6 alternatives to coffee: healthy swaps to replace your caffeine fix

Getting the caffeine jitters? Try these coffee alternatives

A cup of matcha tea
(Image credit: Unsplash / Jason Leung)

Looking for healthier alternatives to coffee? If you're reading this while nursing your seventh Americano of the day and it's not even lunchtime yet then yes, maybe you could do with reducing the amount of coffee in your life. While it's hard to beat that first cup in the morning to kick-start your brain, mainlining caffeine throughout the day isn't exactly great for your body.

While there are definite benefits to the odd cup of coffee – besides boosting your mood and increasing alertness, it's also teeming with antioxidants that can protect you from the effects of free radicals – we all know that there are health drawbacks too, especially if you overdo it.

Drink it too late in the day and it's likely to disrupt your sleep (find out what time you should stop drinking coffee (opens in new tab) – it might surprise you), while it can also result in the jitters and irritability, while speeding up your heartbeat and even resulting in muscle tremors. You may have also heard that it's a diuretic that makes you pee more often and doesn't hydrate your body, but that at least turns out to be a myth based on a flawed study from 1928 (opens in new tab) which has since been discredited.

Nevertheless, if you feel that your relationship with coffee's become a bit too obsessive – perhaps if you're considering dropping a fortune on the best bean to cup coffee machine (opens in new tab) – there are alternatives to consider, many of which still deliver a caffeine hit (albeit less powerful than a double espresso's nuclear payload), and some that'll give your body and mind a boost in a different way. If you're hoping to curb your caffeine addiction (opens in new tab), here are 6 healthier options to consider.

1. Matcha tea

MRM Matcha

(Image credit: MRM)

If you're truly dedicated to the coffee cause, being recommended tea might feel like a bit of a slap in the face. But hear us out; matcha tea is a more robust form of green tea with more caffeine in it (but less than you'd get in a similar-sized cup of coffee). It has plenty of antioxidants, as well as an amino acid called L-theanine, which slows down your body's caffeine absorption rate. This means you'll still get that energy boost (albeit a calmer), but without the caffeine crash.

2. Chai tea

Chai tea

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Chai tea – or to give it its proper name, masala chai – is basically tea with flavour benefits. It originated in India, and essentially, it's black tea taken to the next level with the addition of spices that generally include the likes of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and cloves. It benefits from a much richer flavour than your average mug of builder's tea, and while it contains a lot less caffeine than coffee, it comes with potential health benefits; it can aid digestion and help with weight loss, as well as bringing down blood sugar levels and improving heart health.

3. Chicory coffee

Chikko Not Coffee

(Image credit: Chikko)

Chicory as a coffee alternative isn't exactly a new thing; Camp Coffee – a mix of coffee and chicory – was introduced in 1885 and became popular in 1975 when the price of actual coffee doubled due to frosts in Brazil. Chicory on its own is a reasonable coffee substitute, with a similar – if sweeter – flavour, but no caffeine; instead it has plenty of potassium which can help restore electrolytes and deliver an energy boost, as well as inulin, a prebiotic that's good for gut health and is believed to help bring down blood sugar levels.

4. Yerba mate

Yerba mate

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A South American alternative to tea, yerba mate (or just mate) is traditionally made from the dried leaves and twigs of the yerba mate plant, and has quite a tea-like flavour, although for many it's a bit of an acquired taste. It contains slightly less caffeine than you'd get from coffee, combined with adaptogens that can slow down your caffeine intake along with the chances of jitters or a caffeine crash. It also has great antioxidant properties, with some research suggesting that it can help manage high blood sugar levels and cholesterol.

5. Fig coffee

Figgee Fig Coffee alternative

(Image credit: FigBrew)

Roasted fig is another great coffee alternative if you're after something with plenty of flavour but no caffeine. Unlike coffee, it contains a good helping of vitamins and minerals, and its high potassium levels means that it can help reduce blood pressure, too. If you want to ditch coffee completely, fig is a good way to go, and to make the switch easier, you can mix it with your normal coffee in small proportions, then increase the fig-to-coffee ratio over a few weeks.

6. Brewed cacao

Cacao

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Not to be confused with cocoa, brewed cacao is a traditional South American drink made from roasted and ground cacao beans; they've been drinking it there since at least 1500 BC. Some people find that it's even better than coffee; for starters, it tastes like really dark chocolate (you can always add milk to smooth it out a bit) and it's mostly caffeine-free. Instead, it contains theobromine which dilates your blood vessels while caffeine constricts them, and increases blood flow and gives you a longer-lasting energy boost without the comedown. It can also lower your blood pressure, aid digestion, help weight loss and even prevent strokes. There's also mood-enhancing phenylethylamine, serotonin, anandamide and tryptophan.

Jim is a freelance writer who has been covering tech, games, design and more for magazines, websites and brands over many years.