12 Caffeine-free alternatives to your morning cuppa
Most of us need a cuppa to get going in the morning, whether that's a weak, milky tea or a strong, black coffee. We know caffeine isn't great for us in excess, but the boost of a hot drink is too much to resist at 6am when you wake up bleary-eyed and feeling less-than-ready for the day ahead! The good news is that there are some great naturally caffeine-free alternatives out there which you can swap for your regular drinks. So why not try switching out at least one cup of tea or coffee a day - or be brave and make it your morning one - for one of these beverages? Let us know your favourites!
#1. Rooibos tea
Rooibos or 'red bush' tea is grown in South Africa and has a naturally sweet, woody flavour, making it a great alternative to tea or coffee. Bush tea is generally prepared in the same way as regular black tea, with hot water added and then milk and sugar added to taste. You could also enjoy your morning Rooibos with a slice of lemon and a little honey for sweetness. Rooibos can be found in most supermarkets nowadays - so why not pick some up on your weekly shop? It's completely caffeine-free and has low tannin levels. In the past, it was used to boost the immune system and also to relieve stomach cramps (1).
#2. Chicory 'coffee'
Chicory root is often used as a substitute for coffee. The root is roasted to give a deep, dark flavour that's as close to coffee as you're going to get without having the real thing! Chicory has a long list of health benefits and is also totally caffeine-free. In the past, it was used as a cleansing herb to detoxify the body and can help to support digestion, relieve constipation and reduce inflammation - it's also packed with antioxidants (2). To prepare, steep 1 tbsp of roasted root for around 7 to 10 minutes in a mug of boiling water. You can sweeten to taste with a little honey or some date puree. Many supermarkets carry chicory blends in their health food aisles.
#3. Chamomile tea
We love chamomile tea - it has been used for centuries as a natural sleep aid and many people still use it today as a natural way to drift off to sleep. But chamomile tea can be drunk at any time of day to help calm and relax you - and it contains no caffeine. Chamomile can ease mild symptoms of depression and feelings of anxiety and can be used to relieve stress whilst boosting your immune system - fewer sick days! The two types of chamomile generally used to make tea are German Chamomile and Roman Chamomile. You'll find teabags available in most supermarkets and some health food stores may stock the loose flowers for steeping.
#4. Mint tea
Mint tea - either spearmint (our favourite) or peppermint (more widely available) is a refreshing, caffeine-free beverage that's a great choice if you suffer from any kind of digestive issues. A mint infusion can be enjoyed hot or cold, depending on the weather, and it's ideal to drink at any time of day, particularly at bedtime, when it can help to relieve stress, allowing you to get a good night's sleep. Peppermint can help settle stomach cramps, pains or diarrhoea whilst promoting healthy digestion and reducing heartburn. The tea also contains potassium, calcium and vitamin B, which can boost your immune system and protect against colds and flu (3). Mint tea bags are widely available and we always have a stash in the Expertrain office!
#5. White coffee
This Lebanese drink doesn't really bare any resemblance to 'coffee' at all, but it's traditionally served after meals in Lebanese restaurants, and can be enjoyed at any time of day. All you need is some orange blossom water and some boiling water. Stir just a splash of the orange blossom water into hot water and add a little sugar or honey to taste if you like. Known as 'white coffee', this may be an acquired taste, but it's light, refreshing and delicious.
#6. Honey, Lemon and Ginger
On chilly winter mornings where you don't want to get out of bed, a honey, lemon and ginger concoction is perfect to wake you up - and the honey and lemon are also great for sore throats. It can help you regain a lost voice, whilst the ginger settles your stomach. Just add the juice of half a lemon, 1 tsp honey and a 1 inch piece of chopped, peeled root ginger to some hot water - you can either make this in a pan then strain or add the ingredients to an infuser for an easy way to make it in a mug.
#7. Decaf tea and coffee
Decaf is of course the easy option if you're craving your morning cuppa and nothing else will do! You might remember a while back we did a piece on decaf and whether it was really a healthy choice. If you can, look for decaf tea and coffee which has gone through a natural carbon dioxide decaffeination process rather than using methylene chloride. Twinings teas all use a natural method of decaffeination, so their teabags and loose teas are a great place to start.
#8. Herbal coffee
Herbal coffee is available online, in some health food stores and in healthy cafes across the UK. It's usually made from roasted, ground herbs such as sassafras and dandelion - the herbs used can vary. It's this combination of roasted herbs which is said to create a flavour similar to coffee, making this a great alternative to try if you just can't give up your coffee habit!
#9. Siberian Ginseng
Naturally caffeine-free, Siberian Ginseng is a root which contains antioxidant properties. Traditionally, it is sliced and steeped in hot water, similar to ginger, but you'll find many specialist stores (and Chinese supermarkets) stock ginseng teabags and loose tea. Ginseng has a naturally coppery taste, so we recommend adding a little lemon, honey or even some cinnamon for a delicious start to your day. It's said to be a great energy booster too (4)!
#10. Roasted grain beverages
Roasting grains can give them a rich, dark flavour so that they can then be used to make a beverage not dissimilar to coffee. Koreans traditionally use grains such as corn, barley and black beans to make tea - it might sound a bit odd, but why not? Barley tea has a bitter flavour that's not unlike coffee, corn tea has a sweet flavour and black bean tea is made from roasted soya beans and has an earthy flavour - it can help to aid digestion (5). The ingredients can be steeped in hot water for a couple of minutes and then strained, or you can visit specialist Asian foodstores to pickup teabags to try.
#11. Liquorice tea
Did you know that liquorice tea could help to support your adrenal glands, which often become overburdened when we're stressed? Naturally caffeine-free, a liquorice infusion can increase your energy levels, great if you're feeling tired all the time. Blended with other herbs to form your own tea blend or steeped in hot water for a few minutes, liquorice root is really good for you! Pukka do lovely liquorice and cinnamon teabags but you'll find most major supermarkets stock liquorice tea.
#12. Reishi Mushroom tea
Mushrooms? In tea? Hmmm, that's what we thought too. But in China they swear by this invigorating, revitalising tea that's made by steeping 1/3 oz of chopped or powdered Reishi mushrooms in 3 cups of water, bringing to the boil and simmering for 30 minutes. If that doesn't sound too time consuming, give it a try - it's used in traditional Chinese medicine to detoxify the body and help you to feel more alive, which can't be a bad thing!
READ THIS NEXT: Caffeine - the good, the bad and the ugly