I sit next to Amelia in the office. Most days, it’s a delight. Last week — as Amelia and Leandra dropped coffee cold turkey — it was not. And even though they’re off the no-coffee wagon and back to normal, it seems like a good time to talk coffee alternatives.
The thing is, I have no beef with coffee. I know that it tastes delicious, and I know it makes me feel like my heart’s going to explode. But is it inherently bad? For otherwise healthy people who enjoy coffee in moderation, I’m leaning toward probably not. If you’re trying to cut back, though, here are my favorite less-well-known substitutes:
Yerba Mate. A few years ago I visited a friend in Buenos Aires, returned home, canceled my lease and moved to Recoleta, where I started drinking lots of red wine and mate. Mate’s bump feels less jittery than coffee to me, though it’s definitely still a stimulant. Make sure you put cool water on the leaves first and use water that’s hot but not boiling, otherwise it’ll come out too bitter. Also the dark roast rules with milk and honey.
Genmaicha. This tea smells like food and it’s amazing. It’s a roasted rice and green tea, so you get some caffeine, but the taste is quite different from green tea alone. Know that green tea gets bitter when steeped for too long, and Genmaicha’s best with water temps around 170 – 185 degrees F.
Kukicha. A roasted twig tea with about 1/10 the amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, and a laundry list of supposed health benefits, including alkalization of the body. It has a rich, earthy flavor and gives me the same zen/self-congratulatory aura I have when I leave yoga class.
Rosemary. If you’re used to caffeine, rosemary tea’s not going to do much for you. However, if you’ve weaned yourself off and are looking for an herb that promotes focus without jitters, rosemary’s your girl. Mentioned before in ‘how to fight midday fatigue,’ dried rosemary steeped in hot water is great for calm focus, and is often recommended as an herbal supplement for people with ADD.
Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is my favorite adaptogen, which is a group of herbs that support the adrenal system, which coffee tends to mess with. If you’re coming off caffeine these are particularly helpful as your system adjusts. Boil 2 parts Ashwagandha root powder to 1 part cinnamon for 20 minutes and drink daily.
And if you’re in the throes of caffeine withdrawal, drink lots of water, take naps, and try to scale down the caffeine instead of dropping off drastically. Also maybe don’t sit next to me. Until you’re nice again. Amelia. Thanks.
Miu Miu Campaign image featuring Chloë Sevigny