A Definitive Guide To Coffee For Non-Coffee Drinkers


Photo by Luxe Palmer

Caffeinated Alternatives for Coffee Rebels

By Luxe Palmer, Co-Editor-In-Chief

I welcome you, my compatriots, with open arms. If you have ever felt lost, at unease, due to the social requirement to enjoy coffee when, in fact, you don’t, you are at home here. The last article I penned was on how to make coffee in a seemingly endless number of ways, which I intended to be helpful for my more java-sided friends, but I now acknowledge those who most definitively do not like coffee. I am one of you. The so-called “magic liquid” has never appealed to me, and I have spent my life attending Starbucks with my coffee-drinking friends and having to ponder over the few non-coffee choices- should I get a strawberry frappuccino or yet another white hot chocolate? (It’s not Starbucks’ fault- they did brand themselves as the world’s largest coffee chain, after all.) But we, a band of caffeine rebels, shall suffer no more. I present to you a list of (almost) all the cup-of-joe substitutes to choose for your morning beverage (and how to make them at home).

A Definitive Guide to Morning Beverages (That Aren’t Coffee)

A Proper Cuppa’ [Tea]

My personal choice, tea is easily the second-most-drank beverage in the mornings. Making a “proper cuppa”, as they say, can either be incredibly quick or, if you want to do it the traditional way, a tad bit slower. Here is a brief description of the most common ways to make tea (picking fresh tea leaves to drop in boiling spring water not included) and the most common varieties to add to your vocabulary.

Your Average Tea Bag

This one’s easy. Simply pop the teabag of your choice in a mug and pour just-boiled water over it. You’ll have to look on the box itself, but most teas steep for 2-5 minutes. Of course, you can just steep it until it is your desired strength of flavor, much like you would when making coffee. And yes, as all of you are dying to know, bobbing the teabag by the string has been scientifically proven to make your tea taste better.* In my (totally biased but well-researched) opinion, the best brands for this particular style of tea include Harney & Sons, Twinings (official supplier of tea for the Royal Family), Stash, Bigelow, Betty’s (if you’re in England), and an easily-accessible classic, Celestial Seasonings. You really can’t go wrong with any of those.

*It hasn’t, actually.

Loose [Leaves] Sink Ships

A small bit of history for you: though some rumors illustrate the Boston Tea Party as a bunch of Yankee rebels frisbee-ing tea bricks (basically tea leaves compacted into large slabs), but in fact, they were simply knocking off crates and mounds of loose-leaf tea. Either way, loose-leaf tea is the most traditional way to make tea (and the only way the Queen of England will accept it). Here’s the easiest way to make loose-leaf tea (which you can buy at most grocery stores or the Teavana store in the mall) for one: Put a strainer (here are links to two different kinds- one that sits, and one that steeps) in your mug with approx. 1-2 tsp of loose leaf tea, depending on the size of your cup. Pour just-boiled water directly onto the leaves until your cup is full. Let steep for 3-5 minutes, then remove the strainer full of leaves from your cup and enjoy! You can treat your tea with milk or sugar after steeping.

“Tea Recommendations” ft. Luxe’s Pop Art Mug
Photo Illustration by Luxe Palmer

You Should “Chai” This…

I’m so sorry for that abhorrent pun. Chai is the literal translation of “tea” in Hindu, and is traditionally a mix of black tea leaves and lots of spices. One of the most common blends is Masala chai, consisting of black tea, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, milk, and a sweetener such as honey or maple syrup. My favorite way to make chai I learned from Priya Krishna, a contributing writer at Bon Appétit magazine- simply crush 2-3 cardamom pods and add them, shells and all, to a mug with a teaspoon of sugar and a black tea bag. Add almost-boiling water and let steep for 2-3 minutes. Once the cardamom shells float to the top, you can discard them alongside the teabag. Add milk to taste and you’re set! You can lord over your coffee-drinking friends with your new much-faster-to-make and totally-more-delicious morning beverage.

“Yes, This Is What Cardamom Pods Look Like”
Photo Illustration by Luxe Palmer

Yerba Mate: “Hippie Coffee”

Originating in South America, the yerba plant is a relative of the (deck the halls with boughs of) holly plant and is common in households adorned with patchouli and macrame. (I’m just kidding. I love macrame.) When steeped, the dried leaves of yerba mate create an energy-boosting antioxidant-rich drink called “mate” (pronounced mah-tay,). Mate is traditionally made using a gourd and bombilla, but you can easily make it in a french press in lieu of coffee (see the preliminary article for details) or you can use a tea ball/strainer in lieu of tea (see above for instructions). To make the grassy-tasting drink a little more palatable, try adding ginger, orange zest, or honey alongside some creamer. Wear bohemian scarves while making for best results.

“It’s Yerba Mate, Not An Illegal Substance”
Photo Illustration by Luxe Palmer


It’s iconic. You really can’t go wrong with orange juice (unless you’ve just brushed your teeth- yechh), especially if it’s FRESH-SQUEEZED. I mean, what a luxury! Now that we’re home and we have all the time in the world, why not treat yourself to a nice glass of jus froid? And don’t feel limited- there are many more juices than just orange, but it is the easiest to make… Here’s how: after cutting the oranges in half, take a citrus press or juicer and just go at them in your preferred method. If you prefer your juice less pulpy, run it through a strainer a couple of times to de-pulp it. Three medium-sized oranges will produce one cup of OJ, so I’ll admit that it’s a more painstaking process than coffee, but it goes great with a bowl of Lucky Charms.

“It Takes A Lot Of Oranges To Make OJ (More Than I Had In My Kitchen)”
Photo Illustration by Luxe Palmer

Miracle Milk

Hailing from India, golden milk is regarded as a miracle drink, professing its magical antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritis, anti-cell-damage, memory-boosting, cancer-risk-lowering, immune-system-enhancing, heart-disease-preventing, bone-health-improving, digestion-aiding, superpower-inducing properties across the board. This divine drink, incredible (almost Felix Felicis-potion-like) benefits and all, is actually easier to make than you think and doesn’t actually involve the powder of unicorn horns, as one may have lead you to believe. Just add a cup of coconut milk into your cauldron pot alongside a stick of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder, a small piece of ginger root, 1 tbsp of honey, 1 tbsp of coconut oil, and 1/4 tsp of black peppercorns. Whisk the concoction and bring to a low boil. From there, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until all the spices have emulsified. In the words of Ron Weasley, it should turn the color of “sunshine, daisies, butter mellow, (turn this stupid, fat rat) yellow.” Strain through a sieve into a goblet mug and enjoy with a dash of cinnamon! No wands required, 1/2 tsp fairy wings optional.

“Ron Weasley’s Favorite Drink”
Photo Illustration by Luxe Palmer

Garden-Based Brew???

This just in: dandelion-based coffee substitutes are now gracing the shelves at your nearest Natural Grocers, labeling themselves as “Dandy Blend.” This is a particularly unusual choice for your morning brew- the official Dandy Blend website describes our product of interest as “a herbal coffee substitute that features smoothness and texture of real coffee.” It comes in an instant powder that you can easily dissolve into hot water and drink at your risk leisure.

“You Could Also Eat The Weeds In Your Garden, I Guess”
Photo Illustration by Luxe Palmer

I wish you well on your caffeine-fixated journeys and hope that you have found at least some solace in the fact that you are not alone in your coffee rebellion. Good luck, and may all your cardamom pods float to the top.