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This past year I finally accepted the fact that coffee is just not the right plant for my body.
A diehard coffee drinker from the age of 12, for whom the brew sustained through many a grueling day from academia to wage work to entrepreneurship, I never truly thought the day would come. I figured I’d give it up when collapsing global supply chains forced me to.
This past year in quarantine, however, helped me to get more in touch with what actually supports my body and what is actively doing it harm, and while I still love and sometimes crave the buzz of a strong cup of joe (especially as an entrepreneur that loves having it by my side while I work), the truth is that coffee only serves to worsen my anxiety, impacts my sleep patterns, and actually makes it harder for me tap into the sustained, innate energy that will actually serve me and my business for the long haul.
As an herbalist I knew there were lots of other plants that could give me the flavor and uplift of coffee without the crash — but green or black tea wasn’t what I wanted and I didn’t really feel like taking the time to decoct a bunch of roots at 7am, or reheat a day old brew from the fridge. As a parent and entrepreneur I needed something convenient, tasty, fresh, uplifting, and rooted in the plants that helped me still feel connected to the morning brew ritual.
Which is why I am SO excited that there have been so many great coffee alternatives to hit the market in recent years that actually fit this bill. Granted, some of these have been around for longer, but like I said, I lived in resistance for a long time. Switching over to these morning mugs has made such a HUGE difference in my well-being, which in turn has directly benefited my business, so I wanted to share with you my top picks and recommendations in case you’re also looking for a change.
Best Coffee Flavor (and my top pick): Teeccino Dandelion Dark Roast
Teeccino is one of the longest standing players in the coffee alternative game, and for good reason. Since 1993 they’ve been offering a variety of different blends that brew up VERY similar to coffee and hit all the right buttons for even the most chronic of coffee drinkers. My personal favorites are their collection of Dandelion blends, with 9 different flavors all featuring dandelion as the star player.
Dandelion is such an important plant for those of us needing to wean off of coffee. While it doesn’t supply any direct stimulation like the bean does, it does supply a lot of important minerals and vitamins that nourish us for the long term, as well as helps support our liver’s ability to process toxins. As Brendan Kelly has pointed out, while coffee is energetically hot and exacerbates the yang elements of our physiologies, dandelion is cooling and more yin in nature, helping to counterbalance the overabundance of heat and yang that we have both within us and all around us in our current culture.
While I really like the Mocha Mint flavor for feeling holiday vibes, my personal favorite year round is the Dandelion Dark Roast, a blend of dandelion root, carob, chicory, ramon seeds (also called Maya nut, a tropical tree nut that taste like a mix of chocolate and coffee, and sustainably harvested from the Maya Biosphere Reserve), and a touch of natural coffee flavor.
Okay, so that last ingredient feels like a little bit of a cheat, but the flavor is organic and plant derived, and I’m not interested in being a purist. So if it helps me kick the coffee addiction, I’m okay with a thing like this that brings my taste buds the joy they crave.
Since its caffeine free, you can have Teeccino all day long (even replicate your afternoon coffee run habit, or have an after dinner drink without sabotaging your sleep), but in the morning I like to add just like a quarter teaspoon of actual coffee to the press for a little pick me up with lots of balance.
Cost: $14.99/bag (28 servings, $0.56/cup)
Check out all the Teeccino flavors and get yours here
Runner up for Coffee Flavor: Dandy Blend Organic
Dandy Blend is another classic dandelion-based blend that’s available at most natural food stores. It’s what I used for a really long time, often mixing it 50/50 with real coffee, until I switched over to Teeccino.
Dandy Blend is arguably easier to use — it dissolves in water readily which makes it a super convenient beverage to make (no press or brew baskets required!), but they only have one flavor and for some reason drinking more than one cup of this tended to make my belly hurt. Its only ingredients are dandelion root, chicory root, sugar beetroot, barley, and rye, and I’m not sure who the culprit was, but I haven’t experienced the same with Teeccino.
It’s certainly the most economical of the bunch, especially if you get the conventional, but even the organic option is crazy affordable. It does honestly rub me the wrong way that rather than committing to organic they continue to offer the majority of their product as conventional (which is another reason I decided to switch from using them), but at least they do offer it as an option.
