I love the taste of coffee, but I don’t love how it makes me feel — first anxious, then distracted, and then run down. So I quit drinking it this year. In fact, I stopped drinking all caffeinated beverages. It took a few weeks for me to adjust, with morning headaches and afternoons that felt like I might nod off at my desk. But now that I am fully weaned, I have more energy all day, feel less groggy, have fewer mood swings, and sleep more soundly. The only thing I really miss about coffee anymore is the taste, so most mornings I replace it with a hot cup of Dandy Blend.
Dandy Blend is a malty powder made of five simple ingredients: dandelion root, chicory root, sugar beetroot, barley, and rye. I actually found it about five years ago, while visiting a friend who was pregnant and not drinking coffee. I really liked the taste of it and have been using it on and off as an alternative ever since. Having something to replace coffee with has made the thought of quitting it much easier, and now that I’m working from home, without the temptation of coffee breaks with co-workers or as an excuse to leave the office for a few minutes, I finally went for it. I bought the big two-pound bag so that I wouldn’t run out.
You can drink Dandy Blend hot or cold — you can even bake with it — but my go-to recipe is a heaping tablespoon mixed with boiling water and oat milk. The powder dissolves easily, and you end up with a comforting frothy drink that’s a little bit sweet and caffeine-free. Thanks in large part to the chicory root, the texture and taste are surprisingly similar to coffee, but without the acidity or bitterness that would often mess with my stomach.
Nikki Ostrower, founder and nutritionist at NAO Wellness, says the problem with relying on coffee as a pick-me-up is that it’s not sustainable. Once the caffeine wears off you tend to crash. “That’s why people can experience extreme fatigue, insomnia, and anxiety because of it,” she says. Also, “coffee is a diuretic, so it can dry out your skin and foster aging.” Eek. Whereas dandelion root, she says, is a powerful antioxidant that fights premature aging. Oooh! It also aids in digestion, helps your liver and kidneys flush out toxins, and can even help you feel less bloated during PMS. My coffee never did anything like that for me.
Every morning, I relish the prospect of making a cup. Stirring the powder in makes me feel like a wise old hippie, impervious to the stresses of winter in NYC during a pandemic. The fact that it doesn’t taste like the vegetal blends I’ve tried in other hippie-fawning moments is also a real plus. I love it. But in case you don’t, here are two other coffee alternatives Ostrower recommends.
Other coffee alternatives to try
Ostrower likes this caffeine-free herbal drink “because it has chicory and dandelion, along with burdock, cinnamon, ashwagandha, Rhodiola, plus Chaga and reishi mushrooms.”
Those adaptogenic herbs are great for strengthening the adrenal glands, she says. “They also taste amazing.” It has an earthy, nutty flavor and tastes better when mixed with cream or a creamy milk alternative like oat milk. It’s also delicious to drink Bulletproof-style (blended with ghee or other healthy fats). In case you’re not ready to give up caffeine completely, Rasa also makes a low-caffeine option, too.
She also recommends the many flavors from Teeccino, a coffee alternative made from carob, barley, and chicory root. This sample pack lets you find the flavor you like best without spending a lot of money. Like Rasa, it’s best brewed in a French press or any other coffee maker. Without caffeine, it won’t keep you from sleeping, so you can drink it anytime, day or night. And it’s low in acid, so it won’t give you indigestion.
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