If you’re trying to raise as much of your own food as possible, a coffee habit can be a real problem. Most people’s morning cup comes from thousands of miles away, involving a lot of unfortunate environmental and human consequences.
Enjoying coffee is a daily ritual that brings comfort and time for contemplation. A casual conversation with friends or family, the warm mug in our hands, or just the excuse to take a few minutes for ourselves. If you’re looking for a coffee substitute that you can grow or forage yourself, there are a lot of compelling options.
1. Beech nuts
Beech trees are easy to identify and produce large amounts of a distinctive nut that can be collected in the fall. The thin shells are easily and quickly peeled off by hand, allowing the nut to be roasted and ground into a coffee substitute. Deer are particularly fond of beech nuts, and if you don’t know if you have beech trees in your area, ask a local hunter where you can find them.
2. Chicory root
Perhaps the most common and well-known coffee substitute, some brands of coffee actually include roasted ground chicory root in with the coffee to enhance the flavor and stretch the coffee further. In the U.S., this is known as New Orleans Style Coffee, and results in a smooth coffee with a slight mocha flavor. Straight chicory coffee has a blacker-than-black color, and is delicious drink with a bit of sugar to balance out the flavor. Harvest the roots before the plant flowers for a less bitter brew.
3. Dandelion root
A bit easier for most people to find and identify, dandelion root makes some of the best-tasting coffee of any wild substitute. Fancy farm-to-table restaurants across the country are marketing dandelion lattes with their local bacon on the breakfast plate, and why not? It’s a much-cheaper alternative, but still tastes great. Just like chicory coffee, for the best dandelion coffee harvest the roots before the plants flower for the most delicious brew. If you only notice your dandelions after they’ve gone to flower, harvest them anyway; they’re still almost as good.
4. Burdock root
Burdock is easy to identify in the fall of the second year by its large leaves and round burs that stick to just about everything.
Growing nearby the second-year roots, you should be able to find smaller first-year plants without seed burs. First-year roots make the best coffee and can be harvested in the late fall, dried in an oven and roasted to produce a naturally detoxifying coffee substitute.
5. Cleavers fruit
Known as cleavers for its reported ability to “cleave” illness from the body, this natural medicine also makes an excellent coffee substitute. It’s an extremely common weed, slowly spreading across the ground and climbing in a tangled mass over rocks or stumps. It produces small flowers that turn into tiny cleavers fruits that can be roasted and ground into a coffee substitute.
6. Kentucky coffee tree
As the name suggests, Kentucky coffee tree beans can be roasted and ground into a coffee substitute. The name stems from a marketing ploy, back when coffee was expensive and hard to get in inland areas away from ports. Land developers told people that in Kentucky, they could harvest a plant that would make a great substitute.
7. Sow thistle
An aggressive weed closely related to the dandelion, sow thistle produces prickly leaves and sends up long shoots with yellow, dandelion-like flowers. Its greens are edible and medicinal, and in some places in the world it’s actually cultivated as a vegetable, but more importantly, the tap root makes an excellent coffee substitute similar to dandelion coffee.
8. Acorn coffee
Though bitter if not prepared correctly due to the tannic acid, if acorns are first thoroughly soaked and ground, they can be roasted into an acceptable coffee substitute. Some mention this as a tastier use for them than trying to use them as flour or porridge, but others note that they’re a far cry from real coffee.
What is your favorite coffee substitute? Share your tips in the section below: