Are you searching for coffee alternatives that give the same energy boost without the jitters? These 4 up and coming brews can wake you up without the post-coffee shakes, and often provide greater health benefits too:
1. Yerba Mate
This species of the holly plant has been enjoyed as a major ritual of social life in Argentina for generations, where it is prepared in a special gourd with a metal drinking straw. The stems and leaves are steeped in hot water to make a tea, and the resulting brew tastes similar to green tea. Yerba mate contains a similar chemical compound to the caffeine found in coffee, but fewer negative side effects, such as insomnia and anxiety, are reported by those who drink it. Yerba mate is available in health food stores nationwide as a tea, or even premixed as a soda-type drink.
Chai is made by brewing black tea very strong, and infusing the brew with a mixture of spices, such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, pepper, ginger and star anise. Chai is then diluted with whole milk and sweetened with either honey or sugar, and served piping hot. Since chai is made from black tea, it has less caffeine than coffee and packs a greater antioxidant punch; the milk also adds calcium to your morning brew. While chai is native to India, it can be found in most coffeehouses in the US. It is also easily made in the comfort of your own kitchen--check online for a variety of intriguing recipes.
3. Carob Powder
The pulp from the pod of the carob plant is dried and roasted, creating a powder that is similar to cocoa. Carob is often used as a chocolate substitute by health food gurus and those with chocolate allergies. It contains no caffeine and has nearly three times more calcium than chocolate. Enjoy a few spoonfuls added to warm milk for a satisfying morning brew. Carob powder can also be used in baking; simply substitute carob for cocoa. Carob usually available locally, but it is also easily found online in bulk quantities.
4. Siberian Ginseng
Cousin of the more familiar varieties of American and Asian ginseng, the eleuthero root is steeped in hot water to make a tea. Siberian ginseng has long been hailed by Chinese medical practitioners for its value in improving vigor and stimulating the memory. It is gaining acceptance with Western practitioners, as some preliminary studies have seen an improvement in the immune system and physical stamina of test subjects. According to these studies, Siberian ginseng also improves memory and concentration, giving you the same alert wakefulness of coffee (without the jitters). Siberian ginseng can be found packaged in tea bags in most health food stores.
It should be noted that just as with coffee, these alternatives should not be used by those with high blood pressure, or by pregnant or breastfeeding women. For the rest of you--step outside your coffee comfort zone, and enjoy one of these energy-boosters as part of your morning routine.
Sarah Baker is a documentary filmmaker and writer currently living in New Bern, NC. Her first book, Lucky Stars: Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, will be published December 2009. Read more about her.