Coffee is the go-to morning beverage for many, while others choose not to drink it for a host of reasons.
For some, the high amount of caffeine — 95 mg per serving — can cause nervousness and agitation, also known as “the jitters.” For others, coffee can cause digestive distress and headaches.
Many simply don’t care for the bitter taste or are bored with their usual morning cup of joe.
Here are 9 delicious alternatives to coffee you can try.
Like coffee beans, chicory root can be roasted, ground and brewed into a delicious hot beverage. It tastes very similar to coffee but is caffeine-free.
It’s also believed to be the richest plant source of inulin. This soluble fiber may aid in digestion and support a healthy gut by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria — particularly Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli (1).
In addition, it can stimulate your gallbladder to produce more bile, which may be beneficial for fat digestion (2).
Chicory root can be found pre-ground and roasted, so it’s easy to prepare. Simply brew it like regular coffee grounds — in a filter coffee maker, French press or espresso machine.
Use 2 tablespoons of grounds for every 6 ounces (180 ml) of water, or adjust this ratio based on your preferences.
Keep in mind that chicory root may cause digestive symptoms in some people. Although inulin is great for your health, it may have side effects such as bloating and gas (3).
In addition, you should avoid chicory root if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding since research on its safety under these circumstances is lacking.
Summary Chicory root tastes similar to coffee but is caffeine-free and very high in the beneficial fiber inulin, which may aid in digestion and support a healthy gut.
Matcha is a type of green tea made by steaming, drying and grinding the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant into a fine powder.
Green tea has also been associated with reduced weight and body fat, as well as a lower risk of type 2 diabetes (5).
Matcha has a fresh flavor, which some describe as earthy.
- Sift 1–2 teaspoons of matcha powder into a ceramic bowl using a fine mesh strainer.
- Add hot, but not boiling, water — the water temperature should be around 160–170°F (71–77°C).
- Stir slowly until the powder is dissolved, then whisk back and forth. A traditional bamboo tea whisk, called a chasen, works best.
- The tea is ready once a light froth forms. You can also try adding 1 cup (237 ml) of steamed milk or a non-dairy alternative for a creamy matcha tea latte.
Because you consume the whole leaf, matcha is typically higher in caffeine than regular brewed green tea and sometimes higher than coffee. The amount in each serving can vary widely, with a range of 35–250 mg per cup (6).
Summary Matcha tea provides an abundance of beneficial antioxidants in a single serving. Depending on how it’s prepared, it may have more or less caffeine than coffee.
Golden milk is a rich, caffeine-free substitute for coffee.
This warm beverage incorporates invigorating spices such as ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and black pepper. Other common additions include cardamom, vanilla and honey.
You can prepare a basic golden milk in about 5 minutes. Here’s how:
- In a saucepan, combine 1 cup (237 ml) of milk or a non-dairy alternative with 1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon of ground ginger and a pinch of black pepper. Optionally, add honey to taste.
- Warm the mixture on low to medium heat, stirring frequently to avoid burning.
- Once heated, pour the drink into a mug and enjoy.
Summary Golden milk is a rich, caffeine-free alternative to coffee that may have anti-inflammatory effects.
Switching up your morning beverage doesn’t have to be complicated. Lemon water is a great way to start your day.
It’s calorie- and caffeine-free and provides an ample dose of vitamin C.
As an antioxidant, vitamin C plays a role in your immune system and protects your skin from sun damage. It’s essential for creating collagen, a protein that provides the basic structure for your skin, tendons and ligaments (11, 12, 13).
Just one glass of lemon water — prepared by adding the juice of half a lemon (1 tablespoon or 15 ml) to 1 cup (237 ml) of cold water — provides 10% of your RDI for vitamin C (14).
You can also add other fruits and herbs for a variety of flavors — cucumbers, mint, watermelon and basil are some popular options.
Summary Lemon water is a simple yet refreshing way to start your day hydrated and with a boost of antioxidants.
If you’re looking for a coffee substitute but don’t want to part with your morning caffeine, yerba mate is a good choice.
Yerba mate is also loaded with beneficial plant compounds that act as antioxidants. In fact, some studies suggest it may be higher in antioxidants than green tea (16).
Additionally, it contains several minerals and vitamins, including riboflavin, thiamine, phosphorus, iron, calcium and vitamins C and E (16).
