Boost your Cuppa Joe with these Coffee Alternatives

Words: Robyn Samuels

As much as we love our trusty cuppa joe, it can be worrisome when you start to build a caffeine dependency. Of course, coffee has amazing health benefits but like most things in life, it’s best consumed in moderation. Whether you’re trying to decrease your caffeine intake or boost your health, these coffee alternatives might provide the motivation you need to grind through the day.

Uhm, Can’t I Just Drink Regular Coffee?

Caffeine is a psychoactive substance that alters the state of mind and neurological functioning, often resulting in increased energy, alertness and concentration.

Consuming too much caffeine could send the central nervous system into overdrive and result in feeling anxious, or having ‘the jitters’.

While coffee might make you feel more alert by boosting your physical energy, coffee also exerts the opposite effect and could result in a ‘caffeine crash’ once the caffeine starts to wear off. The below beverages could be consumed on their own or by using half the amount of coffee you would normally consume and substituting the rest with a coffee alternative.

Coffee Alternatives on the Market

Try these unique coffee alternatives and popular coffee blends on the market.

Broccoli Coffee

Broccoli coffee has existed for some time, but recently resurfaced – people have even gone so far as to create ‘broccolattes’ (yup, it’s a thing)! Broccoli coffee is made by drying raw broccoli florets, which are then made into a powder by grinding it in your blender; some drink it just as is steeped with hot water, while others consume it as a broccolatte with an espresso shot or regular coffee.

Sure, you might still end up drinking coffee if the broccoli powder is combined with coffee, but it’s a great way to get extra nutrients into your diet, as the raw broccoli powder is fortified with fibre, calcium, zinc, magnesium and selenium.

Broccoli is high in retinol – great for promoting eye health and the immune system; vitamin B in broccoli provides energy, while vitamin E helps prevent cell damage.

Interestingly, broccoli coffee was started by an Australian Commonfolk Café in response to shocking health report stats from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industry Research Organisation back in 2017 – they discovered that approximately four out of five adults weren’t getting the daily recommended intake of vegetables and fruits in their diets – which speaks volumes about our caffeine dependency. The trend was also a sustainable effort to minimise food waste by using neglected broccoli punnets at grocery stores deemed ‘unattractive’ that are usually discarded – a double-win strategy. While coffee purists might boycott the broccolatte, the health benefits are hard to deny. Chin chin!

Chaga Coffee

While this coffee alternative sounds like a Gen Z creation, Chaga has been used in Chinese medicine as treatment and enjoyed as a tincture for centuries. Mushroom coffee incorporates functional mushrooms and not the edible mushrooms used in cooking. Although Reishi, Turkey Tail or Cordyceps coffee substitutes are also commercially sold, Chaga is arguably the most popular mushroom coffee on the market.

The benefits of Chaga mushrooms are vast and are said to boost immune system functioning and anti-inflammatory responses in the body; they also promote heart health and may improve cholesterol and hypertension. These adaptogenic mushrooms are effective in managing pain and stress levels, making this beverage a convincing coffee alternative.

The nutty, earthy and woody flavour of Chaga is reminiscent of coffee, and its dark appearance also resembles coffee.

To turn it into coffee, the mushrooms are cleaned, dried and then made into a powder by grinding and mixing it with coffee and boiling water. Chaga powder can also be consumed as tea. But it’s also crucial that those with cardiovascular issues and hypoglycaemia consult a physician before ingesting this coffee alternative, as it’s a medicinal mushroom.

Chaga coffee curious? Four Sigmatic has a delicious Ground Mushroom Coffee containing Lion’s Mane and Chaga mushroom extract. Purchase it from Faithful to Nature.

Chicory Root

Even if you’re not sure what chicory is, chances are that you’ve probably consumed it. Chicory has been used since ancient Egyptian times, and is the root of the perennial blue flowered plant. Endive and radicchio are types of chicory; both have that distinct bitter taste associated with coffee, and the flavour is modified when roasted. It’s commonly used in instant coffee brands – the popular South African coffee brand, Ricoffy, contains a blend of coffee granules and chicory.

Interestingly, combining coffee with chicory is something that dates back to Great Depression and Civil War times. When trade ports were blocked in New Orleans during the American Civil War, coffee became scarce and expensive.

To make coffee supplies last longer, Louisianians started bulking it up with roasted chicory root; in some cases, beet and acorns were also used. Traditionally, chicory root has been used to treat jaundice, liver enlargement, gout and rheumatism.

If you’ve ever tried chicory or endive, you’ll be familiar with the bitter taste. Chicory mainly consists of prebiotic fibre inulin which feeds microflora and promotes gut health, but some may struggle to digest this high FODMAP food. It also purportedly assists with managing blood sugar levels due to the inulin present. While roasted chicory smells similar to coffee, the taste is closer to a watered-down version of coffee – a healthy compromise nonetheless.

Get your fix of chicory root in your coffee with Anthony’s Instant Chicory Root


Although matcha has existed for centuries, matcha lattes have gained popularity in recent years with people ordering them at cafés all around the world. Matcha is derived from the green tea plant, Camilla Sensis, which is commonly consumed in Japanese tea culture; the leaves are processed and turned into a powder – ma means ‘rubbed’ and cha is ‘tea’ in Japanese. The green powder is loaded with health benefits and like most teas, it’s filled with antioxidants, particularly catechins and polyphenols.

Matcha has less caffeine than a regular cup of coffee, but this also depends on the strength of the brew.

A standard cup of coffee can contain between 95-200 milligrams of caffeine, whereas matcha has 25 to 130 milligrams less. It obviously won’t taste like coffee, but it might help you cut down on your caffeine consumption, while boosting your energy.

Start your day with a matcha latte, try Faithful to Nature’s Matcha Green Tea powder.

Okra Coffee

Okra is a popular vegetable in West African and South Asian cuisines; one of the most popular dishes using okra is gumbo – a dish widely consumed in Louisianna, New Orleans. In South Africa, okra crops are harvested in Limpopo, where they thrive in warm climates and grow throughout the year. The green long vegetable is also called ‘lady fingers’ due to its appearance when cut longitudinally. The seeds are extracted from fresh okra pods and cleaned before roasting them in the oven and grinding them to a fine powder.

Okra coffee was made popular in Nebraska and used as a substitute during the Civil War era when coffee was a commodity.

Other ingredients like carrots and grains, namely barley, wheat and rye, were also used as coffee alternatives, but okra was favoured for its coffee-like taste. In their natural form, okra seeds have a vegetal taste; when roasted, the seeds develop a nutty flavour – some liken it to popcorn, toasted nuts, or even black tea. Although this trend emerged from necessity, this caffeine-free invention might be worth adding to your morning routine.

Whole okra can be purchased at selected Woolworths stores.

Prefer tea? Add these unique types of tea to your collection.

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