Options both with and without caffeine included.

By Laura Fisher/HEALTH.COM
Jul 11, 2019 @ 9:30 am
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I love coffee. I don't leave the house without brewing a french press no matter how early I need to be out the door. For the most part, I don’t see a problem with this; for most people, there is nothing wrong with caffeine. Some studies even suggest that consuming coffee is associated with a longer lifespan!

But lately, I've been thinking about my reliance on coffee after it was pointed out to me that I turn into a dragon if required to go without (trust me, you don't want to be the person on that camping trip who left the beans behind) and thought it might be good to cut down for a bit. The problem was that I still wanted something warm and comforting as I went about my morning. I'm not a huge tea drinker, and I tend to like a drink that is frothy, or one to which I can at least add some milk. I’ve been experimenting with some coffee alternatives that not only taste great, but provide some pretty awesome health benefits to boot. Here are my top five.

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Matcha Latte

I got nervous about going cold turkey on caffeine after hearing horror stories of withdrawal headaches, so I decided to give matcha a try. Many of us have heard of the health benefits of green tea, such as high levels of antioxidants and a caffeine boost without a crash. Matcha takes those benefits to the max due to the way its grown and brewed. By grinding the leaf rather than just steeping, you’re squeezing every last bit of goodness from the precious plant.

In its most basic form, matcha can be somewhat bitter and grassy. Some people love that taste, but I prefer a creamy, more subdued beverage in the mornings. Matcha brewing instructions called for whisking 1 to 2 teaspoons of matcha into hot water, but I skipped that step since I was going to be throwing all my ingredients into a blender. I followed the recipe for health coach Robyn Youkilis’ Magical Morning Matcha, which is her favorite method to make the green goods palatable. The result? A gloriously creamy, indulgent dose of caffeine that provided me with steady energy throughout the morning.

Chaga Latte

After a few mornings of matcha, I was feeling more confident in going caffeine-free. Next up was a chaga latte. I’ve been hearing a lot about the benefits of medicinal mushrooms. No, these aren’t the psychedelic kind - we’re talking mushrooms like chaga, lion’s mane, and cordyceps, which boast health benefits ranging from increased brain function to help with endurance workouts. I decided to start with chaga, since I was feeling a little run down and it purportedly boosts the immune system. I was admittedly a little nervous to drink earthy mushrooms first thing in the morning, so I turned to the mushroom experts at Four Sigmatics for their ideal chaga latte recipe. They blend up chaga with soaked cashews, dates, almond milk and spices. I personally left out the cacao and carob, but keep it in for a twist on a mocha. I don’t know if it was the mushrooms, the caffeine-free lifestyle, or something else, but I did manage to stave off any illness, and the latte was pretty delicious with no hint of fungus on the palate.

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Dandelion Coffee

After a series of mornings with my fancy latte options, I was craving the simplicity of my morning cup of Joe. Dandelion herbal blend, made from roasted dandelion root and usually combined with chicory root and other herbs, is known to have a similar texture and full-bodied taste to the real-deal coffee. It also is caffeine-free, chock full of antioxidants and include gut-friendly probiotics. It’s also extremely easy to mix up, instantly ready once combined with hot water. My verdict? It wasn’t exactly the same as regular coffee, but definitely scratched my itch. It has a slightly sweet, naturally creamy texture, and was the perfect vehicle for my homemade spiced almond milk. Warm, cozy, morning beverage? Check!

Bone Broth

This was a little out there, even for me, but trust me—drinking a hot cup of bone broth is a great way to start your morning. Bone broth, which is essentially just stock made by boiling animal bones for hours, is super nutrient-rich and is a good source of protein, which will help you feel full and satisfied throughout your morning. As someone who has always struggled with digestive woes, I was also happy to learn that having bone broth first thing in the morning helps the digestive system all day long. What finally pushed me over the edge into a bone broth devotee, though, is that it is a good source of natural collagen, meaning this comforting concoction is also a beauty beverage. Make your own or buy form one of the organic brands out there like Kettle and Fire.

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Moringa Leaf

You might not have heard much about moringa, but this plant has been praised for its multiple health benefits for thousands of years. Its high level of antioxidants can help mitigate inflammation in the body, it may help stabilize and even lower blood sugar levels, and gives an incredible, caffeine-free burst of energy. Moringa comes in powdered form and can be prepared the same way as matcha, by whisking into hot water for tea or a latte. If I am making a morning smoothie, I will often add a half of a teaspoon of the so-called miracle plant for unparalleled energy, without the crash. Start with small amounts, as this plant packs serious power!

 

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