Breaking the Habit with Coffee Alternatives

Breaking the Habit with Coffee Alternatives

coffee cup on flower apron

Image by ali edwards

My love affair with coffee began at the tender age of 13. I started making myself a small mug after my Dad had his cup first thing in the morning. Soon I graduated to Iced Frappuccinos and Tim Horton’s English Toffee coffees with my high school friends (I know the Americans out there don’t know what Tim Horton’s is- this donut/coffee shop is as quintessentially Canadian as maple syrup, hockey, Loonies and bacon).

By university age, I had moved to the big city and had now become a Starbucks snob, revelling in my Grande Caramel Macchiatos. Even once I got married and had to adapt to having a real budget, I still couldn’t bring myself to go completely cheap and instead went for the fancier Americano instead of a plain drip coffee.

Suffice it to say that out of all of the really bad, unhealthy habits that I have had to let go of (bad oils, sugar, processed foods, etc.), coffee has been one of the hardest. I was able to break the actual addiction, but still struggle with it as a comfort drink. It’s my go-to when I’m stressed or tired. I have the hardest time turning it down when it’s offered to me. I still thoroughly enjoy each and every sip.

Yet my years of studying health and nutrition have taught me that although I may love my cuppa cuppa, it does not necessarily love me or my body. Here are a few reasons why you may want to reconsider your daily cup of joe:

  • Coffee is a diuretic beverage, which means that it pulls the water out of your body, causing dehydration.
  • Since it is very acidic, it can irritate the stomach and digestive tract and can cause symptoms such as acid reflux and heartburn.
  • Though many of us use coffee as a stress-release, there have actually been studies done showing that it increases stress! (source)
  • It can cause insomnia and disturbed sleep patterns.
  • Coffee has actually been labeled by the World Health Organization as a “true drug” and meets the criteria for drug addiction.
  • It interferes with the body’s use of B vitamins.
  • It can damage blood vessels and increase the risk of heart disease
  • Almost all coffee is grown overseas, mostly in third world countries. It is a heavily sprayed crop and in many of these countries, there are very few (if any) restrictions on pesticide use.
  • Coffee stimulates the adrenal glands. This may give us a temporary boost, but over time it drains the adrenals and can lead to extreme fatigue and burnout. Adrenals also affect our hormone levels, so in time, drinking coffee may contribute to hormone imbalance.
  • It raises the level of acidity in the blood. When blood levels are too acidic, minerals like calcium begin to be pulled from the bones and teeth in an attempt to make the blood more alkaline.
  • Coffee does offer temporary stimulation, but in the long run it creates addiction and dependence, and excessive fatigue. It causes us to push ourselves harder when our body is telling us to slow down and masks the symptoms of our fatigue. Eventually, though, it catches up with us and we will find ourselves chronically exhausted and drained.
  • The stimulating effect of caffeine can cause heart palpitations, jitters, nervousness, anxiety and a rise in blood pressure.
  • Drinking more than 300 mg of caffeine a day (about 2-3 cups of coffee) while pregnant may increase the risk of miscarriage, a low-birth weight baby or birth defects.
  • Has a negative effect on insulin levels (and therefore blood sugar balance), and even cholesterol levels

(Much of this information can be found in these two articles from Is Drinking Tea or Coffee the Smarter Choice? and Coffee: How Bad is it Really?)

For all of these reasons, I have sought to relinquish the grip that coffee has on my taste buds. Surely, I thought, there must be other drinks out there that could satisfy in similar ways but with less negative effects. Lo and behold, I found some!

blender mocha

Some Tasty Coffee Alternatives


Teeccino is probably my favorite substitute! I have tried many other grain coffees and none of them taste as nice or are quite as satisfying and similar to coffee as this one. It comes in a wide variety of flavors (I love their Maya Cafe and Almond Amaretto), and it seems a bit more authentic because it is brewed just like coffee. You can use it in a regular drip machine, in an espresso maker, or in a french press (my method of choice). It’s wonderful hot or cold. Just as the name suggests, it’s a substitute but not exactly the same. That said, I definitely find (and know that many others would agree) that this is the closest and best substitute out there, by far!

