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10 Best Coffee Alternatives to Try This Year

Move over, coffee. You've got competition.

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Brewing Black Tea Bag 5/5MIRAGEC/GETTY IMAGES

You’ve got options

There’s a coffee alternative for pretty much everyone—yes, even hard-core java fans. Short on time? There’s a coffee alternative for that. Need a chocolate fix? There’s one for that, too. Still craving the taste of traditional coffee? Yep, there’s even one for that. The best part is that all of these have tons of health benefits and they wake you up, so you’ll be getting the energy and focus you need without the side effects of regular coffee. Sounds like magic, right? It sort of is.

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CriobruVIA AMAZON.COM

The best coffee alternative for chocolate lovers: Brewed cacao

If you’re a fan of mocha-flavored java but want to venture into the world of coffee alternatives, we have a solution: brewed cacao (not to be confused with cocoa). Think hot chocolate that’ll give you a serious boost of energy while also benefiting your health. You won’t need to give up your morning routine, either. You can brew cacao just like a regular cup o’ joe—sans the bitterness—and it’ll make your kitchen smell heavenly.

And that energy boost? You can thank theobromine, a naturally occurring stimulant in cacao that expands your blood vessels (as opposed to coffee, which constricts them), doesn’t activate your central nervous system, and lasts longer than caffeine. As an added bonus, brewed cacao is full of immune-system-boosting antioxidants, as well as magnesium and phenylethylamine. If you’re trying cacao for the first time, this sampler set from Crio Bru—which comes with five delectable flavors—is perfect for newbies.

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The best coffee alternative if you really need some energy: Matcha

Enter matcha, the more nutrient-dense version of traditional green tea. We’re talking twice the amount of antioxidants. Traditional green tea’s nutrients come from the water that the leaves have been seeping in; with matcha, you consume the entirety of the crushed-up tea leaves after whisking the powder in hot liquid.

So, moving on to what you’ve really been waiting for: its caffeine content. Matcha contains more caffeine than traditional green tea but less than regular coffee. One eight-ounce cup of matcha touts about 70 mg of caffeine, while an eight-ounce cup of coffee usually has around 95 to 200 mg. So if they both have similar amounts of caffeine, why is matcha so different?

Well, health benefits aside, matcha contains something called l-theanine, which helps slow the process of your body absorbing the caffeine so you’re less likely to experience caffeine crashes. Plus, matcha is pretty versatile and can be used in smoothies, baking, cooking, lattes and even skincare—but make sure you get the real stuff, like this organic Japanese matcha from Jade Leaf. By the way, here’s how to make iced tea at home.

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The best coffee alternative for tea enthusiasts: Yerba mate

You might be familiar with yerba mate based on how often you’ve seen cans of it lined up on the shelves at your local health-food store. If you haven’t tried it yourself, let us fill you in on why this traditional South American beverage is so popular.

Yerba mate comes from evergreen tree leaves, which explains its tea-like flavor, and contains naturally occurring caffeine (albeit slightly less than how much coffee has), theophylline and theobromine. Although it’s often purchased cold and pre-canned, you can also make your own yerba mate at home with tea bags. If you don’t like its bittersweet flavor, milk and sugar can be added, similar to how coffee is prepared.

Yerba mate is also full of things called polyphenols (coffee contains these, as well), which can act as antioxidants, have antibacterial properties and protect against diseases. In addition, yerba mate is a great option if you’re watching your blood sugar levels or looking to reduce LDL cholesterol levels. If you don’t want to trade in your regular morning brewing routine for some canned “mate,” you can order a variety pack of this highly-rated organic yerba mate from Kiss Me Organics and make your own at home. Here’s what happens when you drink tea every day.

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The best coffee alternative if you’re short on time: Dandelion coffee

You overslept, don’t have time to wait for coffee to brew and need a serious energy boost—fast. Sound familiar? It happens to the best of us, which is why dandelion coffee is the perfect caffeine-free solution if you’re often on the go or want to minimize your morning routine so you can squeeze in every last minute of shut-eye. Dandelion coffee has a mildly sweet, rich flavor and is made with roasted dandelion root. It’s often blended with other ingredients, like barley rye, beets and chicory root, all of which dissolve instantly in hot or cold liquid (think instant coffee, but better).

