Looking for some great alternatives to coffee? We’ve got everything you need right here, from reasons to quit to health benefits to dozens of coffee replacements. We’ve got substitutes with caffeine, without and everywhere in between.
Cutting coffee can actually improve energy and productivity if swapped for healthy habits. In the meantime, use our handy guide below to replace the drink with coffee substitutes and soften the caffeine withdrawal blues.
We’ve got some ways to stay awake without coffee and some coffee alternatives to avoid at all costs. We’ve got some stand-ins that taste like the real thing, plus some natural replacements. We also added a wealth of strategies for coping, so get ready to get passionate about cutting free and feeling good about it.
Why Give Up Coffee?
Anyone scouring the web for good coffee alternatives already has reason enough to quit coffee. That said, an ounce of resolve is worth a pound of good intentions, or something like that. For a little extra steel, check out the reasons below for quitting the world’s most common psychoactive drug.
- Heart disease. Caffeine elevates the risk of heart disease by raising blood sugar. More blood sugar leads to more fat and cholesterol in the system, and that means clogged-up arteries.
- Stress. Caffeine increases stress hormones called catecholamines. Feeling overwrought and jittery? You might want to re-think that “healthy” coffee habit.
- Inflammation. The stress hormones boosted by caffeine promote inflammation. That can worsen anything from sinus problems to arthritis to heart disease to cancer risk.
- Fatigue. While coffee gives a boost, it also resets your body’s natural state to lower-energy. So sure we feel peppy after we drink a steaming mug. But if we don’t keep the caffeine-train chugging along, we’re down in blahs-ville again.
- Cholesterol. Coffee contains cholesterol-raising compounds called diterpenes. Wait, didn’t we just say above that coffee raises cholesterol? That was through extra blood sugar. This is bad-fat whammy #2.
- Indigestion. Coffee has been shown to cause heartburn and other tummy no-nos. That case of coffee-gut doesn’t have to be yours for good.
- Mood. While coffee perks up the happy brain chemical serotonin, it also depletes it below normal during dow- times. Sad!
- Dozens of illnesses. Coffee robs the body of important minerals like calcium and potassium. That can lead to a whole list of sickness.
- Anxiety. Quitting coffee lessens anxiety symptoms for some. And here you thought all that nail-biting was just your normal state.
Is Coffee Bad for You?
Hopefully the list above settles the “is coffee bad for you” debate. In fairness to the oily black stuff, it does have health benefits. It’s shown to lower Parkinson’s risk and even prolong life. Studies abound on its effect on productivity.
For all that, Harvard Health calls coffee addictive and a contributor to high blood pressure and cardiovascular ills. Also, coffee only helps productivity in those who don’t drink it regularly.
The real question though is whether anyone can live without it. For your answer, look to NFL legend Tom Brady. He never drinks coffee and yet has won a record five Super Bowl rings. Who’s more energetic, happy and productive than that?
How to Give Up Coffee
The best way to give up coffee is to have a solid plan. After all, withdrawal symptoms, cravings and flagging will power are solid roadblocks. Like a prizefighter stepping into the ring, a quitter needs a strategy for when the going gets tough.
A good plan for quitting coffee includes a coffee alternative as a crutch through tough times. Learn caffeine withdrawal strategies and prepare to use them. Finally, running toward something is a lot easier than running away. Getting passionate about healthy choices can get a quitter’s mind on something positive and off the black hole left by coffee’s exit.
In the sections below we’ll look at:
- Caffeine alternatives to coffee.
- How to stay awake without caffeine.
- How to avoid caffeine withdrawal.
- Natural coffee substitutes.
- Coffee alternatives that taste like coffee.
- A healthier lifestyle as a coffee replacement.
Ready? Gather up your willpower, take a deep breath, and grab a great big mug o’ Joe. Oh, wait…
Caffeine Alternatives to Coffee
Sometimes an allergy forces us to find a coffee alternative that contains caffeine. Aside from pumping straight caffeine pills or popping dubious supplements called something like “Wasp Bullets” sold at truck stops, most coffee alternatives have a lot less of the common drug.
The options below carry many of the health benefits of quitting cold-turkey but without symptoms like irritability or grogginess. Some can even boost your health.
Black Tea (70 mg/cup)
Black tea is a great caffeine alternative to coffee because it’s like a first step down the ladder. While coffee has about 140 mg of caffeine per cup, black tea’s got about hal thatf. That’s enough of a drop to feel good about, but a small enough to be doable.
As an added benny, unlike coffee, black tea is chock-a-block with vitamins and minerals. It’s thought to reduce risk of some cancers and lower the chance of a heart attack, diabetes, kidney stones and Parkinson’s. Plus admit it, you feel a little bit like Mr. Miyagi when you drink it.
