Quitting coffee can be challenging for many people who are accustomed to relying on it for energy and focus. Caffeine withdrawal can cause headaches, fatigue, irritability and other unpleasant symptoms in the days after stopping coffee intake. Fortunately, there are many healthy and satisfying beverages to choose from that can help ease the transition.
When considering alternatives to coffee, it’s important to recognize that no single drink will perfectly replicate the taste, ritual and energizing effects of coffee. However, other beverages can help curb cravings and give you a much-needed boost in their own way. As you experiment with alternatives, pay attention to how different drinks make you feel physically and emotionally. The goal is to find options you genuinely enjoy rather than mere substitutes.
Here are the top beverages to drink when quitting coffee:
Increasing your water intake is one of the best things you can do when giving up coffee. Being well hydrated will help combat headaches and grogginess during withdrawal. Aim to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. Carry a refillable water bottle with you to encourage continuous sipping. Try adding slices of lemon, lime or cucumber to water for a refreshing, energizing twist. While water lacks the comfort factor of hot coffee, it offers unmatched benefits for cleansing your body and mind.
For many people, tea is the closest non-coffee drink that can satisfy a morning ritual or afternoon pick-me-up. Black, green, white and herbal teas contain varying amounts of naturally occurring caffeine. They also boast different flavors and health benefits based on their origins and ingredients. Here are some great teas to try in place of coffee:
Made from unoxidized tea leaves, green tea has a light, fresh taste and moderate caffeine levels. It contains antioxidants that can boost brain function and immunity. The caffeine in green tea tends to provide gentle focus rather than the intense jolt of coffee.
Black tea is made from fully oxidized tea leaves, giving it a bold, robust flavor and higher caffeine content than green tea. Opt for breakfast blends to help energize your mornings without coffee. The familiar rich color can be comforting when you’re accustomed to drinking coffee.
One of the least processed types of tea, white tea has a delicate flavor with notes of sweetness. It has the lowest caffeine levels of any tea, so can hydrate and satisfy cravings without much of a stimulant effect. Try white tea with a little honey when you want something soothing but flavorful.
For a more layered, spiced flavor similar to coffee, try chai tea. It’s made by brewing black tea with aromatic herbs and spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Opt for caffeine-free chai or reduce the number of tea bags if you want to moderate your caffeine intake. Add frothed milk to give your chai latte a coffeehouse vibe.
Yerba mate is a South American herbal tea made from the leaves of the Ilex paraguariensis plant. It offers the highest caffeine content of any tea. The earthy, robust flavor is an appealing option for coffee drinkers who want an energizing alternative. Try chilled yerba mate as a refreshing iced coffee substitute in warm weather.
Herbal teas contain no caffeine, so they won’t give you energy or focus in the same way as coffee. However, they can be incredibly soothing and help manage stress during caffeine withdrawal. Chamomile, peppermint, lemon balm and other herbal teas promote relaxation. Sipping them before bedtime can aid sleep, which is often disrupted when quitting coffee.
Matcha is a powdered form of specially grown green tea. It provides caffeine plus L-theanine, an amino acid that induces calmness. When whisked into hot water, matcha makes a bright green latte. Many coffee drinkers enjoy matcha for the ritual of preparing and sipping the drink. Unlike the jittery feeling from coffee, matcha promotes alert relaxation. Be aware that the caffeine effect can vary based on how much powder you use.
Frothed milk lattes are a comforting substitute for lattes made with espresso. Try steamed almond milk, oat milk or other dairy-free alternatives. Spice them up with cinnamon, cocoa powder, vanilla or pumpkin spice. You can also brew caffeine-free tea as the base. Enjoy the cozy ritual of a hot latte to soothe yourself as you transition away from coffee. Over time, reduce the sweeteners until you appreciate the natural flavor.
Also known as turmeric latte, golden milk is a health-promoting alternative to coffee. Made by warming cow’s milk or a plant-based milk with turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and other spices, golden milk contains no caffeine. The anti-inflammatory compounds in turmeric provide sustained energy without crashes later. Sweeten with a little honey or maple syrup if desired. Sip this vibrant yellow beverage hot or iced.
Blending fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and nut butter makes a nutrient-packed beverage without caffeine. Use coconut water or low-sugar juice as the base. Smoothies supply long-lasting energy from natural sugars and fiber. They also count toward your daily produce consumption. Try combinations like strawberry banana, tropical pineapple, mixed berry, green protein and more. Rotate your ingredients to prevent boredom.