Instant Grain “Coffee” Beverages

Usually made with ingredients like chicory, barley, inulin, nuts, carob, etc. these drinks can be made just like instant coffee and make a warm and comforting drink. I’ve tried a few different ones: Inka, Roma and Postum. I think that Inka may be my favorite. The thing is, they don’t really taste like coffee. Any of them. You can pretend that they’re coffee, doll them up with cream and sweetener, and sip them slowly on a cold winter morning. Just accept that the taste is different, and you might find that you learn to enjoy them for what they are- a coffee alternative (not coffee).

You can drink them either hot or turn them into an iced coffee-style drink. Here’s a favorite recipe of mine for Blender Mochas. I make this with Teeccino (have to brew it first), occasionally Swiss Water Process decaf coffee, and often with these instant grain beverages (which are handy because they’re instant so you don’t need to brew it first).

Rooibos Tea

Naturally high in antioxidants and caffeine free, this tea from South Africa is a wonderful choice! I have recently fallen in love with it. It’s incredible by itself, and I also really enjoy it with a little bit of sweetener or stevia and some milk or cream. We’ve found a few different variations on Rooibos (I say “we” because both my husband and I are now totally into it), including a spiced one called Ruby Chai (by Numi) and a vanilla rooibos (many different brands have their own vanilla variation). The Nourishing Gourmet also has a delicious Iced Rooibos recipe, perfect for hot summer days. It uses coconut milk to make it creamy, which I do find yummy, though I’m partial to using raw cow’s milk instead.

And if giving up coffee altogether is just too much…

Could you cut down by just a cup or two each day and try to find an alternative you enjoy instead?

What about working on that addiction by slowly adding Swiss Water Process decaf coffee to your regular brew, until the caffeine addiction is no longer an issue for you?

Could you be satisfied by mostly going without, and just savor the occasional cup of really amazing, fair trade/organic coffee, instead of turning to it more frequently?

Here’s a quick run-down on making better choices when you’d still like actual coffee:

(And yes, I confess that I do still sometimes choose to indulge, and these are the choices I try to make when those indulgences come)

Fair Trade and/or Organic (also called Shade-Grown or Ecological) – In a nutshell, by purchasing these coffees instead of the regular coffee brands that line the shelves, you are supporting hard-working farmers with a fair wage, reducing the amount of toxic chemical fertilizers and pesticides used (which are not only toxic to our bodies, but to the environment and the farmers as well), and helping to stop the clear-cutting of rainforest and the loss of animal and bird habitats (these trees are being cut down to make way for denser planting by conventional farmers). For more information, read this article. If you frequent coffee shops, check out your local ones to find out which use Fair Trade coffee. In our area, we like The Wired Monk which is all fair trade and organic. New brands of fair trade coffee are popping up all over the place, so look around in the coffee aisle or in your local health food store when you want to buy some to brew at home.

Swiss Water Process Decaffeinated– You’d think that choosing decaf coffee would be a better choice, healthwise, but it’s really not. Unfortunately the process is typically done using nasty chemical solvents and the end result is probably worse for you than just having the real thing, caffeine and all. However, there is a method called Swiss Water Process which is able to remove almost all of the caffeine, but in a chemical-free way. Check out this website to learn more about how the process works. There are many brands out there using this process now, so look for these words specifically on the label before you buy.

How have you broken the coffee habit? What alternatives do you love to drink instead?

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    1. @Michelle, Good question!

      Teeccino’s Maya blends are 100% organic and their Mediterranean blends are 75% organic. As well, there are many, many brands of organic Rooibos tea out on the market, including ones that come either as a loose tea or in un-bleached tea bags.

