It’s pretty hard to imagine life without coffee, isn’t it?
Coffee is the fuel of your daily life. It’s your morning ritual. It’s your mid-afternoon boost. It’s a companion to your favorite foods. It’s how you bond with friends and family.For you, the true-blue coffee lover, coffee is not just a beverage—it’s a lifestyle.
But what if it weren’t?
What if you couldn’t lay your hands on a decent cup of authentic coffee?
It’s happened before during different times in history. During World War II, for example, coffee was heavily rationed along with other foodstuffs.
Worse still was the East German coffee crisis of 1976-77, when a sharp rise in coffee prices led to a major shortage in that country. (To give an idea of the severity of the crisis, East Germans spent almost twice as much money on coffee as they did on shoes at the time.) Some East German citizens were lucky enough to have friends on the opposite side of the Berlin Wall send them real coffee in care packages. Otherwise, the only viable options were “coffee-like drinks” consisting of real coffee mixed with unappetizing fillers.
Fluctuating coffee prices play a role, too. This can happen due to a number of factors, such as:
In fact, in 2017 Bloomberg.com reported that a drought in Brazil and an overabundance of rain in Indonesia and Vietnam severely reduced the global supply of Robusta coffee beans. The resulting higher price led to an increase in demand for Arabica beans, which also rose in price.
As you may have guessed, constant change of coffee prices can put a huge strain on your wallet. You may love your coffee unto death, but having to shell out more for your favorite drink is a major bummer.
You Can’t Find Good Coffee—So What Can You Do?
What does all this mean? It means that sometimes, good coffee can be hard to find.
But there’s good news. If you’re having trouble finding a good java, there are some easy-to-find coffee alternatives. These substitutes provide many of the same benefits as regular coffee. In fact, some of these options even taste a lot like coffee, so you don’t have to sacrifice flavor for convenience.
Why Drink Coffee Alternatives?
Some religions, such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, forbid the use of caffeine by their followers. The lack of caffeine in coffee substitutes makes them a popular choice for members of such groups, as they allow for a cultural and social experience similar to that of real coffee.
They’re also popular among folks living off the grid, such as homesteaders and survivalists. Living away from civilization often means that getting real coffee is either difficult or not economically feasible. So, the environment provides plenty of natural ingredients to make handy coffee substitutes. This makes them a good choice for camping enthusiasts as well.
Some people drink coffee substitutes because, well, they have to. People may turn to alternatives because their doctors have advised them to cut back on coffee drinking or stop altogether. Still others, unfortunately, due to health reasons, just can’t have real coffee at all. Naturally, these poor souls miss the presence of coffee in their lives, so a good coffee substitute helps them fill the void.
You might also want to consider trying a coffee substitute just for a change of pace. Many of these alternatives give you the same boost as regular coffee, but the absence of caffeine eliminates the “crash” that comes afterward. You don’t have to quit drinking real coffee entirely, but once in a while, you might just want something different.
4 Terrific Coffee Alternatives
So, what are your options for coffee alternatives? There are many commercially available substitutes, some of which are more like tea than coffee. Others can be found right in your backyard, depending on the season. All of them, however, are economical and easy to obtain. Here, then, are some of the most common coffee alternatives.
Depending on where you live, acorns are possibly the easiest coffee alternative to find. They also create a coffee with a unique and pleasing flavor. In a post on the blog Wolf and Iron, Mike Yarborough describes acorn coffee as having an “earthy, nutty, charred aroma… with chocolate undertones.”
Acorns can be gathered from white oak or red oak trees in autumn. You can tell the difference between white and red oaks by their leaves. White oak leaves have rounded lobes that dip down the center vein, while red oak leaves have more jagged tips.
There are, however, some things to be cautious about when using acorns to make coffee. First of all, raw acorns contain high amounts of tannic acid, which gives them a bitter taste and can be toxic if consumed in large quantities. Fortunately, tannic acid is water soluble, and can easily be removed by boiling the acorns in water before using them in coffee.
