How I Fuel My Writing Without Coffee

Dear Writer:

This is a P.S.A. from yours truly regarding your coffee consumption. Are you drinking coffee right now? Do you need coffee to write? Do you ever use coffee to get through the day, only to feel more stressed after drinking it? Have you tried to quit and suffered caffeine withdrawal headaches? Do you suspect a link to your heartburn digestive issues? Perhaps your body has been sending you signals that you should take a break from coffee or at least dial it down a notch. Here are some warning signs that you may want to take a break from coffee:

  • An increase in stress and anxiety due to coffee consumption (see Duke Medicine research on the coffee and stress link)
  • Lack of sleep after having consumed caffeine late in the day (after 3pm)
  • Difficulty relying on the body’s natural energy reserves due to coffee addiction
  • Caffeine withdrawal headaches when trying to quit coffee

Why I started researching coffee alternatives

When I’m not drinking matcha green tea, I’m usually drinking coffee. I love the stuff and the energy it provides me. But lately it seems my body is telling me it needs a break from it. A few months ago, my digestion started acting up on a daily basis. I would get heartburn after each meal. I went to urgent care and found out my stomach problem would take some time to heal. I was unknowingly aggravating it by drinking coffee (especially on an empty stomach). The acidity in coffee is associated with digestive discomfort and heartburn.

Tapering down with decaf

After my digestion problem, I tried quitting coffee, only to get caffeine withdrawal headaches. I didn’t realize I should’ve been tapering down on the caffeine instead of drastically depriving myself. An easy way to taper coffee consumption is by blending regular coffee with decaf. I started with a 50 / 50 blend, and each day, I added more decaf and less regular, until I was drinking 100% decaf.

However, decaf coffee is still acidic, and contains some caffeine, so drinking that wasn’t an option either. At that point, I was ready to switch from decaf. coffee to an alternative. Here are two of my favorite coffee alternatives (let me know in the comments if you’ve found others!):

Healthy Coffee Alternative #1: Matcha Green Tea

Matcha is my favorite coffee alternative (evidence of my obsession: Matcha Reviews). This green tea powder may not taste anything like coffee, but for those of us that who like to drink coffee for the energy-boosting effect, matcha packs a formidable punch. A cup of matcha has a third of the caffeine of coffee, and it is released at a slower rate. Instead of a sudden spike in energy and jitters, matcha provides a more even, calm source of energy that lasts longer than coffee. This is due to the high level of l-theanine, an amino acid which provides calm alertness (see l-theanine health benefits on WebMD).

In addition, matcha is easier on the stomach. It is an alkaline, unlike coffee which is very acidic. Matcha contains a high amount of antioxidants (10x that of regular green tea). Due to the high level of antioxidants, matcha is even under study for prevention of cancer. Unlike coffee, matcha doesn’t stain your teeth and helps control dental plaque. If you want to try it, you can see my top matcha picks from 2015 here.

Healthy Coffee Alternative #2: Chicory Dandelion Carob “Tea”

This “tea” blend I discovered tastes surprisingly similar to coffee. It includes chicory root, dandelion root, carob, and ramon seeds (unlike matcha, there are no tea leaves in this blend). It has no caffeine or acidity, so you get the coffee flavor without the negative side effects. It is also contains the prebiotic inulin from the carob root, which is good for digestive health (see inulin health benefits on WebMD).

While the antioxidants in this blend don’t compare to that of matcha, there are some beneficial antioxidants (from the carob, dandelion root and ramon seeds) and nutrients that will provide a more steady source of energy than coffee. If you’re interested in trying it, I really like Teecino organic dandelion dark roast tea (It’s available on Amazon, I currently have a few boxes of this in stock in my pantry!).

Comparing Coffee with the Alternatives

Here’s a table comparing coffee, matcha, and chicory tea’s caffeine content and acidity:

Slow and steady wins the race

Taking a break from coffee isn’t as difficult as you would think. And it’s well worth it for your writing productivity to get back to your body’s natural rhythm. Don’t forget to try my tapering solution to gradually cutback on coffee without the headaches. Be gentle with yourself. Try a 50 / 50 combo of decaf and regular coffee, then progress to 100% decaf, and finally switch to a coffee alternative. Let me know how it goes by adding a comment below, and be sure to sign up for the newsletter below to stay updated on other health and productivity tips for writers.

Read more writing productivity and health tips: DerekRalston.com