Updated: May 25
I know what you’re thinking, why in the world would anyone want to give up coffee? Saying anything bad about coffee is like telling the French that cheese is unhealthy. I’m not going to go into great detail about why coffee may or may not be great for you - like most things, in moderation, studies have indicated that it is actually good for you! The key word being “moderation”, which many Americans have a very loose definition of. The problem is that most people don’t have one cup of coffee a day but have up to 10 and we can all agree that that’s not healthy. Also, let’s be clear about what a “cup” is because going to Starbucks and ordering a Venti Coffee does not mean that it counts as your first “cup” of the day ;) You are in reality drinking 2.5 cups of coffee. My point is - just because it fits into a "cup", does not mean it measures 1 cup. I think we're on the same page now.
To mention a few of the negative side effects of drinking too much coffee: it can cause anxiety, irritability, high blood pressure, insomnia, bad breath, digestive problems, acid reflux, drowsiness and decreased nutrient absorption.
I’m not saying that you have to give up coffee cold turkey, but why not introduce some healthier caffeinated drinks into your daily routine that don’t have the same negative side effects that coffee does? Not only are these 4 coffee substitutes a great way to get an energy boost, but they also happen to have profound health benefits that will make you feel extra good about giving up your morning “Venti-Iced-Blonde-Flat-White-Mocha-Skim-Milk-Latte”. Without further ado, my list of 5 superfood teas that are great coffee substitues!
1. Guayusa Tea
Guayusa is as exotic and epic as it sounds. Native to the Amazon rainforest, the tree’s leaves have been harvested since ancient times due to their perceived antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
When prepared as a tea, expect to get a boost of energy as Guayusa leaves contain about the same amount of caffeine as coffee. However, unlike coffee, Guayusa tea contains theobromine, an alkaloid that’s structurally similar to caffeine. Theobromine is also found in foods like chocolate and cocoa powder. When combined, caffeine and theobromine have been shown to improve mood, concentration and alertness.
To try it, steep loose leaves in boiling water and strain before drinking. It does have a slightly bitter taste, so a spoonful of honey balances out the flavor nicely.
Guayusa is rich in antioxidants and caffeine. It may provide multiple health benefits, including improved concentration, blood sugar regulation, and weight loss and doesn’t cause the jitters like coffee often does.
2. Yerbe Mate
Yerba mate is another caffeinated South American drink that has become increasingly popular in recent years. Although you can find it as a bottled cold tea drink in most healthfood stores, Yerba Mate is traditionally sipped on using a metal straw and an hourglass shaped container called a gourd. Naturally, the metal straw has a built in strainer at the bottom of it to block the mate leaf particles from getting through and ruining your tea-drinking experience.
Yerba mate contains several beneficial plant nutrients, including:
• Xanthines: compounds that have a stimulating effect including caffeine and theobromine
• Caffeoyl derivatives: compounds full of healthy antioxidants
• Saponins: these compounds are what created the slightly bitter taste of yerbe mate - they have anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering properties.
• Polyphenols: a group of antioxidants, shown to reduce risk of many diseases.
Although green tea is always in the spotlight when it comes to its antioxidant power, you’d be surprised to know that yerbe mate actually exceeds green tea in this category.
In regards to caffeine, a cup of yerbe mate has less caffeine than a cup of coffee but more than a cup of tea. However, regular yerba mate drinkers praise it for enhancing alertness like coffee — but not leaving them with a case of the jitters at the end of the day.
Maybe my favorite benefit of Yerba mate is that it may aid in weight-loss by reducing your appetite, boosting your metabolism, and increasing the amount of fat burned for fuel.
Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, energy and metabolism boosting - sounds like the most perfect drink of all time to me!
A common misconception is that Matcha is just powdered green tea. That is partially true in that it does come from the same plant but when you drink matcha, you are consuming the ground up leaf in its entirety which means a more concentrated amount of all of the good stuff including antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds.
The main distinction between the two is that matcha is grown differently than green tea. Farmers cover the tea plants about a month before harvest so that they don’t get direct sunlight. Seems like a strange thing to do but it actually increases chlorophyll production, boosts the amino acid content, and gives the plant a darker green color. Harvest, dry and grind the leaves up to create the superfood tea known as matcha.
Not only does matcha taste incredible when combined with coconut milk and a dash of honey, but studies indicate a variety of health benefits. Some of these benefits include: enhanced weight loss, decreased risk of heart disease, high nutrient content, liver support, and improved heart health.
In short, matcha packs in the nutrients from the entire “enhanced” tea leaf, which means you get more caffeine as well as more antioxidants than typically found in green tea. Another great coffee alternative, wouldn’t you say?
4. Pu-erh Tea
Pu-erh is unique on this list because it is actually a naturally fermented tea. The fermentation process oxidizes the plant’s leaves, amplifying its antioxidant benefits. It also contributes to the tea’s distinct flavor and aroma. Keep in mind that the longer it ferments, the more robust the flavor becomes over time.
Like the other teas I’ve written about, Pu-erh has many incredible health benefits. Studies have shown it to be high in antioxidants and have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties as well as anti-aging effects. Incorporating a few cups of pu-erh tea is a great addition to any skin care routine. Tip: make a pu-erh facial toner or spray by simply adding some tea to a small spray bottle and storing in your refrigerator. Spritz away!
Pu-erh tea contains approximately 60 to 70 milligrams of caffeine per cup while coffee averages around 100 milligrams per cup. That being said, even though Pu-erh contains caffeine, it may actually help improve your sleep quality as it is said to promote melatonin production.
Note: although it is safe to drink in moderation, you should ask your doctor if it is safe to drink regularly if you have an underlying health conditions or are taking any medications that might interact negatively.
In conclusion, the point is, though coffee feels (and tastes) great, if you can’t make it through the day without it, it may be a good idea to cycle out of it, and replace it with similar something if not far more healthy. The problem with addiction to a substace isn’t always the substance, but rather the addiction itself. Also, addiction leads to excess consumption and higher tolerance. This brings me back to my initial point, being that we drink coffee excessively because we've developed a super high tolerance from drinking so much of it for so many years. From a wholistic standpoint, it’s always better to find ways to mitigate your body’s reliance on one thing. Again, I am not saying coffee is bad, or you should never have it again, but most people don't even know there are healthier alternatives to give you that morning boost. I hope you try some of these alternatives, and let me know how you feel with the switch!
Until next time,
Dr. Alexes Hazen