I'm very fond of coffee, in fact, I have a grinder, grind my own beans and use a coffee stove to make it.

However, I've recently been advised to stop drinking anything containing caffeine (at least for a few months). I've always avoided drinking decaf because I read an article about the way that caffeine is removed, and I'm not sure it's wise to ingest a coffee bean that's been rinsed in (what appears to be) poison, for hours and hours.

I've noticed that there are certain teas that are naturally caffeine free, so I wondered if the same might be true for coffee. Are there any alternatives to coffee?

  • 1
    You do realize that almost every processed food is treated with what you call poison?
    – Johannes_B
    Jan 22, 2019 at 8:27
  • It's not really me that's calling it poison - as far as I can tell, that's quite a commonly held belief Jan 22, 2019 at 9:15
  • 2
    And it's just that, a belief... The coffee itself is also poison, as are a lot of plant based products as most plants produce toxic chemicals. Those are in fact a major reason of many of the intestinal upsets and inflamations that people suffer from, often chronically. But as in everything, the dose makes the poison. The concentrations of the chemicals used to decaffiniate coffee in the finished product is harmless, or it wouldn't pass food safety standards inspections and be illegal to sell.
    – jwenting
    Jan 23, 2019 at 5:36

4 Answers 4


Wikipedia lists a few substitutes, some of which are fairly readily available. These may be based on roasted grains (like barleycup), chicory (though this is often combined with coffee), or both.

There are several processes for decaffeinating coffee. Not all rely on the organic solvents you're trying to avoid. The Swiss water process avoids then completely and is used commercially so you should be able to order some. CO2 decaffeinated coffee is rarer.

  • 1
    I like Pero, a German substitute based mostly on barley and chicory. In France, it's easy to find instant plain chicory. But beware of the term 'substitute'. For me these work because they're hot, dark, bitter-ish beverages to which i can add cream, and that pretty much works to satisfy an evening craving. But they don't taste a thing like coffee, and if what you love is the caffeine kick you won't find that at all. And substituting a different form of caffeine (like black tea, or mate) is counter-productive from a health standpoint.
    – user57361
    Jan 23, 2019 at 0:20

Roasted barley tea

Mugi-cha, or roasted barley tea, is my favorite substitute because it also has a roasted, slightly bitter taste. It is commonly consumed in China, Korea, and Japan and is widely available elsewhere as well. There are also roasted barley and chicory blends marketed specifically as "coffee substitute."


Strictly speaking, caffeine is a poison that certain plants produce to ward off insects and other animals. Other popular examples of chemical defences that humans like to consume are nicotine and capsaicin.

I've noticed that there are certain teas that are naturally caffeine free

Tea - in contrast to cofee - can be made of any number of different plants like various fruits, herbs, tree bark (cinnamon), roots and leaves of different species. The traditional black, green, yellow and white teas all contain leaves of Camellia sinensis, the tea plant. Since this plant uses caffeine as a chemical defence like the coffee plant, there are no naturally caffeine free teas of it. The caffeine free teas you mean are all made of different plants like peppermint, rosehip or hibiscus, to name just a few.

Removing caffeine from plant material is just as much a chemical process as the (natural) synthesis that creates caffeine in a plant. Since millions of people around the world drink decaf each day, you can be reasonably sure not to be poisoned. The taste, however, will differ slightly from unprocessed coffee.


Decaffeinated coffee is generally produced using organic solvents. However, it isn't produced using harmful (carcinogenic) benzene anymore, so stories you might have read about how poisonous decaf coffee is are probably wrong. While not something you would want to consume in a high concentration, the solvents used today are harmless at the tiny concentrations that remain in the coffee after decaffeination.

Not all decaffeinated coffee is produced with organic solvents though, so you can avoid them entirely if you want to. Look for decaffeinated coffee which has been produced using the "Swiss water process" or "mountain water process", which only use water to draw out the caffeine. There is also decaf coffee which is produced using a carbon dioxide process, but that appears to be quite rare as it is a more expensive method.

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