      The grain beverages are not made with organic ingredients (at least, not the ones that I’ve ever tried and I just learned that Postum has actually been discontinued a couple years back- shows how long it’s been since I bought it!). However, they are made with crops that are generally far less sprayed than coffee is, so the chemical burden should definitely be lower.

  1. I cannot function without my morning cuppa. I’ve tried a few times to go without it, but so far have not succeeded. It’s one of my treats to myself as I rarely eat chocolates, etc.
    Rooibos tea is delicious & as a South African I grew up drinking it, but it still doesn’t replace a good cup of coffee.
    Maybe giving it up will be on my New Year’s resolution list.

    1. @Lynn, Instead of just giving it up, Lynn, you could try slowly cutting back on the caffeine level by adding a good decaf until you’re not so reliant on the caffeine. Then you’d be more free to just enjoy it as a treat, without feeling the need for it! I also used to feel the same way and I appreciate the freedom now to be able to take or it leave it.

      And I know, Rooibos isn’t the same as coffee. But it’s still a really delicious warm drink. I’m glad to have discovered it!

  2. I am glad I never picked up the coffee habit. Oh, and some Americans know Tim Horton’s! We have them in Ohio. It is one of our favorite places to go on the weekends!

  3. Maybe you don’t want to hear this, but I tried coffee a few times as a teen, and I thought it tasted HORRIBLE! LOL. Thankfully my husband also agrees. I don’t even like the smell. We call it “burnt beans” around here. We do keep some on hand for guests but that is it. I do like to buy the fair trade organic stuff for guests. I feel good knowing that at least its something good about it LOL

  4. I love the aroma and taste of coffee. I drink one to two (strong) cups/day and buy fair trade/organic at home (but also enjoy some Tim Hortons on the side). Sleep is only affected if i drink a cup after 4pm. I do feel that one cup mellows me although drinking more would not be a good idea for me. I monitor my water intake to compensate for the caffeine. I have gone off all coffee for pregnancy or when I felt my body was telling me I needed to for a period of time. Otherwise, I totally enjoy this treat but regard it as such – a treat – not an all day indulgence.

  5. This is perfect timing, Stephanie. I couldn’t drink coffee when I had the flu a few weeks ago, so after a week without it I just took that opportunity to go on and give it up completely. I’ve been clean 16 days now (grin) but after a stressful morning I am feeling like I need some. Your post was an excellent reminder. I was drinking 4 cups a day and I was chronically exhausted. Also, I didn’t realize how anxious I felt and how often until I gave it up. Now I don’t have those bursts of energy, but I also don’t have the sluggishness I used to have in-between, so I’m actually more productive in the long run, able to just work slow and steady instead of in separated bursts. I also don’t have the anxiety and irritability. There was a noticeable difference in Thanksgiving preparations this year because I was so much more calm.

    Thanks for the reminder. I’ll be looking for an alternative.

  6. Coffee has been a difficult habit to break for many reasons but since I’ve been pregnant it’s been fairly easy to cut down/eliminate. (I do still have some decaf now and then – will need to find some of the Swiss water processed decaf!) I found the hardest part to get over was the warm drink aspect of the addiction, rather than the caffeine. To make it easier to let go of my beloved coffee, I started making soy milk/almond milk/cow’s milk (whatever you drink) “steamers” with a pinch of cinnamon and a drop or two of vanilla. (By “steamer” I mean that I let the milk come to a froth without burning it on the stove. No fancy gadgets necessary.) Once I realized I didn’t have to give up my warm cup of *something* yummy in the monring, I was much less worried/sad about missing that morning cup of coffee.

  7. I have just given up coffee (for the upteenth time) and have been enjoying chai tea. I am drinking a black tea with my own concotion of added spices with cream and honey and it is delicious.

    My recent search is for a good black tea that is organic. Any suggestions? I asked at our health food store, and they didn’t have any for black teas, just green. I like green tea, but not with chai spices.

    1. @Tiffany, Rishi brand Earl Grey is amazing! It’s a loose leaf, so you’ll need a tea ball, but what’s great about it is that you can use the same leaves to brew more than one cup.

