Coffee Alternatives: Why You Might Want to Try Them and What to Try!
I don’t drink coffee. And not because I don’t like it. I LOVE it. And not because it isn’t healthy, it is.
The sad state of affairs is that when I drink coffee I get reflux and nausea. Every. Dang. Time. But more than that…it also makes me more anxious.
This is something I see commonly with my patients and clients. Yes, even with “just” one cup in the morning. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not vilifying your coffee. There are many benefits (I’ll get into that in another post). But if you have anxiety, headaches, reflux, fatigue, or high blood pressure it might be worth seeing what life is like sans coffee. After all, you can’t make an educated decision if you don’t know how you feel without it.
Here are some of the reasons that people tell me they drink coffee (and my typical counterargument for those who may do better without it.)
- It’s delicious. (So are sour gummy bears, I don’t have those every morning.)
- Without it they feel tired. (You don’t have a caffeine deficiency, something is making you tired and you should address that.)
- It gives them an extra edge/they get more done. (So would cocaine. Seriously though…it’s a very health form of speed but it is exactly that if you are using it for this reason. Is that ok with you? If so…good! If not, let’s look at why and what else can give more of an edge.)
- If they don’t drink it they get headaches. (Um, this means they’re addicted. Cutting down slowly will prevent this.)
- The term “coffee alternatives” makes them cringe.
- It’s a habit. (Is it a habit that is harmful to you? If so, there are lots of ways to break habits!)
- They need it to poop! (Sure, yes. But you should be able to poop without coffee, let’s address your digestion.)
- A family member drinks it and it’s too tempting not to when the smell is wafting through the house. (Fair…but a good enough reason? There are compromises that can be made here.)
- A hot drink in the morning is soothing, part of a morning ritual. (There are lots of lovely drinks that can be part of a morning ritual.)
And these are all reasonable. Unless they aren’t.
If you feel fine without coffee, if you enjoy it, if you’re using it as a drug and you are ok with that, if it is something you’re choosing and it lines up with your values, go for it!
But…I always explain to people that they shouldn’t need coffee. There is no such thing as a coffee deficiency. If you’re tired and need coffee, there is something wrong. You’re not getting enough good quality sleep (for logistical, habitual, or medical reasons). You have a medical situation that needs to be addressed. You have depression (coffee as an antidepressant isn’t the worst choice in the world, btw, unless of course you also have anxiety, in which case, not so much.)
So what to do about it?
Stop. For a bit. And see. See how you feel. See what is better and what is worse. See if there are some things you need to get underneath with your health. And go from there.
But but but…what can I do instead?
There are lots of options for what you can do instead of coffee.
The first question to ask yourself is are you trying to cut out caffeine, or just coffee? I, for instance, need to cut out coffee because of my tummy pain. I also don’t want to have too much caffeine as it makes me anxious. But a little, for me, is ok. For other people? They can’t have any…even green tea can trigger anxiety for some.
Here are my favorite coffee alternatives, I’ll go into the details under each one as far as which need it may meet.
Any of these can be made hot or cold.
Decaf coffee. Some people can tell the difference but if it’s good quality water processed decaf it’s less of a difference than most people think it will be. Decaf coffee will still have some caffeine but usually much less.
Cold-brew. Cold-brewed coffee will have less acidity and is typically easier on the gut. Worth a try if you have reflux (although I still recommend trying to be low caffeine if for a bit to see how you feel.) I always wish that someone offered a pre-made decaf cold brew. So far I can’t find anything.
Black tea. There are so many kinds of black tea. Don’t hate on black tea just because Lipton is icky. You can also doctor up black tea with spices (chai) or real creamer/thick alternative creamer (like nutpods) for a fuller mouthfeel. Please skip the non-dairy creamer from the supermarket, these are almost always full of chemicals, etc. Note that black tea does have quite a bit of caffeine.
Decaf black tea. Same as above but way fewer types of decaf black tea than regular black tea. I like Choice decaf English breakfast with unsweetened NutPods creamer and half a cube of raw sugar.
Steeped green tea. Again, so many kinds of green tea are available. If you find it too bitter try genmaicha which mixes green tea with roasted popped brown rice. It’s much smoother and way less bitter. Also try steeping your tea for a shorter amount of time…it will be much less bitter.
Matcha green tea. This is my morning go-to. I mix a teaspoon of matcha powder with a scoop of hydrolyzed collagen protein in the bottom of a glass. Then I add a little bit of hot water and use a matcha whisk to combine it. Next, ice cubes, followed by unsweetened vanilla hemp milk (use Pacific brand…trust me) or if you prefer almond or coconut milk, pick that! If you want it a little bit sweet you can use a splash of sweetened milk, a touch of honey, or you can mix 1/2-1 tsp of sugar into the original powder.
You can also have this drink hot. With or without the collagen. With or without sweet.
Teeccino. This one has been around for years. It comes in teabags or in granules that you can press in a French Press (much better like this IMO.) It’s a combination of roasted herbs that has a thicker mouthfeel than tea…more similar to coffee. They have several flavors, both gluten-free and gluten-full.
MudWtr. I was served an ad for this on the socials. Sucker me bought it. AND it was great. From their website: “MUD\WTR™ is a coffee alternative consisting of organic ingredients lauded by cultures old and young for their health and performance benefits. With 1/7th the caffeine of coffee, mud gives you natural energy, focus and more without the jitters and crash.”
Crio Bru. Ground cacao that you press in a French Press. If you can’t have any caffeine at all this might not be the best choice as chocolate does have caffeine in it. From their website: “Roasted, ground, and brewed just like coffee, brewed cacao has the amazing flavor and aroma of pure dark chocolate. While it brews like coffee, you get the benefits of cacao- a superfood prized by ancient cultures for its energizing and restorative properties.”
Herbal tea. So. Many. Options. I’ll just send you to the health food store to peruse the choices.
Water with lemon. Simple. Soothing. Delicious.