A few months ago, my husband James decided to quit drinking coffee. After an endless cycle of mood swings, headaches, and insomnia had taken their toll, he decided it was time to end his decades-long love affair with caffeinated coffee. So as not to be an insensitive jerk, I’ve also stopped drinking coffee in the house, but I love the taste, so I went on a search for a coffee substitute we both could enjoy. Here’s what I found.
Organic Decaffeinated Instant Coffee
This was the first caffeine-free beverage that I found on my search. All you have to do is add a cup of boiling water to a teaspoon of decaf coffee flakes, so it’s great for those of us who can do without the ritual of grinding fresh coffee beans, and then brewing and straining them. The brand I found at a natural foods store is called Mount Hagen. It’s from Germany. The packaging states that the beans used to make it were “harvested in cooperation with organic growers who provide a safe social and economic environment for their workers.” Sounds good to me. I made a cup of this for James and he thought it was delicious.
I spotted this stuff and I had to get it. It’s made with carob. I love carob! There is no coffee in here whatsoever. Instead, it evokes coffee flavor with a unique combination of ingredients, specifically ramon nuts, harvested in Guatemala. Also in the mix are organic carob, barley, and chicory, along with “natural coffee flavor.” You have to brew this stuff like coffee because it’s got bits of nuts and chicory in it. I’ve been brewing this daily in a French press, and drinking it with a little cream. It tastes a bit like hot chocolate; deep and dark and sweet, although there’s no sugar in it. Teeccino apparently buys both its chicory and nuts from small family farmers and rainforest villagers. Yum!
Mate (pronounced mah-tay) is a different story altogether. While it doesn’t taste anything like coffee, it does give you a jolt. Mate is made from the leaves and stems of a holly tree that grows in South America. The leaves contain caffeine, although apparently a serving of mate has only a fraction of the caffeine contained in coffee, so it’s less addictive than coffee. Mate tastes — and smells — grassy. I prepare it like a latte, with lots of foamed milk and some sweetener to counter the earthy taste. After drinking mate, I feel a little shaky, as if I just drank a strong coffee. James thinks it tastes like green tea, which he doesn’t like, so he’s in no danger of addiction. Drinking mate is fun because of its energizing effect, but I wouldn’t do it for the taste alone.