Britain gets through an estimated 95 million cups of coffee each day. Whether it comes from a fancy independent café, a ubiquitous high-street chain, a home coffee machine or as a plain old mug of instant, we’re drinking coffee like never before.
Except, not all of us are. Tea is still incredibly popular, of course. It always will be. And, recently, there’s been a rise in coffee alternatives, for those who want all the ritual (and musty bitter smell) of a cup of coffee without an attack of the jitters.
Increasingly, these alternatives are invading health food shop shelves. In quantities not seen since the Second World War, when coffee was too expensive or hard to import, Britons are brewing up bitter brown powders made from chicory, barley or acorns. We put six (mostly caffeine-free) instant coffee alternatives to the test to see which comes closest to a satisfying cup.
1. Symingtons dandelion coffee compound
A dandelion root-based drink, there’s far too much sugar here, and it tastes faintly of artificial sweetener. In fact, there’s little else in terms of discernible flavour.
2. Barleycup cereal drink
This roasted barley, rye and chicory drink doesn’t smell very strong at all (which is really half the fun with coffee), and is a little watery. It is, however, fat-free and high in fibre. Needs milk or sugar.
A jet-black drink, this chicory, wheat, malted barley, fig and acorn concoction has a comforting toasted nut scent, but the caramel sweetness is a little overpowering.
4. Whole Earth Wake Up coffee alternative
A barley-based drink with a touch of chicory and rye, given a caffeine boost by guarana, which provides a light fruity flavour. It’s ultimately a little bland.
5. Chicory Co organic coffee drink
£2.99 for 100g, Whole Foods
It’s 100 per cent chicory, and froths up invitingly when hot water is introduced, like a proper coffee. There’s an inviting dark brown colour, it’s properly bitter, and the viscosity isn’t too thin. A well-balanced effort.
6. The Health Embassy acorn coffee substitute
Mostly acorn, this drink benefits from the addition of spices, with cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and clover. Tastes like a Turkish coffee or a ginger biscuit dunked in tea. A hit.