Best Coffee Substitutes: Wake Up and Smell the Alternatives!

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

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The best coffee substitutes? I can already hear you shouting, "No way!" After all, the thought of starting the day without a morning cup of joe sounds like a nightmare to many of us.

The best coffee substitutes? I can already hear you shouting, “No way!” After all, the thought of starting the day without a morning cup of joe sounds like a nightmare to many of us.

But, hear me out. There’s a world of amazing coffee substitutes for those rare times you want to mix things up.

So, do read on to learn more. I’ve got the lowdown on the best coffee alternatives to keep you buzzing without the jitters.

Overview: What Is a Coffee Substitute?

A coffee substitute is any beverage like coffee but with a lower or zero caffeine content. In most cases, these beverages have a coffee taste and aroma. But in some cases they resemble tea.

Some popular coffee substitutes include herbal teas, decaf coffees and herbal coffees. These quenchers are THE choice for people looking to reduce or eliminate their caffeine intake. They also work for those wanting to simply try something different.

It’s worth mentioning that most of these substitutes may not provide the same health benefits as traditional coffee.

So, why swap out your coffee for one of them? This will be the main topic of discussion below.

Why Drink Coffee Substitutes?

I know you’re still wondering, “Why on earth would I ditch my beloved cup of joe?” I mean, we all love coffee; that’s a given and we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t!

But some can’t drink it due to low caffeine tolerance. As for the rest of us, it doesn’t hurt to try out new things occasionally. The best coffee substitutes help you do this and meet your cravings.

Masala chai

For starters, coffee substitutes help with the jitters. We’ve all been there – one too many espressos and suddenly it’s like we’re in a Looney Tunes cartoon episode! Not cool! Coffee alternatives give you a warm buzz without the dreaded crash.

Next up, gut health. Traditional coffee can be a bit rough on the tum. Yep, I said it! Switching to caffeine-free coffee alternatives can be a game-changer if you’re dealing with acid reflux or ulcers.

Then there’s sleep. We all know the drill – too much caffeine late in the day can have you bouncing off the walls. Coffee substitutes allow you a warm, tasty drink without wrecking your sleep schedule.

Most importantly, these beverages offer health benefits. Many coffee substitutes are full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, which are beneficial to your health.

And last but not least, the variety! After all, it is the spice of life. Different coffee alternatives can introduce you to a new world of flavors and taste experiences.

Whatever your reason, the best coffee substitutes can keep your days exciting and delicious. They help you kick caffeine to the curb while giving your body some serious love.

The 10 Best Coffee Substitutes

Matcha Tea 

Dirty Matcha Kuala Lumpur

Matcha tea is the king of coffee substitutes. This green tea, processed from powdered tea leaves of the Camelliasinensis plant, originates from Japan. For centuries, the Japanese have incorporated matcha tea into their diet, and it shows! Japan has one of the largest octogenarian populations in the world.

Matcha does have some caffeine, but, thanks to L-theanine, it’s the slow-release type. This means that once you drink matcha, you get a calm, focused energy boost without any of the jitters.

This herbal tea has a smooth, creamy flavor and a vibrant green color that’s just plain fun to drink. And as most matcha latte blends have an oat and coconut milk powder base, simply add hot water to make up a vegan matcha latte.

Matcha tea is an excellent source of antioxidants, chlorophyll and phenols. It has several potential health benefits, including weight loss, reduced anxiety and better gut health. Truly a wonder drink!

Chicory Coffee 

Next up, chicory coffee. This one’s a classic in the coffee sub game. In fact, it has origins dating back to ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome! However, the Italians brought chicory root to fame, elevating its use as a bittering agent in the 16th century.

It was only in the 19th century that chicory garnered worldwide fame as one of the best coffee substitutes. The French used it widely before it spread to parts of the USA (Louisiana), Canada and Europe.

Roasted chicory root in particular has a deep, rich flavor that’s eerily like coffee. Health wise, chicory coffee is full of inulin, a prebiotic fiber with good bacteria that works wonders for your gut. This way, you get that coffee flavor with a side of digestive health. Sweet deal, right?

Yerba Mate

Best Coffee Substitute Yerba Mate

If you’re a coffee lover like me, always looking for the next big buzz, yerba mate might just be your new best friend. This traditional drink from South America is trendy in Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil. It’s made from the leaves of the Ilexparaguariensis plant and has been fueling folks down there for centuries.

Crucially, yerba mate delivers that same high-octane caffeine energy boost as coffee. But here’s the kicker: it’s smoother, cleaner and lasts longer. The caffeine in yerba mate balances with other compounds like theobromine (yep, the stuff in chocolate). This gives you a sustained energy lift without the crash landing.

Moreover, this herbal supplement is full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Thus, it can enhance physical performance, boost mental focus, assist with weight loss and aid digestion.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But how does it taste?” Yerba mate has an earthy and slightly bitter flavor, kinda like a robust green tea with a hint of smokiness. It might take a few sips to get used to, but once you do, you’ll love it. Plus, you can jazz it up with honey, brown sugar or a squeeze of lemon for a killer cold brew.

