Wake Up and Smell the Fake Coffee

I drink fake coffee. In fact, I’m drinking it right now.

The blasphemy, the horror! Won’t someone think of the coffee-guzzling American children?! (I kid. A little.)

“What’s the point?” was a response I heard often when I opted for decaf in public. But drinking a coffee substitute is generally so baffling that people are more intrigued than turned off. Several have even been keen to sample it.

decaf_comicCaffeine and I have a love hate relationship. I love caffeinated beverages, but they hate my relaxation and sleep. Tea works for me. Decaf, which still contains caffeine, and diet soda, even precious Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi, do not.

I wasn’t always this way. In my youth, I slurped multiple espressos and French press-fuls a day. In fact, I reported or the world coffee market. I was co-chair of the Fair Trade Coalition chapter in college and successfully campaigned to get it in our student union and a local, small-town grocery store. Coffee and I go way back.

But somewhere along the line, I developed a sensitivity to the drink of the gods. It took many incidents to come to terms with the fact that the magic bean cramping my style. Particularly because coffee has always held a place of comfort and sustenance in my palatte. First, I down-shifted to occasional decaf, but knew in my heart that it had to go.  For weeks after giving up low-octane coffee, I yearned for it. A whiff of fresh beans in a friend’s tote or simply walking by a coffee shop set off a cavalcade of obsessive cravings. I desparately needed a hot cuppa! With a splash of soy creamer.

dscf2079Then, friend turned me on to my fake coffee of choice: Dandy Blend Herbal Coffee Substitute. I had actually scoffed at it about four months prior. Dandy Blend is roasted dandelion root, roasted chicory (the same stuff that makes world-famous Cafe Mundo coffee distinct) and roasted barley and rye (don’t worry, it’s gluten-free). Dandelion is known as a rich source of B vitamins and a liver cleanser in Chinese traditional medicine.

The instant powder is also less acidicless acidic and, I’m going to aruge, better for the environment.

Coffee is actually the most water-intensive commodity in the world. Water is not only used to cultivate the crop and prepare its end product, but to process it. In the commonly used wet process, or washed method, the ripe crimson coffee cherries that surround the raw beans are poured into a vat, which is then flooded with water. When immersed, the pulpy berry eventually separates from the bean and floats to the top, along with any of the thin skin that surrounds it, known as parchment. This berry scum is skimmed from the top, along with any of the lighter, deficient beans. Then the water is drained and the beans are dried. If every bean that’s roasted and ground to make your coffee undergoes this process, that’s a lot of H20 in your water footprint.

Let’s also not forget that coffee is among the most widely-used and socially-acceptable drugs in the world. Ahem. 

ea1da4b156b73f0c9ab52c2491c3f479But back to fake coffee. Dandy Blend is one of several coffee substitutes. Celestial Seasonings has a tea called Roastaroma (which is a little to grain-flavored for my liking). There are a few I have yet to try that include ingredients like dried figs and sugar beets. If you’re feeling jittery and not sleeping well, I suggest you give one a shot. If you’re drinking decaf, make sure you’re drinking water-decaffeinated coffee rather than chemically-decaffeinated. I think it’s obvious why.

Drinking fake coffee is much like drinking non-alcoholic beer (which I’ve done once, out of curiousity, but if that’s your thing, right on). It’s bizarre. You expect to get a buzz going because your body associates that effect with beer. But nothing happens. Of course, there will be no caffeine high from a coffee substitute.

Nonetheless, on a March day with a winter storm raging outside, fake coffee does something for me that a cup of tea can’t. But I’m still going to have tea next.