Every day, new patrons come to our tea house looking for an alternative to coffee. Perhaps their doctor told them to cut down on their caffeine intake, or perhaps coffee wasn’t “working” like it used to, causing jitters and anxiety, accompanied by lower highs and even lower lows. Often, the search for an alternative is borne out of one’s own addiction realization, and the resultant fear that coffee is needed to lift the fog and function throughout the day.
I’m not against coffee; I’ll drink it, but only if it’s extraordinary. Tea is truly my first love, what my body loves. When I get questions from guests on how to break the coffee habit, I often recommend that they gradually step down from it, replacing only one cup of joe a day with a cup of tea, keeping in mind that black tea has about half the caffeine of coffee. Stopping cold turkey is a recipe for failure, as the body will go into a state of shock, with very real withdrawal symptoms to follow. Then I suggest they continue to replace an additional cup of coffee each week with a cup of tea or an herbal infusion. Stick to herbal/botanical infusions (excluding yerba mate) in the late afternoon for a better night’s sleep, and subsequently, a better morning.
If it’s the aroma of the coffee that has your guest hooked in the morning, suggest he/she try a similarly aromatic, full-bodied tea infusion; classic chai, made the Indian way, is rich and fragrant (for those who need a creamy drink). A peppery-chocolatey Yunnan or a high-quality Keemun are also good choices. Often, the men that come into our teahouse love a Pu-erh or Lapsang Souchong. The important key to success in breaking the addiction is to find a tea that you can truly love for its flavor. No one is going to stick with something if they don’t enjoy it!
The initial jolt of a coffee buzz is hard to replicate, but that jolt comes at the price of a crash. We often recommend matcha to guests seeking a healthier, longer-lasting A.M. buzz, compliments of a cocktail of L-theanine, caffeine, antioxidants, and an array of vitamins and minerals. Because you ingest the entire leaf with matcha, you get multiple times the benefits of infused tea. Since matcha is more like the espresso of teas, you could try adding a bit of soy milk and sweetener of your choice for a delicious treat.
To really step down from the caffeine, try a rooibos in the evening. Rooibos is naturally sweet, has good structure, and makes a calming, satisfying evening brew. It also lends itself quite well to a variety of flavors for those who don’t like its flavor straight up.