  8. I just wanted to second Teeccino! I have had to give up coffee for health reasons and spent two years searching for an adequate alternative. I had my doubts about herbal coffees, but Teeccino really does taste wonderful and is a guilt-free way of indulging. My favorites are Mocha and Almond Amaretto.
    Tulsi tea is also a healthy alternative and comes with or without caffeine. You can find it at health food stores. I like the Red Chai Masala, but there are others that don’t have the chai spices. Yum!

  9. Nice thought… good try, convincing me… just can’t do it. 😉 In fact, I had a cup of coffee in my hand the whole time I was reading your (great!) post, and it’s 2:30pm. This is probably my “one of many” cups of the day.

    Don’t get me wrong. I do wonder about it though, at times, knowing I am most likely addicted (don’t like the sound of that)…and actually I couldn’t stand it (the taste) while pregnant with my son.

    I really do appreciate all the good information you gave. I will be thinking about this one…
    .-= Bevy´s last blog ..Tis the season… =-.

  10. I am passionate about quitting coffee. A little over two years ago I was up to about four cups of rather expensive coffee a day. After reading an article in our local paper about the truth about coffee, I switched immediately to decaf, and within a month, I was off coffee completely. I haven’t had a cup of coffee in two years and haven’t missed it. It was the fact that coffee actually stimulates our adrenal system, thus tiring us rather than energizing us, that motivated me to quit.

    I do have a cup of decaf black tea a few times a week, but I would like to switch to something more healthy. I just haven’t found an herbal tea that I like.
    .-= Beth´s last blog ..Homeschool Lesson #1: To Teach You Must Be a Student =-.

  11. Hi Stephanie!

    Great post! I have a question for you: I drink one cup of decaf every morning using a decaf coffee that has gone through the swiss water process. With that in mind are there additional reasons I should stop drinking it? I go back and forth about whether or not to drink it and I’ve heard so much info on how caffine is bad especially for women but I have not found a lot of info about whether or not an organic, swiss.wp, decaf coffee is okay? Do you have any thoughts?
    .-= Coco @ Roost´s last blog ..A Turkey & Some Rest =-.

  12. Thanks for that great article, Stephanie. I have always been a decaf drinker and I know the chemicals are not good at all. Thanks for sharing the info on the Swiss water process – my grocery store carries some that I will get this week. 🙂

  13. I’m not a coffee drinker, although I do like it. (I opt for more beneficial hot drinks like teas/herbal infusions!)

    I just have to say… I tried Teeccino a couple months ago (brewed in a drip coffee maker) and thought it was awful! 😛 🙂 I like most teas and tea blends, so I was really surprised that I didn’t care for Teeccino. I did follow the brewing instructions, but it also tasted rather strong… and bitter! 🙂

    Oh well, that’s the blessing of a free sample! I now know what I don’t want to buy! 😀
    .-= Tammy L´s last blog ..Input welcome: Dinnerware recommendations =-.

  14. I too am a coffee junkie and I love it. But since we’ve been trying to have a baby I’ve really cut back on it. Actually in the last year or so I have limited myself to only having coffee on Sunday’s and even then it is a fancy sort of treat, not just the stuff I could make at home. But since I’m pregnant, I still go to starbucks, but I get the latte MINUS the coffee. They call it a steamer. And I have taken to making (basically warm milk with honey and spices) at home. This is a big help with my calcium intake for the baby and satisfies my craving for hot sweet drink.

  15. I gave up Tim Horton’s (they are on every street corner in Michigan too) last year at the advice of my naturopath . She said that it was causing adrenal fatigue, contributing to my TMJ disorder and elevating my stress levels. It was difficult! But now i feel so much more even keeled. Not so many ups and downs through out the day. Every once in a while I will have a cup first thing in the morning on a cold day. Its more of a comfort beverage now, like hot cocoa. But i no longer NEED it.

