I gave up drinking coffee last fall. Not the first time, but this time it looks like it’ll stick. For extra excitement, I decided to give up dairy and black tea and to cut way back on sugar while I was at it (for the record, I have not given up chocolate and have no plans to do so). After a few rough days of caffeine withdrawal, I felt much better, but while I didn’t crave caffeine I did crave a nice warm cup of something creamy and sweet at the beginning of the day. Here’s a record of some of my adventures in coffee substitutes:
Nut Milks I quickly developed a taste for almond milk. Warm it gently and flavor with a vanilla bean, some cocoa or cinnamon. Sweeten with maple syrup or honey. I’ve found I prefer the Pacific brand of almond milk; other brands like Almond Dream had a fake creaminess that came from a lot of thickeners which I didn’t like (you can of course make your own, too). I recently discovered that Pacific also sells hazelnut milk. This is truly delicious and rather puts the almond milk in the shade but so far, I’ve only found it sweetened—and it’s a little too sweet.
Tea I’m developing a taste for Rooibos tea, a red tea from South Africa which is supposed to be very healthy (you can buy it at the supermarket or health food store; many brands have it in a variety of flavors).
I’ve also found I like peppermint tea which is cheap and tastes like a candy cane. I haven’t found that it needs sweetening at all.
“Mayan” or “Aztec” Hot Chocolate Still experimenting with this one. Most recipes claiming ancient South American provenance are essentially hot chocolate—with standard milk and sugar—spiced up with cayenne pepper or fresh chili. The Mayans themselves would have drunk something closer to this recipe. I figure if people can drink their coffee black and unsweetened (admittedly, I never did), then milkless hot chocolate should be an acquirable taste.
So far, my best results have come from simply melting two squares of a Lindt chocolate bar (a tablespoon or so of chocolate chips will work too) in 6 oz of boiling water, pinch of cayenne pepper optional. I tried adding almond milk but I had to add so much to get any of the flavor that I didn’t think it was worth it.
That wasn’t bad but it had too much refined sugar. I tried melting about a quarter oz of unsweetened baking chocolate and flavoring with honey but the chocolate didn’t melt completely and still had a bitter aftertaste. Also, honey has such a strong flavor that it tends to overwhelm the chocolate (maple syrup goes with anything but alas, is very expensive). Also tried 1.5 tsp of cocoa powder in 6 oz water (bring to a full boil for at least one minute or it will taste chalky); this was a nice texture, slightly thicker than coffee. This morning I gave in and added a little bit of regular sugar and quite liked it. Not exactly a healthy drink but less caffeine than what I used to have and still nice and warm and sweet.
Chai I haven’t actually tried this yet. I’m thinking hot almond milk and a spicy rooibos. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Any other ideas for acceptable coffee replacements?
Sarah BarbourKnitting and crochet designer/teacher and stay-at-home mother to three lovely little girls. Recently relocated to Oregon from the Illinois and enjoying my new life as a West Coaster.
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