The roasted dandelion root is rich in probiotics, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, so its health benefits are pretty darn impressive. It also tastes similar to regular, full-bodied coffee, but without the acidity or bitterness. In lieu of caffeine, the root of post-dandelion energy is thanks to its trace minerals that can support adrenal functions, according to Gina Reale, director of development of Dandy Blend. There’s a reason Dandy Blend has more than 8,200 five-star reviews on Amazon. Before you check out, you may also want to take a look at these underrating grocery items you can get online.

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The best coffee alternative if you love the taste of coffee: Brewed chicory

Just because you switch over to a coffee alternative doesn’t mean you need to give up the beloved flavor of a traditional cup o’ joe. Brewed chicory mimics the flavor of regular coffee without containing any caffeine or upsetting your digestive system.

“Chicory is a prebiotic, and it is the botanical with the highest content of inulin, a soluble fiber that nourishes the microflora in the microbiome,” Caroline MacDougall, the CEO and founder of Teeccino, tells our sister site, Reader’s Digest. Its high levels of inulin (not to be confused with insulin) can help increase your gut’s good bacteria, tame blood sugar levels and even reduce the risk of colon cancer. Plus, brewed chicory can improve brain health, courtesy of its levels of manganese and vitamin B6.

Now that we know some of its health benefits, let’s move on to what makes chicory such a convenient source of natural energy, starting with its high levels of potassium. Some chicory beverages, like Teeccino’s, contain even more potassium than popular sports drinks, which helps restore electrolytes, providing a boost of energy without the crash that caffeine gives you. Teeccino offers herbal chicory “coffee” can be brewed like coffee, steeped like tea or prepared like an instant beverage to cut down on time. All of these coffee alternatives also happen to make great food gifts for the right person on your list.

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The best coffee alternative if you have an espresso machine: Barley (orzo) coffee

If you already have an at-home espresso machine, barley (or “orzo”) coffee will be your best friend. Also known as caffè d’orzo, this Italian coffee substitute is caffeine-free and made from roasted ground barley grains. As you could probably guess, barley doesn’t exactly taste like traditional espresso; instead, it touts an earthier flavor. Although its most popular preparation method is via espresso machine, barley coffee can also be made using a regular coffee pot or a stove-top Moka pot.

It’s important to note that barley coffee doesn’t necessarily have “energizing” qualities besides its potassium content, which can help restore electrolytes; although, if you’re trying to wean off traditional coffee, it might be a good, caffeine-free alternative to periodically switch off with. Plus, you’ll be taking advantage of all the other nutrients found in barley, like vitamins B and E, phosphorus and magnesium. The best part? You don’t have to travel to Italy to get it. Check out our guide to different types of coffee you can sip.

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DonaVIA AMAZON.COM

The best coffee alternative if you love spices: Masala chai

First, we need to talk about the common misconception of the word chai. Chai translates as “tea” in Hindi, so if you say “chai tea,” you’re really just saying “tea tea.” Masala chai, on the other hand, means “spiced tea,” which is what we’ll be discussing here. Speaking of which, here are the best soothing teas to help you relax.

Masala chai is a strongly flavored, full-bodied black tea that’s usually accompanied by hot milk. Much of its taste comes from added spices, which usually include cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves or other varieties. And yes, like most black tea, masala chai is pretty caffeinated—but it still has less caffeine than a cup of regular coffee.

Besides giving you the perfect morning buzz, masala tea can also improve heart health, lower blood sugar levels, minimize nausea, improve digestion and aid in weight loss. If you want to save some money, masala chai is super easy to make at home using masala concentrate and the milk of your choice. Our personal favorite? Dona Masala Chai Concentrate, which has notes of cinnamon bark, cardamom, vanilla bean, cloves, black peppercorns and cold-pressed ginger.

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The best coffee alternative if you want to wean off traditional coffee: Roasted fig

If fig coffee isn’t already on your radar, we have some pretty good reasons why it should be. First of all, figs are full of vitamins and minerals, like potassium, iron, vitamins A and E and alkaline. They’re also naturally caffeine-free, gluten-free, dairy-free and processed-sugar-free, which makes fig coffee a smooth, rich and healthy substitute for traditional java.

If you’re trying to wean yourself off the latter, Coffig, a company that exclusively creates fig-based beverages, has an entire program dedicated to precisely that. It’s called the Coffig Replacement Program (CRP). The process begins by mixing a 20:80 ratio of Coffig to coffee for three days. Then, the ratio increases to 50:50 of each beverage for the next three to four days. After a week passes, a ratio of 80:20 of Coffig to coffee is used for two to three more days. At about the 10-day point, you might find that you’re finally able to ditch coffee for good, says William G. Paúl, cofounder of Coffig.

