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October 08, 2021 7 min read

In this article:

  • Where did the coffee craze come from?
  • Coffee and its health benefits
  • Joe Schmoe: Great alternatives to The Good Ol’ Cup of Joe

Where did the coffee craze come from?

Coffee is the most popular beverage in the world, with more than 400 billion cups consumed each year according to How Stuff Works. Nearly half of Americans over the age of 18 drink coffee daily, and they don't stop after just one cup. On average, American coffee drinkers consume about three and a half cups every single day. And if you think that's a lot, wait 'til you see how much the Finns drink!

Without a second thought, your coffee is already brewing and ready to fill your mug in the morning before you even know what you're going to wear! So what *stimulated* this global coffee craze? How has an Ethiopian bean (or rather, a seed) become a beloved cultural and culinary staple in nearly every country in the world? For a deeper dive, I recommend listening to the podcast "Filter Stories – Coffee Documentaries", but for now, here's its history in a nutshell.

According to the National Coffee Association, coffee's roots trace back as early as ninth-century Ethiopia. Legend has it that an Ethiopian goat farmer named Kaldi noticed that his goats became especially rambunctious after eating the berries from a certain tree. Kaldi then shared his discovery with a local monastery whose monks then made a drink using the berries and experienced an energy boost big enough to help them stay alert through their evening prayers. Word of this magically energizing bean spread East, and by the 15th century coffee was being cultivated in Arabia. For two centuries, coffee culture grew throughout Arabia, Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey as a social drink to be enjoyed with music, dance, games, and conversation.

Then, in the 17th century, coffee made its way to Italy and the "coffee house" began to spread throughout the continent. By the end of the 18th century, coffee had become one of the world's most profitable export crops. Fast forward to today and the coffee house is still around, only we call them cafes and stock them with seasonal lattes, expensive espresso-making machinery, free wifi, and baked goods. It's the cafe where meet and greets take place, old friends reconnect, and remote workers seek reprieve from their home offices.

Is coffee really king?

Coffee's rich history confirms that it's not just the 9-5ers who are burned out, people have always been tired! That explains why coffee, a natural stimulant, has become a staple in peoples' daily routines. Taste preferences aside, does a morning cup of coffee really boast the greatest health benefits of any caffeinated beverage? Here are some quick health benefits of coffee, and below, some coffee substitutes.

  • Coffee improves brain functioning: After drinking coffee, the caffeine is absorbed into your bloodstream and then travels to the brain. Studieshave shown that coffee consumption improves memory, mood, vigilance, energy levels, and reaction times. Interestingly, some studieshave found that coffee drinkers have up to a 65% decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and up to a 60% decreased risk of developing Parkinson's disease.
  • Coffee contains little to no calories:One cup of black coffee has, at most, 1 calorie. This makes it simple to retain your energy while fasting!
  • Coffee, like water, is hydrating:Despite the misconceptions, while caffeinated drinks like coffee have a mild diuretic effect, they don't increase the risk of dehydration.
  • Coffee contains nutrients: Rather than simple water, coffee can provide essential nutrients to your diet while providing a much more satisfying drink! One cup of coffee contains 11% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) of riboflavin (vitamin B2), 6% of the RDI of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), 3% of the RDI of manganese and potassium, and 2% of the RDI of vitamin B3.
  • Caffeine may help to burn fat: Studiesshow that caffeine (not specifically coffee) can boost metabolic rates upwards of 11%, and 29% in lean people.
  • Can improve exercise performance:There's a reason pre-workout supplements are so popular! Multiple studieshave shown that caffeine can improve physical performance by up to 11–12%.
  • Coffee is one of the best sources of antioxidants:In the Western diet especially, coffee serves as the greatest source of antioxidants.

For all its benefits, coffee does have its downsides. The FDA has advised that daily caffeine intake of up to 400 milligrams, about four or five cups of coffee, is not generally associated with dangerous, negative effects. However, sensitivity to caffeine varies between individuals. In some cases, coffee has been known to cause:

  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Stomach upset, nausea and vomiting
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Jitters

Joe Schmoe: Great Alternatives to The Ol’ Cup of Joe

Despite all its benefits, coffee isn't the only "super beverage" that can increase alertness and energy levels. Some of the beverages listed below are great at supporting the immune system and a healthy gut, while also providing additional vitamins and minerals, and different flavor profiles than the ones you may be used to.

