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5 Coffee Alternatives To Try Without the Excess Caffeine

Coffee alternatives like matcha and chaga can provide a dose of powerful antioxidants.

There’s a reason why many people need a cup of coffee to start the day. But even amongst java lovers, coffee alternatives are gaining in popularity.

Ilisa Nussbaum, RD, clinical dietitian nutritionist at Yale New Haven Hospital says the average cup of drip coffee has around 100mg of caffeine and for most people, two to three cups a day is just fine. Coffee also contains antioxidants, some of which are linked to improved insulin production, lessening inflammation and improved brain function.

However, specialty brands, unique roasts and lattes with multiple espresso shots can cause caffeine levels to skyrocket. For people struggling with multiple cups per day, Nussbaum recommends giving coffee alternatives a try.

“Tea is going to be a lot more settling for your stomach, especially certain types of caffeine-free teas,” she said. “I encourage people, just like we encourage you to eat a wide variety of foods, taste a wide variety of teas and coffees and you'll get a whole variety of benefits.”

Yerba Mate

One popular tea often marketed as a coffee alternative is Yerba Mate, a South American tea with a bitter taste. Originally, Yerba Mate was touted as medicinal and for giving a euphoric feeling. That’s not the case with mass produced varieties now found in the grocery store. Yerba Mate has about the same amount of caffeine as a typical cup of coffee. However, it can be more soothing or calming compared to coffee.


Matcha is a green tea made from finely ground leaves and has a mellow, grassy flavor. Matcha contains a wide variety of antioxidants such L-theanine, an amino acid touted for reducing anxiety. Because it dissolves in liquid and is not steeped, it’s possible to consume a slightly higher level of those antioxidants. Matcha powder can also be added to smoothies and foods.


Chaga is made from the chaga mushroom and can be consumed brewed as a tea on its own or mixed with another tea. Chaga has no caffeine in its natural state so it can be a nice flavor enhancer in coffee, sometimes sold as a chaga blend. In addition to antioxidants found in chaga, it has a potential benefit to heart health and can offer soothing GI benefits to help with digestion. If someone loves coffee but has trouble with the acidity found in coffee, chaga could be a great alternative.


Chicory “coffee” is made from the root of the chicory plant and has no caffeine. It has some of the same antioxidant benefits of coffee plus inulin, a prebiotic fiber. Just like with all prebiotics, it can impact the gut, so Nussbaum recommends incorporating it into your diet slowly. If you consume too much inulin, you could end up with severe gastrointestinal symptoms like cramping and diarrhea.

Hot cocoa

Not just for kids! Cocoa also has antioxidants and contains a very minimal amount of caffeine so it can be a great alternative for people who still want something comforting and warming. Just make sure to pick a cocoa that isn’t packed with added sugar – or make your own cocoa drink at home.