  16. I just recently (at 35 years old) took up drinking a morning cup of coffee everyday! My husband can’t function without it, and I used to scoff at his addiction (as I took my morning dose of Excedrin). Well, this summer, I made a point of getting myself off the Excedrin, only to find out I was addicted to the caffeine it contained! So, in order to keep the headaches away, I opted for a cup of coffee instead of the Excedrin. Essentially, I replaced one addiction for the other! I know I need to try to cut out the caffeine altogether; I just haven’t brought myself to do it yet. : )

  17. I switched to decaf when we were trying to get pregnant and because ibwas ultra conscious of what I was putting in my body and didn’t like the fact that most decaf is chemically decaffeinated I researched the while Swiss water decaf thing and have decided to not only stick with decaf but also with the Swiss water processed kind only. We don’t keep a coffee maker at home which restricts me to getting my coffee out at either Cafe Artigiano or Tim Hortons, the only two chains which I know serve Swiss water decaf in the Lower Mainland. I feel so much better for it and I think it is a good long term decision for all the reasons you have provided. Thanks fir another great post.

  18. Your description of how much you love your coffee could have been my description:) I’ve quit many, many times over the years for all the many reasons you listed. I don’t mind Roma but I also agree~it isn’t coffee and can’t pretend to be. I switched to chai for a while but always come back to my “comfort” drink.
    I’ll have to try some of the other drinks you mentioned.

  19. I loved your input on coffee. It is an addiction thats for sure, but now that I know that it stimulates my adrenal glad, I would need to look into the alternatives you mentioned… Thank you so much for the healthy “coffee”, here I go shopping.:)
    .-= Lena´s last blog ..Everliving garden. =-.

  20. I have been drinking Organic Yerba mate by Guayaki. It does contain caffeine but much lower and doesn’t affect me like the caffeine in coffee (I am ultra sensitive to caffeine!). The company claims its high antioxidants allow the caffeine to give you a more healthier lift rather than a wired or jittery lift. I have not gotten that aggitated, palpitated feeling with it like regular coffee gives me. Other added bonuses is weight loss and elimination aid. I have a cup just about every morning and add stevia and raw milk … yum! There are lots of variations … chai, chocolate, mint. It even comes iced but I prefer the original organic hot version.
    Funny note … I do like iced vanilla lattes at Starbucks but today I spilled my grande all over mysef and car. Serves me right, I’m trying to get over a cold and this probably was not the smartest move in getting over it!

  21. I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this, or if it is even available in Canada, but I love Celestial Seasonings Roastaroma Herbal Tea. It’s caffeine-free and has a flavor that’s rich and very close to that of coffee. I’ve never been addicted to caffeine (in fact, caffeine makes me feel so bad, I can’t drink more than about 4 ounces of regular coffee at a time), but I do love the taste of coffee. So this is a good, naturally caffeine free alternative to chemically-processed caffeine free coffees.
    .-= Angela´s last blog ..Feeling Like Fall =-.

  22. Not coffee, but caffeinated sodas (and not diet ones either, which may be a good thing, w/ what I know about artificial sweeteners!)

    I had to stop cold turkey. I took some pain meds (aspirin or Advil) the morning I went cold turkey (yes, I started my days w/ soda! Blek!) that night and the next morning. I’d tried to stop w/o any aspirin and had terrible headaches, my addiction was severe. Using the aspirin got me through the worst of the withdrawals. Every now and then on a hot summer day I’ll crave a cold Coca Cola, but I know if I have one, it’ll rule me again, so I haven’t had ANY soda for over 7 years. Water is my drink of choice.

    Great post. I love healthy alternatives. 🙂

  23. Great post! I have been trying to give up coffee for the past month, I did really good and then slipped back into drinking it over the Thanksgiving holiday. But I’m back on track this week, thanks for the alternative ideas!
    .-= Michelle Traudt´s last blog ..Cleansing =-.