Another important thing is that acorns should never be harvested from the ground, as they may contain worms. It’s safer to pick them right off the tree, preferably a mature oak tree with low hanging branches.
So, acorns are a pretty nice choice to replace coffee. Now, how do you make acorn coffee? Here are a few simple steps:
Other nuts such as almonds and beechnuts can make good coffee substitutes as well. Best of all, harvesting acorns while enjoying the crisp breezes and lush hues of an autumn forest can become a cherished fall tradition.
Of all the popular coffee alternatives, the flavor of chicory root has been called the closest to that of real coffee. Heather Crosby, the author of the food blog YumUniverse, says that chicory root coffee is “deep, dark, roasted, slightly bitter, [and] rich.”
Its use is also historically significant. Around 1800, chicory root became a favorite coffee substitute in France and remains so to this day. During the 1860s, when the American Civil War was raging, a coffee shortage struck the southern states when the importation of coffee to the Confederate States was cut off. People living in the state of Louisiana—a former French colony—adopted the French practice of using chicory root to supplement their dwindling coffee supplies.
This practice took hold, and today, chicory root coffee remains a tradition in Louisiana. It’s especially cherished in New Orleans, where coffee and chicory, blended in a café-au-lait style, is said to be a must for tourists.
Chicory root coffee has some surprising health benefits, too. Chicory root contains inulin, a prebiotic fiber that can aid in treating a range of health issues. These include:
So if you’re looking for a drink that not only replaces coffee but also boosts your health, chicory root is an excellent choice.
Coffee substitutes made from grains have been around for decades. Some of the most common grains used include barley and rye. Like many coffee alternatives, grain-based coffees are caffeine-free, making them a good choice for folks who can’t have caffeine but still would like the same coffee experience.
Commercial grain-based alternatives include Inka, Pero, Roma, Cafix, and Teechino. These usually come in a powdered form that is dissolved in hot water, which makes them more similar to tea than coffee.
Perhaps the most celebrated grain-based coffee substitute is Postum. A staple of American pantries in the early 20th century, its use took off during World War II, when coffee was rationed. The beverage gained such a loyal following that it remained a favorite drink well after the war years.
Sadly, Kraft Foods acquired the Postum brand in 2007 and promptly discontinued it. Disappointed fans flocked to the Internet, launching a “Bring Back Our Postum” movement with petitions and blogs demanding that Kraft reinstate their beloved beverage. Those prayers were answered in 2012 when North Carolina-based Eliza’s Quest Foods bought Postum from Kraft and resurrected it to the delight of fans everywhere.
You probably think of dandelions as common weeds, but they also make a great-tasting coffee substitute. According to Eater.com, coffee made from dandelion roots has a “deep chocolate hue and invigorating taste almost like real coffee.”
Besides its delicious taste, there are several health benefits of drinking dandelion root coffee. Some examples are:
Dandelion root coffee is also a good organic option, as it is free of GMOs. It comes in a powdered form called Dandy Blend, but of course, they can be found in spring wherever there’s grass. Just make sure the sites where you gather them are free of pesticides.
Although the ones listed here are among the most common coffee alternatives, there are countless others such as chickpeas, carob pods, and more.
Another terrific thing about these substitutes is that they can be drunk on their own or mixed with regular coffee beans. You can also combine them and come up with your own coffee substitute, tweaking the ingredients and water temperature until you come up with just the right blend.
So if you’re having trouble finding good coffee, these alternatives are awesome solutions for filling in the gap. And if you’re feeling adventurous, they’re a rewarding way to take your coffee experience to the next level. Why not try one of these cool ideas and see for yourself?
Heather McNamara is a freelance writer who creates smart copy for smart readers. For her, the history and culture of coffee are a source of fascination, and consuming it (in considerable quantities) is a significant part of her creative process. When she’s not working, she enjoys reading, handicrafts, learning languages, and teasing her rescue dog for not having thumbs.