14 Sustainable Coffee Alternatives for an Eco-Friendly Brew

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James Miller
James is an environmentalist, sustainability expert and senior editor at TheRoundup, specializing in testing non-toxic, organic and eco-friendly products. James, his wife and two daughters believe in chemical-free and zero-waste living. They aim to leave the planet in a better state than we found it, for future generations to enjoy.
James Miller
Updated: June 19, 2024

Traditional coffee production is bad for the environment. The coffee industry contributes to deforestation, water pollution, and pesticide use.

Also, if you're anything like me, too much caffeine can lead to jitters and afternoon energy crashes.

That's why I love sustainable coffee alternatives. They let me enjoy my coffee rituals guilt-free and without negative side effects.

I've tried them all and found some fantastic options that deliver flavor, focused energy, and sustainability.

Whether you're switching to matcha, mushroom coffee, or other unique blends, I've got you covered.

The Two Best Coffee Alternatives I Drink Every Day

Type: Adaptogenic Coffee Alternative
Caffeine: 82mg per Serving
Certifications: USDA Organic, FSC Certified

Why It's Best for A Morning Kick-Start: The ceremonial cacao activates my metabolism and provides a rich source of antioxidants. This helps to wake up my body and mind without the crash associated with traditional coffee.

The inclusion of fermented Pu'er tea is also brilliant. It produces a steady release of caffeine paired with L-theanine. This gives me calm and focused energy all morning without caffeine-induced jitters.

Personal Experience: The high-quality cacao gives this drink a deep, chocolatey base. I also love the subtle notes of lychee, cherry, and spices. It feels luxurious and comforting, far from the bitterness or weird aftertaste of many of the other alternatives I tested.

Nandaka has become a key part of my morning routine. It's a delicious, healthy way to start the day. It gives me sustained energy and a sense of well-being.

I also love the use of adaptogenic mushrooms. They help balance stress levels and enhance my mood, making my mornings enjoyable and productive.

About the Brand: Pique sources ingredients from some of the planet's most biodiverse and ecological regions.

Its products include ingredients from places like the pristine mountains of Kagoshima, Japan, the sun-drenched coasts of Calabria, Italy, and the primordial forests of Yunnan, China.

Pros & Cons

Activates a healthy metabolism
Boosts mood and immune system
Sustained energy and a healthy gut
Rich chocolaty taste
Expensive (but worth every cent!)
Sediment settles at the bottom of the cup (this is normal and needs to be discarded)

Verified Customer Reviews

  • Delish
    So creamy, tastes great, feels amazing in my body

    Kate W

  • Daily Nandaka
    I drink Nandaka every morning. It tastes amazing with my nut milk, and it is smooth without any acid feeling in my stomach.

    Tiffany S

  • Nandaka
    This is the best alternative coffee product. The taste is rich and fantastic.

    Felicia N

Type: Adaptogenic Coffee Alternative
Caffeine: 35mg per Serving
Certifications: USDA Organic, Non-GMO Verified, Certified Vegan

Why It's Best for An Afternoon Latte Energy Boost: The functional mushrooms in MUD\WTR Original and Creamer enhance physical performance and stamina.

Because of this, MUD\WTR is my go-to drink for staying productive and alert after lunch.

Personal Experience: I initially didn't like the taste of MUD\WTR, but I loved how it made me feel. So, I was determined to find the perfect recipe for my taste.

Thanks to the excellent MUD\WTR customer care team, I soon found my dream mix:

  1. 6.5oz of water and 6.5oz of milk in a big mug
  2. Heat in the microwave (full power for 3mins 20secs)
  3. Add 1tbsp of MUD\WTR Original and 1tbsp of MUD\WTR Creamer and froth for 10sec
  4. Add 1tsp of honey or maple syrup

The taste is similar to a chai latte but with added depth from the cacao and sweetness from the coconut-based creamer.

The energy boost is steady and sustained, keeping me focused and productive until the end of the day. I also find the calming effects of reishi make winding down in the evening more manageable. This helps improve my sleep quality.

