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Coffee is not very eco-friendly. The coffee industry is infamous for its bad ethical practices. The industry employs around 100 million people, but a third of those workers only get paid 10 percent of the commodity’s retail price. 

Water usage is also a cause for concern. The United Nations predicts that 5 billion people will be dealing with water shortages by 2050. Despite coffee causing dehydration when drank, the coffee plant guzzles water at alarming rates. A single cup of coffee requires 140 liters of water to create. While most of coffee’s water comes from rainfall, it’s still water that could be given to communities without stable sources of fresh drinking water

Luckily, there are a few coffee-like beverages out there that taste like our favorite bitter brown beverage without guzzling water and creating socio-economic imbalances in the process. None of these have caffeine in them, but they taste similar to coffee, especially with a bit of vegan milk and sugar. Yum! 

1. Chicory Coffee

Source: Our Changing Climate/Youtube

Chicory coffee is a relatively popular coffee alternative. It’s made from the chicory root, which comes from the dandelion family. People have used the root for centuries in cooking and as medicine. It’s high in fiber, can help ease an upset stomach, and is good for your heart, liver, gallbladder, and blood pressure

Chicory coffee is sustainable on all fronts. It requires very little water, has a low carbon footprint, and its presence does not negatively impact the land surrounding the chicory. 

Tastewise, chicory coffee looks and tastes like traditional coffee. It’s a little more bitter and has a woody or nutty taste. Some people enjoy mixing it with coffee or simply enjoying it on its own. 

Because chicory coffee is so high in fiber, you should avoid drinking large quantities of it. Pregnant women should speak to their doctor before consuming it or avoid drinking it altogether. 


2. Date Seed Coffee

Source: MorganDrinksCoffee/Youtube

Date seed coffee is made by drying and roasting date seeds and then grinding them into a powder. The ground seeds can then be used like regular coffee grounds. The coffee alternative is high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals and can also reduce cholesterol and blood pressure

Date seeds are a byproduct of the date industry, giving them sustainability bonus points. The actual date fruit is also quite sustainable. Growing them requires moderate amounts of water, and their carbon footprint is low. 

Date seed coffee tastes similar to traditional coffee, although it lacks the bitter notes often associated with coffee beans. The flavor is also a little lighter, almost like a watered-down coffee. 

Some people may have adverse effects on the digestive system. We recommend trying it in small quantities before committing to a full cup of it. 


3. Kentucky Coffeetree 

Kentucky coffeetree is a plant, but also the name of the beverage you can brew from its seeds. Its name was first given to it by settlers in Kentucky who would use the seeds as a cheap coffee alternative. 

The Kentucky coffeetree is a resilient plant. It can grow in wet soil or withstand a drought. The leaves and raw seeds of the tree are toxic, but it does an excellent job of housing birds and thriving in a variety of conditions. 

Many describe Kentucky coffeetree coffee as more of a hot tea with a bitter taste than a traditional coffee. However, some people may enjoy the alternative taste. Just make sure to buy roasted beans, not raw! 

4. Roasted Barley Coffee

Source: cuoredicioccolato/Youtube

Made from roasted and ground barley, roasted barley coffee was popular when traditional coffee was scarce during World War II. It’s great for digestion, lowers blood sugar levels, it’s anti-inflammatory, and contains several vitamins and minerals

Barely is a sustainable grain. It has low water and carbon footprints and does not negatively impact the environment. 

Tastewise, barley coffee is less bitter than regular coffee but still has those delicious earthy notes that make people reach for their cup of joe.


Give Them a Try!

Changing up your morning coffee routine can be daunting, especially if you need that caffeine to get you started in the morning. However, as water becomes more scarce, experimenting with alternative coffee may become more critical. If you can’t forfeit your entire cup of coffee, why not try mixing it with one of the suggested alternatives or substituting one of your many cups during the day. Little changes make a big difference!

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