  • Matcha:Matcha is a powdered Japanese green tea that is mixed with hot water and made into teas, lattes, and even desserts like ice cream and mochi. As opposed to other green teas, in which the leaves are steeped and strained in tea bags, matcha powder can be consumed whole. This way you are getting all of the antioxidants and amino acids like L-theanine packed into every leaf. Matcha contains anywhere from 38–88 mg of caffeine per cup and can help you stay alert without the jitters.
  • Golden Milk:Golden milk is a caffeine-free, coffee alternative. It is a comforting, cozy drink filled with warming spices such as ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, vanilla, honey, and black pepper, which turns milk into a beautiful orange-gold color. Many people choose golden milk over coffee due to its anti-inflammatory effects (thanks to turmeric and ginger), and because it still provides the sweet, calming feeling we typically associate with a warm cup of joe.
  • Yerba Mate:Yerba mate is a popular, naturally caffeinated herbal tea. In addition to containing roughly the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, it also contains vitamins and minerals like riboflavin, thiamine, phosphorus, iron, calcium, and vitamins C and E, all in a delicately sweet, smoky, and refreshing herbal tea. Today you can find Yerba Mate in health food stores and some convenience marts. Try it with almond or coconut milk! It's a great choice for heart health-conscious folks as it may help to lower blood sugar levels and reduce "bad" LDL cholesterol levels.
  • Chicory Root Coffee: Looking to wean off of coffee? Try chicory coffee! Much like coffee, chicory root can be roasted, ground, and brewed into a warm beverage. It is naturally caffeine-free and has a woody, nutty flavor that mimics the flavor of coffee. You can substitute chicory root for a scoop of coffee grounds to slowly wean off of caffeinated coffee, or it can be served alone to satisfy your coffee cravings without keeping you up. Just add some to a french press as you would with coffee.
  • Mushroom coffee:Mushroom coffee seems baffling, but it's actually a superfood pick-me-up that tastes pretty delicious! Mushrooms like lion's mane, chaga, and reishi are known adaptogens and are often referred to as "the elixir of life." These mushrooms have benefits for the body and brain including immune support, lowered blood pressure, stress reduction, improved circulation, mood elevation, anti-inflammation, and increased mental functioning, to help you stay alert and energized without any heavy stimulants. MUD\WTR combines all three of these super-shrooms along with cacao, masala chai, and a blend of organic warming spices to enhance focus and energy without the jitters, crash, and "$hitty sleep". It's true to Amandean's focus on natural ingredients and derives all its sweetness from spices like cardamom and cinnamon (but no shame if you add in some honey or agave!) In our opinion, for the price and flavor, it's one of the best coffee alternatives on the market!
  • Infused water:Starting off your day with a glass of water is a great step in the right direction. Water helps you to stay hydrated and avoid the fatigue related to dehydration, while helping your body detox. Since water alone might not provide you with the energy you need to get over the midday hump, adding in some supplements may help! Amandean's liquid liposomal vitamin C goes great with a glass of lemon water. It supports the immune system, your body's natural defense against superbugs & viruses. Additionally, adding a scoop of unflavored marine collagento your water can help you to feel full without getting bloated. It's a good afternoon "snack" when you're facing a busy day ahead! Don't fall for the bottled collagen water gimmick. Make your own with this recipe!
  • Kombucha:Kombucha, a "sparkling" drink made from fermented black tea, can be a bit of an acquired taste, but those who like it, LOVE it. Since it is made from naturally caffeinated fermented tea, this fizzy, slightly sour drink not only provides some pep to your step, it helps to strengthen and heal the gut with probiotics. It's easy to find in many grocery stores or can be made at home and infused with your favorite herbs and fruits.
  • Dandelion Coffee or Tea:Did you know that the unsuspecting weed growing in your backyard is packed with health benefits? Nearly every part of the dandelion plant is edible. Dandelion coffee, made from dandelion root, has a wonderful roasted flavor without the bitterness of coffee. Though caffeine-free, dandelion contains probiotics that can support the gut.

Coffee is one of the simple joys in life -- but it doesn't have to be the only one! Save some space in your day (and your heart) for that perfect cup of coffee, and leave room for change too. Your sleep schedule will thank you!

Summary Points

  • Studies have shown that coffee consumption improves memory, mood, vigilance, energy levels, and reaction times
  • One cup of coffee contains 11% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) of riboflavin (vitamin B2), 6% of the RDI of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), 3% of the RDI of manganese and potassium, and 2% of the RDI of vitamin B3
  • Matcha contains anywhere from 38–88 mg of caffeine per cup and can help you stay alert without the jitters
  • Kombucha is made from naturally caffeinated fermented tea, this fizzy, slightly sour drink not only provides some pep to your step, it helps to strengthen and heal the gut with probiotics



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