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Spilling the Tea on Coffee

Americans are the world's top coffee consumers. While our love of coffee is clear, health experts say we’re trending towards alt coffee: caffeine-free alternatives that provide the buzz without the caffeine.

Like most Americans, I really love the taste of coffee. My stomach just can’t tolerate it. It also makes me hyper, unfocused, sweat, and it impacts my sleep DAYS after I slurp down a strong cup. While I may savor the initial flavor and ritual, I always pay for it later. So I’m constantly on the hunt for alternatives.

Clean foods expert and certified holistic nutritionist, Mareya Ibrahim says “alt coffee” will continue to be a big trend for 2018 and to look for products from companies like Four Sigmatic, which uses “brain-boosting” mushrooms in instant powder form. And there’s Teeccino, which blends herbs like dandelion root in steeping bags.

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dandelion root tea

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“I was impressed with how [these companies] created a great tasting product that doesn’t have me feeling like I’m missing coffee. The experience is still like coffee, and I feel energized,” says Ibrahim. “Also, I love the fact they use ingredients like mushrooms (chaga and lion’s mane) and dandelion root, so they really give you added benefits.”

Ibrahim says mushrooms are a natural way of boosting cognitive function due to their high potassium content. “They’ve also been linked to boosting immunity, balancing stress hormone production due to B vitamins and they are high in selenium and beta-glucans, which may help with cancer prevention, among a myriad of other benefits.”

Other noteworthy benefits of these alternatives: they help ease digestion and improve sleep because you are skipping out on the caffeine. Herbs like dandelion root are prebiotics which prep the groundwork for probiotics to stabilize your gut. These zen-like stimulants can also help decrease belly bloat and improve the ability to digest fats while acting as a natural diuretic.

chaga mushroom powder

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I was given a sample of mushroom powder from Mushroom Matrix called “Fit Matrix” which claims to give you added energy for workouts and demanding work days. Its top ingredient is Cordyceps militaris along with other “shroomy” ingredients. According to researchers the list of “synergistic” benefits is long:


pro-sexual anti-inflammatory anti-cancer anti-tumour anti-metastatic
anti-fungal anti-microbial anti-bacterial anti-viral anti-malarial
anti-protozoal insecticidal larvicidal anti-fibrotic reno-protective
steroidogenic hypoglacaemic hypolipidaemic anti-diabetic anti-fatigue
anti-proliferative pneumo-protective neuroprotective liver-protective  immunomodulatory
anti-oxidant anti-aging anti-angiogenetic


The vegan and gluten-free powder basically tastes like a broth. With all the science-backed benefits you’d think I would’ve morphed into Gal Gadot. I did have more energy and my sleep wasn’t disruptive. (Note: I’m also a matcha fanatic, which contains caffeine but doesn’t do a number on my entire system likely because levels are about half a black cup of coffee. Phytonutrients in matcha also apparently slow the body’s absorption of caffeine.)

“We’re in a time of powders and tinctures. People love new products and powders to add to water or hot water. It makes people feel like they are doing something for their health,” says Brooke Alpert registered dietician and author of The Diet Detox. “In the case of mushrooms and dandelions, they are! And at the end of the day if this gets people drinking more water and watching the food they’re eating, I’d call it a win!”


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