So, what’s the secret ingredient? As it turns out, the only thing in Coffig is, well, roasted figs—more specifically, certified organic 100 percent roasted black mission figs. Unless you buy the “Gold” version, which also contains chickpeas, for those who want a nuttier flavor. Oh, and the brewing process? A breeze. You can make this stuff in virtually any coffee maker, although Paúl recommends using a French press. One thing to keep in mind: Fig coffee can be pretty concentrated—almost twice as much as regular coffee—so keep that in mind while brewing. Here are our suggestions for the best coffee makers.

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The best coffee alternative if you like having flavor options: Capomo coffee

If you like swapping flavors every now and then, Café Capomo comes in hazelnut, caramel, classic and turmeric—but its variety isn’t even the best part of this deliciously nutty, mocha-like coffee substitute. Before we get into why capomo coffee is worth investing in, let’s dial it back to the basics. What the heck is capomo, anyway?

In short, capomo (also known as Maya tree nut) is a seed that’s harvested from capomo trees, which are native to the rainforests of Latin America, Mexico and the Caribbean. It’s naturally caffeine-free, has no alkaloids and comes jam-packed with fiber, potassium, calcium, iron and other antioxidants and vitamins. Not to mention, capomo can help keep your blood sugar in check and promote cognitive function and serotonin production.

In case that’s not impressive enough, capomo is also rich in anti-inflammatory compounds and even provides 19 of the 20 amino acids essential to the human body. “These amino acids are the building blocks for proteins that are important for many functions in the body, including building muscle, stimulating antibodies, fighting bacteria and carrying oxygen throughout the body,” notes Peter Bowes, owner of Tattva’s Herbs and Café Capomo.

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The best coffee alternative if you don’t want to give up coffee completely: Mushroom coffee

Maybe you don’t want to give up on coffee completely, but you still like the idea of packing in all those extra nutrients in your morning brew. Allow us to introduce mushroom coffee. Before you jump to conclusions about the “odd” flavor combo of coffee and mushrooms, hear us out: This stuff is delicious. Our favorites are made by Renude and Four Sigmatic.

Renude’s Chagaccino is made from a combination of cacao, cinnamon, vanilla and monk fruit, with chagan being the main star of the show. Chaga has crazy-high levels of antioxidants. Plus, it is the most alkaline food on the planet, helps improve gut health and contains more than 215 phytonutrients. It also helps relieve stress, boosts immunity, aids in anti-aging, provides long-lasting energy and helps improve brain function. All you’ll need is a cup of hot coffee, one packet of Chagaccino and some milk.

If you’re looking for a two-in-one kind of deal, Four Sigmatic supplies both the coffee and the mushroom goodness. Similar to Renude, Four Sigmatics’ products also utilize the magic of chaga mushrooms—sometimes with their own twist. For instance, Four Sigmatic’s best-selling product contains chaga and another mushroom called lion’s mane. Both fungi are combined with organic ground coffee to create a jitter- and crash-free experience that can also help with stress management and balancing out the energy high from the caffeine in coffee. Here’s what our writers thought about mushroom coffee when they tried it out.

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Sources:

  • Women’s Health: “Does Matcha Have As Much Caffeine As Coffee? Here’s What To Know”
  • Livestrong: “Yerba Mate Vs. Coffee” livestrong.com
  • Healthline: “What Are Polyphenols? Types, Benefits, and Food Sources”
  • HuffPost: “So What Is Dandelion Coffee, Anyway?”
  • The Spruce Eats: “What Is Chicory Coffee?”
  • Healthline: “How Chai Tea Can Improve Your Health”
  • Food & Wine: “What Is Chai and How to Make It”
  • The Spruce Eats: “The History of Masala Chai”
  • Healthline: “All You Need to Know About Figs”
  • Blue Zones: “Maya Nut: Traditional Mayan Superfood and Coffee Alternative You Need to Know About”
Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest

Brittany Gibson
Brittany Gibson is a regular contributor to RD.com’s culture, food, health, and travel sections. She was previously an editorial intern for RD.com and Westchester Magazine. Her articles have appeared on Buzzfeed, Business Insider, AOL, Yahoo, and MSN, among other sites. She earned a BA in English from the University of Connecticut.