About the Brand: MUD\WTR was created to find a healthier, balanced alternative to coffee. Its founder, Shane, loved the ritual of coffee but disliked the dependency, jitters, and disrupted sleep it caused.

After experimenting with ingredients from his travels in Brazil and India, he developed a unique blend.

The mushrooms used by MUD\WTR are organically grown in California. This avoids the common practice of sourcing from China and gives better control over growing conditions.

Pros & Cons

Organic and sustainably sourced ingredients
Supports mental clarity and physical performance
Provides a balanced, steady energy boost
Enhances mood
Boosts immune health
Vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO
Unique flavor that might take some tweaking to meet your taste

Verified Customer Reviews

  • Amazing Alternative To Coffee
    I love it. Everything about it! I've basically quit coffee.

    Jennifer B

  • Love It!
    I've been drinking this lovely drink for a year. It's fantastic!

    Terra L

  • Mud Water
    Best thing I ever did was try this product. Changed my life! Thank you.

    Joanne B

Another 12 Popular Alternatives to Coffee

MUD\WTR and Pique are two of my favorite wellness brands, making by far my favorite two eco-friendly coffee alternatives.

I love the convenience and the numerous positive health impacts of Nandaka and MUD\WTR.

However, there are other excellent options that might better suit your taste.

Matcha Latte green coffee


  • Description: Matcha is a finely ground powder made from specially grown green tea leaves. It originated in Japan, where it's been used in traditional tea ceremonies for centuries.
  • Environmental Benefits: Matcha production supports eco-friendly farming practices. Shade-growing the tea plants helps preserve biodiversity and reduce soil erosion.
  • Health Benefits: Matcha is rich in catechins, which boost metabolism and protect against disease. It also contains L-theanine, promoting relaxation and improved focus.
  • My Favorite Matcha: Pique Sun Goddess Matcha
A cup of Rooibos Tea

Rooibos Tea

  • Description: Rooibos is a red tea native to South Africa. It's made from the leaves of the Aspalathus linearis plant.
  • Environmental Benefits: Rooibos cultivation is less resource-intensive than coffee. It requires no irrigation or synthetic pesticides.
  • Health Benefits: Rooibos is caffeine-free and packed with antioxidants that support heart health and reduce inflammation.
  • My Favorite Rooibos Tea: FGO Organic Rooibos Tea
Branch of a Kentucky Coffeetree

Kentucky Coffeetree

  • Description: The Kentucky Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus) is native to North America. Its seeds can be roasted and brewed as a coffee substitute.
  • Environmental Benefits: Using a native plant (or growing your own) supports local biodiversity.
  • Health Benefits: The caffeine-free seeds contain antioxidants. They offer a healthier alternative to traditional coffee.
  • My Favorite Kentucky Coffeetree: CZ Grain Store Kentucky Coffee Tree Seeds (Grow Your Own)
A cup of Japanese Ground Barley Tea

Ground Barley Tea

  • Description: Ground barley is especially popular in Europe
  • Environmental Benefits: Barley farming typically requires fewer resources and chemicals than coffee production
  • Health Benefits: Barley is rich in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, promoting digestive health
  • My Favorite Ground Barley Tea: McCabe Organic Barley Tea
Indian Chai Tea in a glass cup

Chai Tea

  • Description: Chai is a spiced tea from India. It's typically made with black tea, milk, and spices.
  • Environmental Benefits: Choosing organic chai helps reduce pesticide use and supports eco-friendly agriculture.
  • Health Benefits: The spices in chai (such as cinnamon and cardamom) have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
  • My Favorite Chai Tea: Vahdam Original Masala Chai Tea
Cup of Chaga a natural alternative to coffee


  • Description: Chaga is a type of mushroom that grows on birch trees in cold climates.
  • Environmental Benefits: Harvesting chaga is eco-friendly and has a low environmental impact.
  • Health Benefits: Chaga is known for its high antioxidant content. It supports immune function and overall health.
  • My Favorite Chaga Drink: ReNude Chagaccino
Yerba Mate leaves

