There’s nothing quite like a hot cup of coffee—or is there? Herbal coffee is an option. The prospect of ditching coffee beans for an alternative becomes increasingly appealing. Surprisingly, many of these substitutes made from herbs, fruits, and mushrooms, are more similar to the flavor of your preferred bean than you might expect, and some even offer an energy boost. They satisfy the need for a warm drink, yet won’t make you jittery or cause headaches.
Chicory root, when roasted, tastes very similar to coffee, but sans caffeine. Chicory root contains inulin, which helps maintain blood sugar levels, reduces inflammation, and helps beat insulin resistance. Inulin is also essential when it comes to gut health.
A note: Pregnant women should not drink chicory, as it may cause miscarriage. It’s also a bad idea if you have ragweed allergies.
To Prepare: Chicory root (endive root is also in the chicory family and may be used) can be chopped into 1” pieces. Spread the pieces on a baking sheet and roast at 350° for 15-20 minutes or until they are golden and smell like coffee. Grind them to coffee ground consistency and brew the same way you would brew your coffee. Serve with desired additions.
Roasted dandelion roots can be ground and used in place of coffee. The taste is relatively similar and it comes out dark and aromatic, but lacks the acidic, bitter taste. In addition to tasting better, dandelion root contains probiotics to boost your immune system and help your gastrointestinal tract stay healthy. It also helps reduce inflammation, stimulate circulation, and adds antioxidants to your diet.
To Prepare: You’ll need spring dandelion roots. Wash and dry them, then remove any small scraggly or hair-like pieces, as these will burn. Lay the pieces on a baking pan and roast in a 350° oven for 40 minutes, turning occasionally, until dry and toasted. Boil roughly in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes. Feel free to add any spices you enjoy for extra flavor. Strain and serve hot.
Cacao beans are a great substitute for coffee, though you may not be able to grow them in your back yard. You can buy the nibs, though, at any health food store and use them for making a hot beverage to enjoy each morning. Cacao also carries several health benefits, including reducing the risk of diabetes and lowering blood pressure. Cacao nibs are high in potassium, as well, which eases inflammation in the body, ensures the bowels function properly, and lowers your risk of heart disease. It’s also packed with iron and magnesium, making this a very healthy drink.
To Prepare: Spread cacao nibs on a baking tray and roast at 350° for 10 minutes. Cool completely, then grind in a coffee grinder until coffee ground texture. Add 4 tablespoons of ground nibs to a French press and pour 2 cups of boiling water over them. Steep for 5 minutes, then gently press the plunger. Serve hot.
If you like earthy tasting drinks, you will enjoy Chaga tea as a coffee substitute. This woody looking mushroom is full of adaptogens which help prevent aging and ease stress. Chaga is also extremely helpful in keeping your immune system functioning at its best. Drinking chaga tea daily will help you feel more energetic and will aid in fighting tumors, viruses, and other health issues. The drink also works as a natural sunblock over time. Interestingly, the majority of the benefits from this fungus are only released when prepared in hot water.
To Prepare: Grind chunks of the mushroom into a powder and add 3 tablespoons to 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes, covered. Remove from the heat and steep for 5 minutes before straining and serving.
Acorn coffee was a common drink during the Civil War and it is still a good option for making hot drinks in the morning if you have an abundance of acorns. You’ll want to use white oak acorns, as they’re tastier and require less work to prepare. These tiny nuts are high in a number of minerals, including iron, potassium, manganese and vitamins like vitamin A, folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin E.
To Prepare: Put fresh acorns in a paper bag for a week or two until they dry out and separate from the shell. Boil the acorns for 30 minutes to soften, then shell the acorns once cooled. Peel the skin off the nut, as it gives a very bitter taste.
In the food processor, blend the acorns until they are in small pieces, then boil in water to cover for 5 minutes. Rinse with cold water until the water runs clear. Now you can roast them at 400° for 30 minutes or so, stirring frequently, until they are dark and begin to emit smoke. Grind the acorn pieces in your coffee grinder, then place a heaping tablespoon of grounds in your French press and add a cup of boiling water. Let it sit for 5 minutes before plunging slowly. Serve hot.
Capomo or Maya Nut
This tropical fruit is actually known by many names, including ramon nut, breadnut, or ojite. Native to Central and South America, it’s a very nutritious fruit that is dried, roasted, and turned into a coffee substitute. The fruit comes from the B. alicastrum tree and is full of vitamins A, B, C, and E. It’s also high in iron, zinc, protein, potassium, and calcium.
To Prepare: Unless you live in Central or South America, it’s most likely that you’ll have to buy pre-roasted capomo. Add 2 tablespoons to a tea ball and steep in 2 cups of boiling water for 5-10 minutes or until the desired strength is reached. Serve immediately.
Did you know you can roast most grains to make a coffee substitute? Barley is one of the more popular choices, thanks to its tasty final form. Barley, when roasted and brewed, is useful for reducing bloating, eases constipation, lowers blood sugar, and also helps with digestion. It’s also very effective in reducing inflammation throughout the body.
To Prepare: Spread the barley in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast at 425° for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently, until browned. Grind the barley in your coffee mill. In a French press, put 2 tablespoons in the press and cover with 2 cups of boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes and then press. Serve hot.
As you can see, there are quite a few alternatives to the standard coffee bean. If you are trying to give up coffee or if it’s just not your thing, but you would like something similar, these options are healthy. You can increase your health while enjoying a nice hot drink.
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