A cup of joe is a key part of many people’s morning routine. Coffee isn’t just aromatic and delicious — it promotes alertness and focus, suppresses appetite, and even aids with digestion.
Coffee acts as a stimulant, which means that it can increase your blood pressure and heart rate; it also gives some people headaches. And while it helps digestion in some people, it can cause stomach pain and indigestion in others, especially people who drink several cups a day.
Maybe your healthcare provider recommended that you reduce your coffee intake or remove it from your diet entirely. Or perhaps you just want to live coffee-free for personal reasons. No matter the reason, we have good news.
Several delicious drinks can ease your transition away from coffee while still providing some or all of the same effects. Many of these coffee substitutes have more natural sugar and no bitter taste, unlike coffee. Here are some ideas and recipes to get you started.
Best Healthy Alternatives to Coffee
Going without your daily cup of coffee — or two or three — might seem hard, both emotionally and physically, especially if you have developed caffeine dependence. We have some great options for you, with recipes and health benefits of each.
Chicory root is the alternative that tastes the most like traditional coffee!
Of all the potential healthy coffee alternatives, chicory tastes the most like traditional coffee — so much that some companies sell chicory-coffee mixes. You can brew chicory root the same way you brew traditional coffee.
Historically, people used roasted chicory root as a coffee alternative during times of coffee shortages; it remains particularly popular in New Orleans. Some chicory mixes come with other herbs, such as dandelion root.
Chicory is rich in a prebiotic fiber called inulin which not only feeds your healthy gut bacteria but also might reduce occasional constipation. Chicory is naturally caffeine-free, and a great option for people wanting specifically to eliminate that stimulant from their diet. Avoid this choice if pregnant, however.
- 1–2 tablespoons ground chicory
- 2 cups hot water
- Raw honey or other natural sweetener (optional)
- Brew just like coffee (using a french press, drip coffee maker, etc.).
Black tea is helpful for mental alertness because it contains caffeine, but has a lower amount than coffee. Drinking black tea and other caffeinated beverages throughout the day helps to improve attention, even after extended periods without sleep. The stimulating effect increases when there is more caffeine in the beverage.
Black tea can improve your attention — even when you don’t sleep enough!
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1 black tea bag or 1 tablespoon loose leaf tea
- Raw honey or other natural sweetener (optional)
- Place loose tea into a metal ball infuser and place in a cup of boiling water, or add tea bag to boiling water.
- Steep for 2 minutes. Remove tea bag or infuser.
- Add sweetener, if desired.
Matcha is a type of green tea ground into a fine powder that has an earthy, rich taste with a lingering sweetness. One scientific study found that matcha tea can slightly increase attention and memory in humans.
To reap all the matcha benefits, make sure it’s in tea form!
Although you can find matcha in some processed foods and even candy, this study found that its health benefits work best when taken in tea form, hot or cold. Try it in a matcha tea smoothie, a great replacement for your morning coffee Frappuccino. Add in some vegan protein powder for an extra boost of healthy amino acids.
- 1 cup boiling water
- 2 tablespoons matcha tea powder
- 1 cup ice
- 1 cup nut milk
- 1 tablespoon vegan protein powder
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
- Add matcha to boiling water and let it cool.
- Once the tea has cooled, pour it into a blender. Add the ice, nut milk, and sweetener.
- Blend well.
The spices and herbs in chai tea can improve your gut health.
Chai tea is a blend of spices, herbs, and black tea. Chai offers a rich alternative to your morning coffee, especially if you love the fall “pumpkin spice” coffee season. It contains less caffeine than coffee, and the spices it contains, such as cardamom, give you a natural health boost.
In one animal study, scientists found that cardamom promoted normal blood pressure and has a calming effect, physiologically.
You can order a chai latte at most coffee shops in place of a traditional latte or make this drink at home.
- 1 chai tea bag
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup organic nut milk
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
- Heat the water and nut milk.