Rooibos Tea

Best Coffee Substitute Rooibos Tea

Hailing from South Africa, rooibos tea is a red tea from the legume Aspalathuslinearis. This coffee alternative is perfect for those looking to cut back on caffeine but not on taste. It has a unique nutty flavor and is slightly on the sweeter side. Like most African coffees, it’s incredibly satisfying!

One of the best things about rooibos is its versatility. Brew it strong for a bold, coffee-like experience, or let it gently steep gently in a French press for a lighter, tea-like flavor. It’s good plain, with a little milk or mixed with spices and fruit for a custom blend!

Rooibos tea is full of antioxidants and a downright anti-inflammatory superstar. It may help with heart health, stress, anxiety and even certain skin conditions.

Interestingly, rooibos is one of the best coffee substitutes with less tannins than green or black tea. This makes it a gentler alternative for those with stomach issues.

Chai Tea

Best Coffee Substitute Chai Tea

Chai tea makes it to this list of the best coffee substitutes primarily because it’s so delicious! This aromatic blend of black tea, spices, milk and sometimes sugar is like a flavor fiesta in a cup.

Incidentally, chai means “tea” (which makes “chai tea” a bit of a misnomer). Originating in India, the land of Monsooned Malabar, it has become a cult favorite. People in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Tanzania and even Myanmar absolutely love it. No home starts the day without it!

And it’s easy to see why. This beverage contains bold flavors like cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves. A single sip titillates your taste buds and awakens your senses. Plus, it’s got a bit of caffeine to give you that gentle lift, minus the crash.

What’s incredible about chai is its versatility. You can have it hot, iced or as a chai latte. Fancy it up with a splash of vanilla or a drizzle of honey for extra sweetness. Or add some espresso in the morning to make it a dirty chai latte.

However you like it, the spicy, bold flavors will for sure satisfy your cravings.

Roasted Barley

Best Coffee Substitute Roasted Barley

Ready to switch up your brew game with something totally rad? Let me introduce you to roasted barley, the most underrated coffee alternative!

Roasted barley is making waves for all the right reasons. Firstly, it has a rich, nutty flavor strikingly similar to coffee but without the caffeine kick. Plus, it’s super smooth and easy on the stomach, so no more acid reflux and gastritis.

This coffee alternative has some remarkable history, too. Back in the day, during coffee shortages (especially during the World Wars), Italians turned to roasted barley as their go-to coffee alternative.

Caffèd’orzo rose in popularity because it was affordable, easy to source and surprisingly delicious. Fast forward to today, and it’s still winning hearts as a top-notch coffee substitute. 

This stuff is also a health juggernaut. It’s packed with fiber, vitamins and antioxidants, giving your immune system a nice little boost. And the best part? It’s 100% caffeine-free!

To enjoy roasted barley coffee, steep it like tea or run it through your drip coffee maker. Crucially, most mixes contain malted barley and roasted carob, so they come out rich and flavorful. However, you could mix it with your favorite spices or a little milk for a little bit of extra oomph.

Dandelion Root Herbal Tea

It may surprise you to find dandelions on this list. But dandelions aren’t just for your yard anymore. This herbal powerhouse is stepping up as one of the best coffee substitutes.

First things first, why dandelion root tea and not any other root? Well, it has a deep, rich flavor that’s shockingly like coffee, minus the caffeine. Crucially, it’s got that roasted, slightly bitter taste we all love in a good cup of joe.

But wait, there’s more. Dandelion root tea isn’t just a coffee doppelganger – it’s a health superstar. In fact, it’s packed with vitamins and minerals and famous for its detoxifying properties.

Yep, this tea is perfect when your liver needs a little TLC. Plus, it’s excellent for digestion.

Let’s talk history for a sec. Native Americans used dandelion root for centuries in traditional medicine. Similarly, during coffee shortages, folks turned to it as a trusty alternative. Fast forward to today, and it’s still going strong as a go-to coffee sub.

Brewing this herbal tea isn’t that hard. Just steep a pre-made roasted dandelion root tea bag in hot water, and you’re good to go. You could also add a splash of nondairy milk and honey if you’re feeling fancy. But on its own, you’ve still got yourself a delicious, comforting drink!

Oolong Tea

Best Coffee Substitute Oolong Tea

I couldn’t complete this list of the best coffee substitutes without discussing oolong tea. This Chinese classic is the perfect middle ground between black and green tea. It offers a rich and smooth flavor profile – just like your favorite cup of joe.

Oolong tea (including the famous Darjeeling tea) has that full-bodied, slightly fruity taste. It’s less bitter than black tea but packs more of a punch than green tea. This drink hits that sweet spot for a perfect morning or afternoon low-caffeine pick-me-up.

But oolong isn’t just about taste – it’s a health powerhouse, too. It’s loaded with antioxidants, which help fight off free radicals. Plus, it’s a metabolism booster. This means it’s perfect for aiding weight loss and keeping energy levels steady throughout the day. And get this: oolong tea can improve heart health, enhance brain function and help maintain healthy skin. Talk about a multitasking brew!

