11 Healthy Coffee Alternatives (that you may find in your own yard)
There are a lot of reasons to seek out coffee alternatives: from the environmental impact of coffee production to the health impact of a caffeine addiction. But giving something up is always much harder than replacing something unhealthy with a better, healthier option.
In our article, Coffee Facts & Tips to Keep It Green, I outlined the impact coffee can have, including:
- disruption of bird migration
- waste associated with coffee drinking
In that article, I also discussed the benefits of shade grown coffee versus traditional farming methods, and some easy steps to minimize the waste associated with coffee drinking. Here I'd like to offer you some healthy alternatives that Nature provides that are also more friendly to your budget.
Most of these options came from a very cool book called Edible Wild Plants from Peterson Field Guides, meaning many of them may be found in your own backyard. Healthy, economical, and local. Can't get much better than that.
11 Natural, Healthy Coffee Alternatives
Keep in mind that the flavor and strength will vary from coffee. Experimentation with roasting, quantity needed and percolation methods will be needed to find the flavor and strength you prefer.
Also remember that safe foraging means becoming acquainted with the plant. I recommend a field guide to help you identify the plant properly, and avoid any mixup. Illness or death is rare, but it can happen so be safe.
Known as Fagus grandifolia, the kernels within the thin-shelled nuts can be harvested after they drop in the fall, roasted and ground into a suitable coffee alternative.
Chicorium intybus has roots that can be harvested from fall through early spring, roasted in an oven until dark brown and brittle, then ground and prepared like traditional coffee grounds. (Use roughly 1.5 teaspoons of Chicory for each cup of water.)
Known as Galium aparine, the ripe fruit can be found in early summer and slow-roasted until dark brown for a fantastic coffee alternative.
Taraxacum officinale has roots that can be harvested from autumn-early spring. Slow roast then in the oven until they are brown and brittle, grind them and use them in the same manner as traditional coffee grounds.
Feverwort, Tinker's Weed
You can find the ripe berries of Feverwort, known as Triosteum perfoliatum, in the late summer to mid-fall. Dry, roast and grind them. Add 1-2 tsp to cold water, bring to a boil and allow to steep until your desired strength is achieved.
Kentucky Coffee Tree
Interestingly, Gymnocladus dioica offers seeds and pulp that are poisonous when fresh, but make a wonderful caffeine-free coffee when roasted and ground. Seeds can be harvested from fall to early spring.
Purple Avens (or Water Avens)
Geum rivale offers a rootstock that can be harvested year-round and is closer to hot chocolate when boiled and mixed with milk and sugar, but I call that a damn fine coffee alternative.
Cytisus scoparius gives seeds in the summer that can be roasted and ground. Be sure not to consume them raw as they can be mildly poisonous.
Known as Helianthus annuus, most people don't realize you can roast and grind the sunflower seed shells to make a coffee substitute.
Also known as Kukicha, this Japanese tea is made from the twigs and stems of green tea. Steeped for longer than a minute makes it a very strong,, almost bitter flavor for a coffee-like substitute. You can purchase twig tea, or grow your own green tea and use the whole plant for tea and coffee.
Yellow Goat's Beard
Tragopogon pratensis offers roots that can be harvested in fall to early spring. Roast and grind them for a coffee substitute.
Learn More About Wild Foraging
Ever wonder what else is growing in your backyard, on your favorite trail, or around your neighborhood? Foraging for wild plants is a fun way to learn about the local landscape, feel closer to Nature, practice survival skills, and have fun as a family.
We highly recommend the book, Edible Wild Plants, by Peterson Field Guide. It describes multiple uses for countless plants, where to find them, when to harvest, and most importantly, what to avoid. It takes the guesswork out of the practice, so you can have fun trying some brand new foods!