It has an acquired taste, which can be described as bitter or smokey. In the traditional method, yerba mate is prepared in a yerba mate gourd and consumed through a metal straw, adding water as you drink it.
To make drinking yerba mate easier, you can also steep the leaves using a tea ball or purchase yerba mate tea bags. In these cases, just steep the leaves in hot water for 3–5 minutes and enjoy.
Despite the purported health benefits of yerba mate, you should drink it in moderation. Studies have linked high, regular intakes of 1–2 liters per day to increased rates of certain types of cancer (16, 17, 18).
Summary Yerba mate provides a similar amount of caffeine to coffee along with riboflavin, thiamine, phosphorus, iron, calcium and vitamins C and E. It’s also loaded with antioxidants.
Chai tea is a type of black tea blended with strong herbs and spices.
Black and green teas are both made from the Camellia sinensis plant, but black tea undergoes a fermentation process, which changes its chemical makeup. Both types seem to have powerful antioxidant properties (22).
Besides its potential health benefits, chai tea has a robust flavor and comforting smell.
There are many recipes, but here is one simple way to prepare 2 cups from scratch:
- Crush 4 cardamom seeds, 4 cloves and 2 black peppercorns.
- In a saucepan, combine 2 cups (474 ml) filtered water, a 1-inch (3 cm) slice of fresh ginger, 1 cinnamon stick and the crushed spices.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove from heat.
- Add 2 single-serving black tea bags and let steep for 10 minutes.
- Strain the tea into two mugs and enjoy.
To make a chai tea latte, simply use 1 cup (237 ml) of milk or your favorite non-dairy alternative instead of water in the above recipe.
Summary Chai tea is a spiced black tea with robust flavor and a modest amount of caffeine. Observational studies suggest that black tea may lower your risk of heart disease.
Rooibos or red tea is a caffeine-free beverage that originated in South Africa.
Unlike coffee and other teas, rooibos is low in tannin antioxidants, which can be beneficial but also interfere with the absorption of iron (26).
Despite a low tannin content, rooibos provides a substantial amount of other antioxidants (27).
Rooibos has a longer steep time than most teas and over-steeping does not result in a bitter taste. Instead, rooibos has a slightly sweet, fruity flavor.
To prepare yourself a cup, use a tea filter to steep 1–1.5 teaspoons of loose rooibos for up to 10 minutes. Optionally, you can add lemon and honey to taste.
Summary Rooibos is a caffeine-free tea with a slightly sweet and fruity taste. It provides plenty of antioxidants and is low in tannins, a compound that interferes with iron absorption.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is made by fermenting crushed apples using yeast and bacteria.
This process produces a compound called acetic acid, which may have beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels, according to some studies.
For example, one study found that when people with insulin resistance drank 20 grams (0.5 tablespoons) of ACV before a meal, their rise in blood sugar levels was reduced by 64%. However, this effect was not seen in people with type 2 diabetes (30).
A basic AVC beverage combines 1–2 tablespoons of raw or unfiltered apple cider vinegar, 1 cup (237 ml) of cold water and optionally 1–2 tablespoons of honey or another preferred sweetener.
Do not drink ACV without diluting it first. ACV contains 4–6% of acetic acid which may burn your mouth and throat. It can also wear away tooth enamel if used regularly, so swishing water before and after drinking ACV is recommended (34, 35).
Summary Apple cider vinegar is a caffeine-free alternative to coffee that may have beneficial effects on blood sugar levels. It may even assist with weight loss.
Kombucha is made by fermenting black tea with bacteria, yeast and sugar.
The fermentation process creates a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, commonly referred to as a SCOBY.
Animal and test-tube studies suggest that kombucha may boost your immune system, improve cholesterol levels and blood glucose levels in people with diabetes. However, the purported health benefits in humans are largely anecdotal (38, 39, 40).
However, there are countless varieties available commercially that do not pose the same level of risk.
Summary Kombucha is fermented black tea that contains probiotics, acetic acid and antioxidants. Many animal studies suggest potential health benefits, but few have been done in humans.
While coffee has many health perks of its own, it may not necessarily be for you.
However, there are plenty of other options. Many even provide benefits coffee can’t, such as antioxidant-rich herbs and spices, probiotics and acetic acid.
If you’re looking for a healthy alternative to coffee, the beverages on this list are worth trying.