- Add the tea bag and sweetener.
- Steep for 5 minutes.
Natural Hot Chocolate
It is easy to replace the taste of your morning mocha with a non-coffee alternative — natural hot chocolate! Simply mix organic cocoa powder with nut or oat milk, and enjoy! You can also add in chicory if you want a bit more coffee flavor in the hot chocolate.
Cocoa powder is truly an antioxidant superfood; it aids weight loss, decreases redness and swelling, and improves brain health and mood. While cocoa contains a small amount of caffeine, it contains much less than coffee.
- 2 tablespoons organic, unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons organic maple syrup
- 1 ½–2 cups nut or oat milk, heated
- ½ cup brewed chicory (optional)
- Add cocoa powder and maple syrup to a mug.
- After heating the nut or oat milk, pour it into your mug and mix well.
- For a special treat, top with vegan marshmallows.
Yerba mate is a rich, plant-based drink that originates from South America, from the same scientific genus as holly trees (Ilex). Yerba mate contains less caffeine than coffee, while still offering some attention-boosting effects.
Research shows that yerba mate is a stimulant that might be useful for managing obesity!
Yerba mate may promote normal cholesterol, protect the liver, and support the cardiovascular system. If that weren’t enough, it also acts as a mild stimulant; some experts have even suggested using it for obesity management. In some studies, yerba mate slows the development of obesity in several ways, including protecting against insulin resistance and modulating levels of blood lipids (fats).
Try this refreshing and easy cold-brewed yerba mate for an afternoon pick-me-up.
- 2 cups cold water
- 2 tablespoons loose–leaf yerba mate, or 2 tea bags
- Sweetener (optional)
- Add cold water and yerba mate into a glass. Store in the refrigerator overnight.
- In the morning, add sweetener if desired.
You’ve heard it a million times: drink more water! But it’s true. You should drink half your body weight in ounces every day for best health — so if you crave a cup of joe, reach for your water bottle. Water not only decreases your appetite, it helps you lose weight without resorting to a stimulant.
One study found that drinking 1.5 liters (around 50 fluid ounces) of water helped with weight reduction, body fat reduction, and appetite suppression. Drinking more water also helps to reduce constipation.Some people love water, but if it’s not usually your favorite, pep it up. Try making lemon water for a fresh, caffeine-free drink, or make flavorful detox water. See our article on Detox Water Recipes for more ideas.
- 4 cups cold distilled water
- 1 cup ice
- Juice of ½ lemon
- Add all ingredients to a pitcher.
- Store in the refrigerator.
Golden Milk Latte
This drink may be your new go-to for better digestion and relaxation!
Golden milk lattes are warm, comforting drinks full of turmeric, which can even aid in weight loss. An animal research study found that including turmeric in your diet may help reduce the risk of obesity.
A traditional Ayurvedic comfort drink, golden milk helps with relaxation and digestion. Because of its relaxing effects, many people prefer to drink it in the evening, rather than as a morning pick-me-up — but see what works for you.
- 2 cups nut or oat milk
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger or 1 tablespoon sliced fresh ginger root
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper or fresh peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Add nut or oat milk to a saucepan. Oat milk will have a frothy texture similar to traditional lattes.
- Add spices and vanilla and simmer ingredients for a couple of minutes.
- Pour the drink through a fine-mesh strainer into a mug.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Research on apple cider vinegar is ongoing, but some studies show that vinegar can help boost metabolism, decrease fatigue, and lower triglycerides, which are fats that circulate in your blood.[12, 13] A couple additions make the drink extra healthful: a dash of cayenne pepper will help you feel full for longer, and orange juice brings in a potent source of vitamin C.[14, 15]
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup orange juice
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Dash of cayenne pepper
- Add juice, honey, and apple cider vinegar to a glass and stir to combine.
- Add a dash of cayenne pepper to the top.
Did you know that green tea not only may help you manage your weight but can also boost your immune system?
