Caffeine-Free Coffee Alternatives to Keep You Satisfied
The first time I had a cup of coffee, I was in high school. I didn't quite see the magic, and the taste didn't do it for me. Yet somehow, here we are, just a few years later, and I am a bona fide coffee addict. I've grown to love the taste, and I learned to lean on coffee to help me get through long days with an infant. But coffee doesn't love me back. It left me feeling jittery, irritated my sensitive sensibility, left a bad taste in my mouth, turned my teeth off-white, and kept me up at night. So I quit.
Like any good enthusiast, I still miss the best parts of coffee, but nowadays there are a plethora of caffeine-free options. I've run the gamut when it comes to trying these, so I've listed out my favorites for kicking your coffee habit:
I tried Pero after it was recommended to me by another caffeine quitter. It's ingredients are listed boldly on the front of the packaging: "barley, malted barley, chicory, rye and nothing else." One of the least pricey coffee alternatives on Amazon.com, a hefty 7-ounce container of the fine-grained powder runs about $9. It blends well into hot water and with a little milk, might almost make a tired early riser think they were drinking a legit cup of coffee (probably because of the chicory, which tastes similar to coffee). In my opinion, the amount recommended (one heaping teaspoon per cup) provided a weak-tasting, watery drink. More product or a little milk goes a long way to make it tastier. It's a satisfactory option for anyone weaning themselves off of caffeine.
Buy it: Pero Instant Beverage, $9; amazon.com
Jnantik Superfood Maya Seed Coffee Alternative
Jnantik, the maker of a Maya seed coffee substitute, advises that a French coffee press be used to make the beverage vs. stirring it into the cup. I learned why the hard way; it doesn't dissolve into hot water like, say, hot chocolate might, leaving the consumer to sip small pieces and particles. I don't mind a little grit, but some might not appreciate the less-than-totally-smooth texture that comes from mixing it directly into water. It contains "absolutely no caffeine", though I did feel a slight buzz after drinking it. Jnantik's website's explanation: the beverage contains antioxidants, iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and prebiotic fiber, so drinkers will feel "revved" upon consumption. It's available plain or with flavored varieties like cinnamon and mocha.
Buy it: Jnantik Superfood Organic Coffee Substitute, $19; amazon.com
My mom turned me onto moringa during a phone conversation where I explained that I couldn't handle coffee anymore. Moringa has a matcha-type consistency and appearance. It's a green powder made from ground up leaves of the India-based moringa tree. High in vitamin C and boasting of a slew of health benefits, moringa is considered one of the most nutrient-dense plants in the world. And here's the kicker: unlike matcha, which is made from the leaves of the Camilla sinensis plant (the same plant used to make black, green, and oolong teas), it's caffeine-free. As it is green in color, it doesn't resemble coffee at all, but the warm, soothing, slight sweetness of Moringa is a satisfactory substitute for my beloved coffee. To make this beverage, it is recommended to use a whisk, so as to completely blend the powder into the water.
Buy it: Naturevibe Organic Moringa Powder, $10; amazon.com
Crio Bru is a beverage consisting of 100% ground cacao, the main ingredient in chocolate. It's 99.9 percent caffeine-free (and has the added bonus of a tantalizing chocolate aroma as it brews) but it does contain theobromine, a naturally occurring stimulant which the company's website describes as "longer lasting and more pleasant than caffeine", and states that it increases focus and builds the immune system. Though any kind of stimulation is too much for me (I prefer an altogether mellow vibe), the beverage is appealing and works well with milk and a little sugar, which is how I used to take my coffee. Crio Bru comes in an assortment of roasts, including French and Light varieties.
Buy it: Crio Bru French Roast, $12; amazon.com
Four Sigmatic Cordyceps Mushroom Elixir
This organic, vegan, caffeine-free option is loaded with mushrooms, but don't be alarmed; there is no actual "mushroom flavor" to this beverage. Instead, it has a tea-like taste and aroma thanks to mint and rosehips, which can be enjoyed as-is or dressed up with a dash of milk and pinch of sugar. The cordyceps militaris mushroom powder can give you an energy boost, but without the classic caffeine crash afterwards.
Buy it: Four Sigmatic Cordyceps Mushroom Elixir, $29; amazon.com
Barlee Instant Chicory
Though one might not think a nice hot cup of the grain barley would serve as a coffee alternative, or even as a satisfying beverage at all, Barlee Coffee Substitute begs to differ. This instant powdered product contains barley, chicory root, and the herb echinacea. Chicory is said to be useful to calm a rapid heartbeat, easing constipation, and possibly helping with gallbladder disorders. The company recommends adding one tablespoon to six ounces of hot water or milk, adding a sweetener of choice, and stirring for an easy coffee-like drink. Because chicory root is typically included in many coffee recipes, Barlee may even fool a drinker into tasting that good old coffee flavor.
Buy it: Barlee with Echinacea Coffee Substitute, $9; amazon.com
Postum Wheat Bran and Molasses
Postum is a wheat-based powdered coffee alternative that has been around since the late 1800s, though the instant drink version didn't come around until 1912. The creator, C.W. Post, was a student of John Harvey Kellog, and like me, he didn't dig caffeine. The beverage is made from roasted wheat bran, wheat, and molasses. Molasses is high and iron and contains more nutrients than plain old sugar, but if you're watching your sugar or gluten intake, this might not be the beverage for you.
Buy it: Postum Wheat Bran & Molasses Coffee Alternative, $25; amazon.com
Cafix Coffee Substitute Crystals
Like Pero, Cafix is made using barley, malted barley and chicory, but also adds beets and figs for a hint of sweetness and depth of flavor. This naturally caffeine-free instant coffee alternative is made in Poland, where the population has been experimenting with coffee alternatives for some time. Because of the chicory addition, Cafix's taste is also very similar to coffee and can be enjoyed warm or iced.
Buy it: Cafix Coffee Substitute Crystals, $11; amazon.com