Cost: 12.93/bag (50 servings, $0.26/cup)
Try Dandy Blend here
Best with Actual Coffee: Four Sigmatic Ground Adaptogen Coffee
Okay, so technically this isn’t a coffee substitute, but it is a nice stepping stone for folks who are looking to cut back or just cut the jitters down, or as a planty pick me up to add to other caffeine-free subs (that’s what i do with this, adding just a smidge of it to my Teeccino in the morning).
Containing coffee blended with Ashwagandha, Eleuthero, Tulsi, and Chaga, it succeeds in tasting like straight coffee while also balancing some of the nervous system and adrenal hikacking effects that straight coffee brings to the table. It’s actually a really nice formula from an herbal perspective. And just like Teeccino, it brews up just like coffee in your press, brew basket, or drip maker.
They also have other coffee blends that are more mushroom based (that’s kind of their thing as a company) with spotlights on Lion’s Mane, Chaga, and Cordyceps. I’m honestly looking forward to the day where they can infuse microdoses of psilocybin in their coffee blends, since that particular shroom can really help with boosting creativity and focus, two of the things we often look to coffee for.
Cost: $20/bag (16 servings, $1.25/cup — although I think the serving size they list is too large and would personally get at least 30 cups out of this if making it straight)
Best with Caffeine (not from Coffee): MUD\WTR
If you’re looking for a caffeinated pick-me-up that doesn’t include coffee, is stupid easy to make, and is 100% herbal (no added natural flavors here) then look no further — MUD\WTR’s got your back. Love child of chai tea and hot chocolate, MUD\WTR combines Cacao, Masala Chai, Turmeric, Sea Salt, Cinnamon, Chaga, Cordyceps, Reishi, and Lions Mane for a dark brew that is thick and rich and has probably the most unique and complex flavor of all the coffee subs I’ve tried.
MUD\WTR is a powder, so add it to hot water and stir to dissolve and you’re done. Having a frother on hand helps to fully dissolve all the powders, especially if your water isn’t super hot. The one downside to this blend is that the powders never seem to 100% dissolve, so there is often some stuck down at the bottom of the cup, and the last few sips can feel a bit gritty. It’s not that unpleasant, though, like coffee grounds in the cup tend to be, and it’s never stopped me from slurping up those last bits
It is, however, one of the more expensive alternatives, at $40 a canister. That’s a little over $1/cup which is definitely cheaper than coffee shop prices but spendier than your typical home brew.
$40/canister (30 servings, $1.33/cup)
Try MUD\WTR here
Best made by Herbalists (that I’ve tried): RASA Adaptogenic Coffee Alternative
I’m making some assumptions here, but RASA is the only one of these companies that mentions being herbalist formulated on their website, and I also had the privilege of sitting in some sessions at a recent herbal conference with one of their founders who seemed legit (they were actively participating in the breakout on anti-capitalist business, which gives me faith that their hearts are in the right place).
Because I have a sensitivity to rhodiola and most of their blends contain the plant, I haven’t been able to work their formulas long term, but I will say that they taste delicious. Rhodiola is a also a super smart choice for a coffee sub, since it provides similar immediate boost of energy, but being an adaptogen doesn’t do so at the expense of the adrenals (in fact, it works to build them up over time).
Earthy, nutty and sweet, Rasa’s coffee sub combines roasted chicory, burdock, & dandelion roots; eleuthero, shatavari, he shou wu, codonopsis, chaga mycelium, ashwagandha, rhodiola, Ceylon cinnamon, and reishi extract. I wouldn’t describe it as tasting like coffee, but hits some of the same notes. And it brews roughly the same, although you’ll want to leave it in your press for at least 10-20 minutes rather than the 5 you might be used to.
$22.40/ package (30 servings, $0.75/cup).
Try RASA here
Do you have a favorite from this list, or do you have a recommendation of an herbal coffee that didn’t make the cut? Whether its one you make or one you purchase from another company or herbalist, comment below with your favorites, and how you like to drink them!👇🏼