Green tea is made from the fresh leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant — as is black and oolong; however, black tea is fermented while green tea is not. Green tea is popular for its anti-aging properties. In addition, it can be helpful for weight loss and is thought to have anti-diabetic and anti-obesity properties.[4,16] Initial studies in animals have even found that green tea boosts the immune system, helping it work more effectively.
Green tea has less caffeine than black tea and much less than coffee, so green tea is not the best alternative if you are looking for a stimulant. However, that makes it more appealing if you are cutting back on caffeine and trying to reduce stress on your body.
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1 green tea bag or 1 tablespoon loose-leaf green tea
- 1 lemon wedge (optional)
- Steep tea in boiling water for 3 minutes. Add lemon for extra flavor.
Prune, Apple, or Pear Juices
One of the useful benefits of coffee is its laxative effect, but you can try a fruit-based alternative that might prove even more effective — and with more nutrients. Try apple, prune, and pear juices, which contain sorbitol and water, both of which help with constipation.
Fruit juices offer rich sources of vitamins and minerals in an easy-to-digest form. However, they can quickly increase blood sugar, so they are not the best coffee substitute if you are trying to lose weight or have diabetes.
You can buy these fruit juices already made but only buy organic, 100-percent juice. You can also make fresh juices at home.
Other coffee alternatives exist, as well. If you like the taste of tea but want to avoid caffeine entirely, choose an herbal tea instead, such as licorice tea, rooibos tea, or mint tea. Brew them in the same way that you do with black or any other tea.
You can also try kombucha, a fermented tea beverage that is abundant in probiotics, beneficial organisms that help restore the balance of bacteria in your stomach and digestive tract. Yet another alternative is coconut water, which is a more flavorful way to hydrate.
Points to Remember
You can find several alternatives to coffee, many of which have the same benefits as your typical morning java, but without the bitterness and jitters. These benefits range from decreasing constipation to increasing energy, depending on which coffee alternative you choose.
Teas, including herbal tea, provide antioxidants and other beneficial chemicals. Water, juices, and chicory root can all help ease occasional constipation naturally. If you want a warm, comforting drink, chicory or golden milk lattes offer more great options.
Just remember, many delicious options exist, whether hot or cold, to replace coffee in your day. Find the one that you love, and that provides the comfort, aroma, or stimulation that you need.
Have you found an alternative to your morning cup of coffee? What is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!
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- Pham VT, et al. The effects of fermentation products of prebiotic fibres on gut barrier and immune functions in vitro. PeerJ. 2018 Aug 10;6:e5288.
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- Dietz C, et al. An intervention study on the effect of matcha tea, in drink and snack bar formats, on mood and cognitive performance. Food Res Int. 2017 Sep;99(Pt 1):72–83.
- Gilani AH, et al. Gut modulatory, blood pressure lowering, diuretic and sedative activities of cardamom. J Ethnopharmacol. 2008 Feb 12;115(3):463–472.
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- Gambero A, Ribeiro M. The positive effects of yerba maté (Ilex paraguariensis) in obesity. Nutrients. 2015 Feb;7(2):730–750.
- Vij KVA, Joshi AS. Effect of excessive water intake on body weight, body mass index, body fat, and appetite of overweight female participants. J Nat Sci Biol Med. 2014 Jul-Dec;5(2):340–344.
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- Ejaz A, et al. Curcumin inhibits adipogenesis in 3T3-L1 adipocytes and angiogenesis and obesity in C57/BL mice. J Nutr. 2009;139(5):919–925.
- Orey, C. The Healing Powers of Vinegar: A Complete Guide to Nature’s Most Remarkable Remedy. New York, NY: Kensington Books;2000.
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- Cardoso GA, et al. The effects of green tea consumption and resistance training on body composition and resting metabolic rate in overweight or obese women. J Med Food. 2013 Feb;16(2):120–127.
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