Green Tea (25 mg/cup)
Green tea is black tea that’s not beaten up so much. The leaves come from the same plant, but a gentler process leaves it with a lot less caffeine. That means a bigger step down from coffee, with all the pros and cons that entails.
According to Christopher Ochner, nutrition researcher at Mt. Sinai Hospital, Green tea is “the healthiest thing I can think of to drink.” It lowers cholesterol, helps block Alzheimer’s and may even zap cancer. Plus people have been drinking it for over 4,000 years, and we haven’t run out yet.
White Tea, Blended Tea (35 mg/cup)
Other teas that make good coffee replacements are white tea and blended tea. White tea is made from the same plant as green and black tea, but from much younger leaves and new buds. It’s basically the harp seal fur hat of the tea world.
White tea’s caffeine level sits somewhere in between black and green tea, so a good step-down process might be: coffee to black tea to white tea to green tea. It also has many of the same health benefits of its two sisters like improved heart and brain health.
Blended tea is the generic stuff you find on the supermarket aisle. It’s got most of the same health boosters described above but with a more Walmart-y feel.
Iced Tea (30 mg/cup)
Need a summertime coffee alternative that fits in around the pool? We’re probably not saying anything new by suggesting iced tea. That said, you probably didn’t know it’s rich in manganese that can help you heal a little more like Marvel’s Wolverine.
Like black, green and white tea, iced tea also packs both flavonoids and fluoride. That means less chance of chronic disease and whiter teeth — both perks to smile about.
Yerba Mate (85 mg/cup)
This is the drink of choice of Argentinian cowboys. A dubious coffee substitute, it delivers more caffeine than black tea and requires a metal straw and a personal donkey to carry around the sack of shredded plants required.
Drinkers make this arduous concoction by packing a mug or gourd full of chopped leaves, then pouring in some hot water. The metal straw’s required to strain out all the flotsam.
With its roots in pre-Columbian Paraguay, Mate spread quickly to Spain and has finally made it into living rooms in New Jersey.
Dark Chocolate (2 oz, 25 mg)
Want stepped-down caffeine without the beverage? Try chocolate. According to the Cleveland Clinic, chocolate is jammed full of vitamins and heart-healthy fats. It’s thought to help healing, block cell damage and even lower blood pressure.
The key word here is “dark.” While it’s tempting to replace coffee with sweetened bonbons filled with gooey truffle centers, those add too much sugar. Sticking to dark chocolate ensures little downside with all the ups.
How to Avoid Caffeine Withdrawal and Stay Awake Without Coffee
To go cold turkey, consider a coffee substitute from our caffeine-free list below. First though, pull a couple withdrawal-coping-mechanisms from our quiver:
- Accept the slump. Quitting coffee probably means headaches and grogginess. They’ll be bad for three days and taper off for two weeks. Accept that as the price of admission.
- Quit on a Friday afternoon. To spare career and co-workers, quit over the weekend to minimize the damage. Get out and do something active or huddle down and binge-watch, but pick a strategy.
- Hydrate. Lots of water means less headaches and a better cleanse of bad stuff in the system. It’ll never replace coffee but it’ll smooth out the transition.
- Bedtime. Have one. Fight excess sleepiness by giving in to it at night.
- Vitamin C. Take it. It reduces stress and pumps up energy.
- Eat less and better. A full belly leads to food comas and we want the opposite. Don’t like going hungry? Cram down healthy foods like greens and protein during lunch. Laying off the carbs will mean more energy without the coffee.
- Exercise more often. Even a ten-minute walk around the block can pull us back from la-la land. Use small bits of exercise as pick-me-ups while quitting.
Natural Coffee Substitutes
The list below shows several coffee alternatives without caffeine. These drinks give the cold-turkey quitter something to do at coffee breaks. They won’t ever replace coffee, but they’ll keep you from twiddling your thumbs. Plus, some do increase energy and even provide health benefits.
Sound like a blend of tea and Al Pacino? It’s actually a well-loved coffee alternative. Lucky you, it’s made from seven healthy, yummy ingredients: Carob, barley, chicory, dates and figs (for sweetness) roasted ramón seeds (loved by Mayans) and dandelion root.
The company makes just shy of a zillion varieties including chocolate, mocha, hazlenut and several gluten free varieties. The carbo and ramón seeds pack an energy punch too.
Ginger tea restores the Yang, crucial in a coffee substitute since “Yang” translates to “hot energy.” It’s got high levels of amino acids and vitamin C. It’s got a list of health benefits so long you’d need a cup of it just to get through reading it.
