass of cold water. Adding basil, mint, or cucumbers can help enhance the flavors in your water.
9. Brewed Chicory
Chicory coffee is a delicious, caffeine-free alternative brewed from the roasted root of the Cichorium intybus plant. The root is dried, roasted, and ground for brewing a tasty, coffee-like beverage.
The chicory root has a high amount of manganese and vitamin B6, two vital nutrients for a healthy brain. The root also contains inulin, a prebiotic fiber that plays a vital role in supporting the growth of helpful bacteria in the gut (41)(42).
Studies show that chicory can reduce constipation and improve bowel movement. Inulin is also key in blood sugar level management, helping to lower blood sugar (43).
You can brew chicory similar to coffee grounds. Use a coffee maker, french press, or espresso machine.
Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. While it has many benefits, it may also have some drawbacks, especially when caffeine is too high.
You can switch to caffeine-free alternatives, allowing you to remain stimulated without the ‘jitters’ and rush. Some coffee alternatives, such as antioxidizing herbs and species, provide more health benefits.
Whether you choose one of these or something else entirely, we hope this list helps you find your perfect morning cup.