Coffee. It’s a warm, bold, delicious and aromatic beverage. There is nothing quite like it…and yet…there are many that argue that it isn’t good for you to have on a regular basis. Large amounts of caffeine, vitamin and mineral depletion and its addictive properties – all reasons to look around at a few other alternatives. Or maybe you’re like me – you love the taste so much that for years you’ve ignored the signals your body has been sending you: an upset stomach, getting the jitters, elevated body temperature and the signature caffeine highs and lows. Upon reflecting though, you begin to wonder – is the coffee serving me…or am I serving it?
So if you’re ready to dabble in some other warming and yummy beverages…read on.
1. Roasted Grain Beverage
It’s quite a mouthful in English, but in Polish we simply call it “zbożówka” which is derived from the root word “zboże” meaning “grain”. This is because it’s composed of roasted barley, rye and other grains.
It is delicious. Absolutely heavenly! Due to its roasted nature it is very, very similar to coffee especially in how you can prepare it (italian coffee maker, coffee machine, French press – it all works!) and how you can dress it up. It goes beautifully with a bit of milk (almond or hazelnut are my personal favourites) and a bit of sugar or honey. Why not add some spices to your blend too? I can readily recommend a dash of cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg to your blend. Go ahead and make lattés, cappuccino and mochas! The texture, quality and colour of the roasted grain beverage is so akin to coffee that you’ll be reaping all of the health benefits of not drinking coffee while forgetting to miss your actual cup of joe :)
In my experience, the roasted grain beverage is relatively unknown in Canada or the US, although some claim to have had it as children “Oh – it’s that fake-coffee my parents used to give me as a kid!”. Either way, with a bit of poking around you should be able to find the good stuff at your local health food store. I’ve found it under names like “Swiss grain beverage” too, but whatever the name try to get your hands on the real stuff, NOT the instant and soluble kind. You’ll lose out on a lot of the flavour and quality with the instant variety.
If all else fails talk to your polak friends about visiting the closest Polish-food store to you and ask for it there!
2. Hot chocolate
I put it here on the list because it obviously needs to be here… but I would exercise caution with chocolate and cocoa. In small doses cocoa is good for you, but enjoyed too often and it too depletes the body of certain nutrients, strains the liver and becomes addictive. I’ve heard that it lowers calcium levels, so it’s wise to drink it with a nut-based milk, like almond milk, to balance out the calcium levels.
Of course you should aim to invest in a good quality cocoa, without any additives or sugar (Nesquik is not really what I have in mind here!). Without a doubt, on a colder day or at any point when you need a little warmth, a nice hot chocolate curled up on the couch with a good book goes a long way.
my personal recipe: for 1 cup use 1 heaping teaspoon of cocoa, dissolve in half a cup of boiling water and fill the rest up with warmed almond milk. Add a bit of brown sugar to taste – and enjoy!
3. Yerba Maté
This plant, traditional in certain parts of South America such as Argentina, boasts many health benefits and also a boost. It contains trace amounts of caffeine, but the extra kick is attributed to a related property called matteine. No highs and lows like with coffee, just added energy throughout your day.
The basic maté has its own special, grass-nutty flavour, and there are fruity variations and even a roasted maté (again, a more similar experience to coffee) to choose from. There is a TON to say about maté, and this post is not the place to say it all. I urge you instead to research the matter in-depth on your own, you will be sure to find a lot of info in the net.
4. Black Tea
Super obvious – right? But is it, really? I worked on and off for years in a Calgary based tea shop called TotaliTea Tea Boutique (www.totalitea.com). I thought I knew a lot about tea (being Polish, we drink it by the liter) and yet I found the learning and the deepening of my appreciation for the tea-plant has never ceased.
Now, “tea” as we understand it in English covers a wide variety of plants and herbs that we steep in hot or warm water and then insult its unique qualities and properties by bluntly calling it all “tea”. In fact tea can be anything from the tea plant (that gets you black, green, white and oolong teas), to rooibos (aka African red bush) to the countless herbal infusions that vary depending on where you are in the world (the coca leaf and muña herbs are specific to Peru, for example).
What I would urge you to do if you are stepping away from coffee is to visit a good local tea shop and stock up on a few nice, hearty black teas. An Assam broken blend, a Darjeeling or even a few of the classics like English Breakfast or a quality Earl Grey blend. And please, for goodness sakes, buy good quality LOOSE tea. No already-packaged tea in tea-bags. The contents of those tea bags sold in supermarkets is really the dust left over after they have finished with the real tea! You won’t regret going loose and I guarantee that within a short while you’ll begin to taste the difference between loose tea and bagged tea…and you won’t look at tea in a tea bag the same way ever again!
5. Chai and chai lattés
To continue with the theme of black tea – why not go for a black tea blended with chai spices? The variety of added flavours and body provided by the spices warms you up and awakens your senses better than black tea alone.
And, if you infuse it double strong, just add a teaspoon of honey and a half-cup of your favourite type of milk and enjoy a delicious chai latté :)
…all this to say that there are many alternatives to coffee out there, ones that I urge you to learn more about and experiment with!