Brewing oolong is a piece of cake. Steep those leaves or tea bags in hot water for a few minutes, and you’re all set. You can enjoy it hot, iced, plain or with a splash of milk. And if you’re feeling adventurous, add a bit of honey or lemon for an extra kick.

Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate

If you want to switch up your morning routine or need a comforting evening drink, say hello to hot chocolate. It’s the ultimate caffeine alternative! I can tell you right now it’s my go-to for those rare times I don’t feel like a cup of coffee.

Hot chocolate goes as far back as the Mayans and Aztecs, those formidable Central American civilizations who termed it the “drink of the gods.” In those times, hot chocolate was quite different. It contained bitter ground cocoa beans, spices and chili peppers, mixed with hot water and served in a hollow vessel (xocolate).

Today, we enjoy this coffee substitute as a rich, velvety and creamy beverage. A teaspoon or two of a high-quality, preferably sugar-free chocolate mix diluted in boiling water is all you need to make this drink.

Although hot chocolate does have some caffeine, it’s not enough to give you the jitters. In addition, it’s rich in antioxidants, supports healthy digestion and enhances brain power. Most importantly, (the reason why we all love it) it boosts your mood!

Golden Milk

Golden milk, aka turmeric latte, is the last coffee alternative to make it to our list. This alluring drink blends creamy milk with turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and a dash of black pepper. It has centuries of history, originating as a medicinal drink in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.

A golden milk turmeric latte is the perfect wind-me-down after a hectic day. Unlike coffee, which can leave you wired and jittery, this coffee substitute is all about that calm and steady vibe.

What about the taste? Oh, it’s dreamy! The blend of earthy and spicy with just the right amount of sweetness is to die for. You can whip it up with any milk you like – dairy, almond, oat, you name it. Add a touch of honey or maple syrup, and you have a golden ticket to flavor town.

Besides the delicious taste, this is, in effect, a health drink. The turmeric and ginger in the drink have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This can help ease digestive, joint and respiratory problems. Best of all? It’s completely caffeine-free!

Bonus Picks: Herbal Coffee As a Powerful Coffee Alternative

If you’re looking to shake up your coffee routine, without giving up coffee completely, herbal coffees are the way to go! We’re not talking about your average decaf or low-caffeine options here. Think protein-packed brews and energizing blends!

These innovative alternatives give you that cozy coffee vibe while delivering health benefits. Some of my top picks include:

Protein Coffee

Coffee-flavored whey protein is the ultimate blend of flavor and function. This powerhouse drink gives you all the muscle-building benefits of whey protein with a rich, robust coffee taste.

Protein coffee is perfect for a morning kick-start or post-workout refuel. Blend it in a smoothie, mix with milk or shake up with water to meet your caffeine cravings.

Mushroom Coffee

Wild Chaga Mushroom Coffee

Mushroom coffee combines aromatic coffee with powerful medicinal fungi. Mushrooms like lion’s mane, chaga and reishi make up this health drink. It can help boost brain power, sharpen focus and supercharge your immune system.

In addition, mushroom coffee offers a smoother, less acidic taste than regular coffee, making it perfect for those with stomach ailments. It may also provide help with weight loss, improved sleep and reduced stress and anxiety.

Maca Coffee

Maca root, often dubbed “Peruvian ginseng,” is an energy-booster, mood-enhancer and hormone-balancer. It comes as a ready-made maca latte blend or as a powder in its pure form. You can mix the latter with your morning coffee during brewing.

Maca coffee has a smooth, nutty flavor that compliments coffee’s rich, bold taste. What makes maca coffee magical is its unique sustained energy boost without the dreaded crash. Plus, it’s loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Final Thoughts on the Best Coffee Substitutes

I hope this list of the best coffee substitutes has given you some really cool ideas on caffeine-alternative beverages.

Sometimes, coffee isn’t the go-to. Especially if you’re looking to shake things up or suffer the jitters every time you drink it. Fortunately, these alternatives allow you to enjoy a caffeine-like buzz without the caffeine crash.

Why not give them a whirl? You never know; you just might discover your new ride-or-die back-up brew!

Which of these coffee substitutes has you thinking, “Hmm, I’ll need to look into that?” I look forward to your comments!

Best Coffee Substitutes FAQ

Several coffee substitutes can give you a comparable mental clarity and energy boost to coffee. Matcha, roasted barley and chicory coffee are a few of the well-liked options.

Black tea, green tea, energy drinks and other low-caffeine drinks can help you stay awake by improving focus and concentration.

Matcha is an excellent superfood alternative to coffee. As it’s made from the whole tea leaf, it contains double the amount of antioxidants and three times the amount of caffeine in coffee.

Oats are a decent replacement for your morning cup of coffee. They have a low glycemic index, and their carbohydrates provide slow-burning energy that will keep you going long into the late hours of the morning. If you are on a low-carb or keto diet, a protein-heavy plate of eggs, bacon and sliced avocado will keep you energized and satiated until lunch.

Your coffee expert
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Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

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