  24. I do enjoy my coffee but quit drinking it when I was pregnant and later found out that it can aggrevate my endometriosis due to the fact that it causes the hormonal imbalances that you mentioned, Stephanie! I love Stash Teas which I mentioned in a reply earlier. They have such a variety. One of my favorites right now is a decaf pumpkin spice black tea that is wonderful!

    I fell back into the habit of my coffee when I returned to work after having my daughter because it was so easily accessible. I need to get back off of it!

  25. *fingers in my ears* I’m not hearing this! I’m not hearing this!

    hee hee

    Seriously, I know I need to cut back, or better yet, cut out my coffee habit. My main problem is not even really the caffeine addiction – I just love the taste of straight black coffee. It ministers to me.

    When we lived in Texas, we got fresh-roasted organic coffee from Ruta Maya. ( HEAVEN! Absolute heaven. We’ve fallen into the habit of drinking the trashier stuff, I’m afraid.

    Thanks for all of the ideas here. It’s given me much to think about.
    .-= Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last blog ..With so much thanksgiving =-.

  26. I used to be a heavy coffee drinker, but the minute I became pregnant I could no longer tolerate the smell! My poor husband had to make his coffee out on the back porch so I couldn’t smell it! After having my son 6 years ago the aroma no longer made me ill, but it never really drew me back in.
    Since then I have been a tea drinker… tea has such wonderful health benefits and still has some caffeine (how much depends on whether you drink white, green, oolong or black) Now I can’t start my day without one of my favorite teas and enjoy finding new and wonderful variations. There are so many different teas and each one tastes so unique… you are sure to find one that you love and it is good for you!

  27. I was actually never a coffee drinker. I indulge maybe a couple times a year, if that. I do love rooibos tea though! I give it to my daughter, because besides being yummy and caffeine-free, it also helps digestive upset and allergies. Pretty awesome stuff!

  28. This is info I know and hate to hear. I dearly love my coffee. I have tried getting used to the water decaf but I’ve realized that it’s the caffiene buzz that I like. My kids even call it my ‘happy juice’! 😮 Horrible – I know!
    I am thankful that I’ve found the water decaf and that I can usually wean myself off the regular when I have a cold or am pregnant. But I think that the other thing I like about it is the wonderful, thick raw cream! It seems to keep me from snacking through the day.
    I am glad to give these other substitutes a try so thanks for sharing them! I’m down to 2 cups per day and working towards zero! 🙂
    .-= mom24´s last blog ..4 year old gets a Thankgiving feast for his birthday! =-.

  29. Great post. It seems that all I’ve read on coffee has said that it’s not bad for you. It’s good to hear the facts you listed, even though it’s hard to give up the caffeine! I’ve been drinking too much since my daughter was born, to get me through the day with so little sleep, but I’m finding that I need to cut back again. Maybe I’ll have to try some of the alternatives you listed. 🙂

  30. Reading everyone’s comments really shows how addicting it is. It is the thing I get up for in the morning & I do love it. I’ve been trying to cut back lately with no success. I’m going to try alternating my afternoon coffee with:
    1. Hot Roobios Tea w/ cream
    2. Steamed milk w/ honey & spices
    3. Teachino with cream & honey

  31. I hate coffee and as much as I don’t want it to be part of my daily servings, I can’t do anything much about it because I need the “kick and boost” I get from it. Any alternative about coffee is always a refreshing idea to me. Just keep them coming.
    .-= Herbal Coffee Alternative´s last blog ..Best Coffee Alternative =-.

  32. Stephanie,
    I love coffee but have mostly stayed away from it, having it as an occasional treat. I was wondering though if you still drink the water processed decaf while you are nursing or would you recommend staying away from coffee all together while nursing?

  33. I started by minimizing my coffee intake from 2 cups to 1, then just on the weekends. Now I’m expecting my 4th so I’m trying to completely give it up, but its chilly in the mornings and I was looking for a warm drink that is ok and maybe even beneficial while pregnant any suggestions or are the ones listed ok to drink when expecting?
    thank you for the posts they are so encouraging.

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