Ginger tea can cut down inflammation, open airways, fight cancer, relieve stress and even protect against Alzheimer’s. It’s easy to make too. Just grate a teaspoon of fresh ginger in a cup of hot water, wait two minutes and enjoy.
Want more info on this really cool drink? See our ginger tea health benefits list here.
Peppermint tea makes a solid coffee alternative because of its power to cut mental stress. Added benefits are better breath, weight loss and immune support.
Looking to nail your weight loss goals? Check out the full guide to the Tom Brady diet plan right here.
What the heck is turmeric latte? It’s a delicious, somewhat high-maintenance drink that lots of quitters swear by as an alternative to coffee. It’s loaded with curcumin, said to lessen inflammation.
There’s a great recipe to make it here that combines cinnamon and cardamom, fresh ginger, pepper and takes about three minutes to concoct.
Blue-Green Algae Shake
What does blue-green algae have to do with coffee? Nothing. Okay we’re stretching it a bit to say this is a coffee substitute. But if the goal is more energy and better health, this might just be the way to go. Blue algae is basically pond scum, and it tastes like it. But mixed with fruit and other goodies it can be just what the doctor ordered.
Blue algae or Spirulina packs more protein than red meat. It fights allergies, boosts the immune system and delivers brain-healthy fats and vitamins. Will it make you feel like you just quaffed a double cappuccino? No, but you might just feel so healthy you won’t have to.
See our guide to picking the best spirulina supplement here.
Probiotics are healthy critters that help our tummies, spreading the health love throughout our bodies as they do so. They make a smart coffee alternative because, according to Dr. Axe, they fight a zillion chronic illnesses that sap our health and energy.
There are a dozen probiotic drinks available, with some even sold at Walmart. Kevita is a popular prefab variety. The simplest is just a spoonful of whole apple cider vinegar added to a favorite drink. Look for the words “with the mother” on the label.
You’ve actually got some powerful probiotics hiding in your fridge right now. Click to uncover them.
Coffee Alternatives that Taste Like Coffee
For a coffee replacement that tastes just like your former beverage of choice, try any of the drinks below.
- Teeccino. We detailed this one above. It’s a coffee sub-in made from dandelion, chicory and other herbs and drinkers love it.
- Dandelion Coffee Substitute. This homemade coffee taste-alike blends dandelion root with chicory and cinnamon. There’s a good recipe for it here.
- Postum. This roasted wheat/molasses drink has been around for over 100 years. It isn’t gluten free but it’s simple, natural and tasty.
- Pero. A Latin version of Postum made with barley, chicory and rye.
- Chicory Caro. Another caffeine-free, roasted grain-based coffee alternative with rye and chicory.
How to Stay Awake Without Caffeine
Believe it or not, there are some coffee replacements when it comes to staying bushy-tailed without caffeine. We’ve covered many of them above, but here they are all in one handy reference:
- Eat healthier. Lots of greens and multicolored veggies and a diet low in simple carbs can give a boost to energy sans coffee.
- Exercise more. Caffeine’s energy comes from adrenaline. Exercise releases endorphins which feel almost indistinguishable. Grab a 10 minute stair workout at break-time for a boost.
- Early bedtime. Quitting coffee will make almost anyone sleepy for a couple weeks. Instead of fighting it with coffee substitutes, embrace it. More sleep at night means more energy for work time.
- Vitamin C. Aside from fighting colds, vitamin C is a great energy enhancer. Protected cells need less energy to defend themselves and that means more for you!
Terrible Coffee Substitutes
We couldn’t end this guide without a list of awful coffee alternatives. The options below either cram in more caffeine than coffee itself or hide other health risks.
Matcha is basically instant green tea with a lot more caffeine. It’s got as much and sometimes more caffeine than coffee. Anybody looking for a coffee replacement should drink Matcha if they mean, “I need to replace this coffee because it isn’t strong enough.”
Energy drinks can pack more caffeine than coffee along with other nasty ingredients like Taurine. They’ve been linked to sudden cardiac death, headaches, migraines, anxiety, insomnia and enough other health problems to give night sweats to a naturopath. Steer clear.
Caffeine pills are certainly a coffee substitute without the coffee. The trouble is, they can deliver too much caffeine and without any of the health benefits. They can lead to caffeine overdose and while that’s not anything that put you in the Walter White category it can still cause major health problems from palpitations to eventual collapse.
Did we miss a coffee alternative somewhere? Do you have your own favorite coffee replacement? Hit us in the comments section with your favorite coffee substitute or coping mechanism for the quitting blahs!