This fermented tea contains beneficial probiotics similar to yogurt. The effervescent tang and trace caffeine amounts can help kombucha drinkers feel energized. Start with sweeter flavors like ginger or cherry when first quitting coffee to make the beverage more palatable. Kombucha takes some getting used to but can be a healthy option once your taste buds adapt. Be mindful that some products contain very little residual caffeine while others have as much as a cup of tea.
The clear liquid inside young coconuts has a light coconut taste and refreshing sweetness. It contains electrolytes like potassium and magnesium that rehydrate and reenergize the body. Plain coconut water works well, but you can also find flavored versions. The natural sugars offer an energy boost without caffeine. Enjoy chilled coconut water right after a workout when your body needs fast hydration.
This is a bit of a tricky category when it comes to ditching coffee. Some energy drinks contain extremely high amounts of caffeine – even higher than coffee. Others are marketed as “caffeine-free” but rely on herbs or sugars for stimulation, which isn’t ideal either. Read labels very carefully and consume sparingly. Better Living Through Caffeine-Free Energy Drinks
However, there are a handful of healthier drinks that provide clean energy through amino acids, B vitamins, antioxidants and plant extracts without a lot of caffeine or sugar. Some examples are Celsius, Hiball, Raze and Sambazon Protein. Only use these functional beverages occasionally as you reduce coffee intake.
Apple Cider Vinegar Drinks
Drinking apple cider vinegar diluted in water has health benefits ranging from blood sugar regulation to appetite suppression. The tangy flavor takes some adjustment at first. Add a little honey or maple syrup to balance the acidity. You can also infuse your ACV drink with fruit slices or herbs. Sip this brew slowly in the morning for a caffeinated kick from the acetic acid.
Warm or cold cow’s milk is naturally sweet and high in protein. It contains tryptophan, an amino acid that enhances feelings of calmness. Almond milk, coconut milk, oat milk and other plant-based kinds are tasty alternatives if you avoid dairy. Sipping a cold glass of plain milk can satisfy the desire for a simple, refreshing beverage in place of iced coffee.
Here is a comparison of caffeine levels in coffee vs. alternative drinks:
|Caffeine Per 8 oz Serving
Tips for Quitting Coffee Successfully
Making the switch from coffee to lower-caffeine and caffeine-free beverages may require an adjustment period. Here are some tips to make the transition smoother:
Gradually Reduce Coffee Intake
Going cold turkey can set you up for painful withdrawal symptoms. Slowly taper down your coffee consumption over a period of weeks. Try mixing increasing amounts of decaf into your regular coffee to gently wean your body off caffeine.
Headaches and fatigue when quitting coffee can often result from dehydration. Make a point to drink water consistently throughout the day. Infuse your water with fruits or herbs for a more appealing flavor if you dislike plain water.
Get Plenty of Sleep
It’s common to experience disrupted sleep when withdrawing from caffeine. Be disciplined about keeping a consistent bedtime and limiting screen time before bed. Use sleep aids like soft music or meditation apps and do relaxing pre-bedtime rituals.
Increase Protein Intake
Protein-rich foods like eggs, meat, nuts, seeds, yogurt and fish can help boost energy levels without the need for caffeine. Eat protein at every meal and snack to curb cravings and keep your blood sugar stable.
Magnesium, B vitamins, rhodiola rosea, ginseng, L-theanine and other supplements can ease the transition off coffee. Talk to your doctor before trying any new supplements, especially in combination.
Move Your Body
Physical activity, even light exercise like walking, can help reduce fatigue and restore energy. Just be sure to listen to your body and avoid overexertion as you adjust to less caffeine. Scale back intense workouts until any brain fog or malaise passes.
Allow Time to Adapt
It takes most people 2-9 days to physically reset after quitting coffee, though mental associations can last longer. Have patience with yourself as you acquire new morning and breaktime rituals. Accept there will be a period of feeling subpar before you reach your new normal.
The Bottom Line
Giving up your coffee habit doesn’t mean resigning yourself to a bland, monotonous beverage routine. Experiment with different teas, milk alternatives, water infusions, smoothies and more until you find combinations that work for you. Pay attention to how certain drinks complement different times of day. Most importantly, remind yourself that you are capable of feeling energized, focused and motivated without the crutch of coffee.