Yerba Mate

  • Description: Yerba mate is a traditional South American drink made from the leaves of the Ilex paraguariensis plant.
  • Environmental Benefits: Yerba mate farming supports forest conservation and provides habitats for wildlife.
  • Health Benefits: Yerba mate contains caffeine, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. It offers a natural energy boost and other health benefits.
  • My Favorite Yerba Mate Drink: U.S. Wellness Naturals 100% Organic Yerba Mate Tea
Cups of healthy Date Seed Coffee

Date Seed Coffee

  • Description: Date seed coffee is made from roasted and ground date seeds
  • Environmental Benefits: Using date seeds reduces food waste
  • Health Benefits: Date seed is caffeine-free, improves digestive health, and increases focus
  • My Favorite Date Seed Coffee: MediDate Roasted Date Seed
Drink made from Golden Milk Powder

Golden Milk Powder

  • Description: Golden milk is a blend of fermented turmeric, ginger, and other spices. It's often mixed with milk to make a drink.
  • Environmental Benefits: Choosing organic spices for golden milk supports organic farming practices.
  • Health Benefits: Turmeric, the main ingredient, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
  • My Favorite Golden Milk Powder: Garden of Life Organics Golden Milk Recovery & Nourishment Powder
Cup of hot Raw Cacao drink

Raw Cacao

  • Description: Raw cacao is made from unroasted beans. It contains more nutrients than traditional chocolate or cocoa.
  • Environmental Benefits: Choosing ethically sourced cacao helps reduce environmental damage.
  • Health Benefits: Raw cacao is rich in flavonoids, which can improve heart health and brain function.
  • My Favorite Raw Cacao: Terrasoul Superfoods Raw Organic Cacao Powder
Cup of Dandelion Root herbal tea

Dandelion Root

  • Description: Dandelion root has been used as a coffee substitute for centuries.
  • Environmental Benefits: Dandelions are hardy plants that grow quickly without extensive resources or chemicals. They improve soil health by aerating the soil and adding nutrients.
  • Health Benefits: Dandelion root is caffeine-free and packed with vitamins and minerals. It supports liver health, aids digestion, and has anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, it's a natural diuretic, helping to detoxify the body.
  • My Favorite Dandelion Root Coffee: Teeccino Dandelion Mocha Herbal Coffee
Chicory Root coffee substitute

Chicory Root

  • Description: Chicory root coffee is made from roasted chicory root.
  • Environmental Benefits: Chicory requires fewer resources to grow than coffee beans and can be cultivated sustainably.
  • Health Benefits: Chicory root is rich in inulin, a prebiotic fiber that supports gut health.
  • My Favorite Chicory Root Coffee: Anthony's Organic Roasted Chicory Root Granules

What Is the Environmental Impact of Coffee Production?

Deforestation and Habitat Destruction

Coffee farming often leads to deforestation. This is especially common in tropical regions where rainforests are cleared for plantations.

This destruction of natural habitats threatens biodiversity, displacing animal species and disrupting ecosystems.

It's predicted that by 2050, half of all current coffee plantation land may become unproductive.

Water Consumption and Pollution

It takes about 140 liters of water to produce a single cup of coffee.

High water demand strains local resources, especially in areas with existing water scarcity.

Coffee processing also generates wastewater with organic matter and pollutants. This can contaminate rivers and lakes if not treated properly.

Pesticide and Chemical Use

Industrial coffee farming relies heavily on pesticides and fertilizers to maximize yield.

These chemicals can leach into soil and waterways, harming local plants and wildlife.

Pesticide exposure also poses various health risks to coffee farm workers.

Socio-Economic Issues for Farmers

Many coffee farmers work under challenging conditions and receive low wages.

The conventional coffee trade often exploits small-scale farmers, trapping them in cycles of poverty.

Why Make the Switch?

Environmental Benefits

As mentioned above, traditional coffee farming has a significant environmental impact.

By choosing alternatives, you support methods that reduce this impact.

Eco-friendly options often use less water, avoid harmful pesticides, and promote biodiversity. 

Health Benefits 

Many of the recommendations in this guide are rich in antioxidants. They help boost your immune system, improve skin health, and even aid in weight management.

Also, avoiding pesticides means fewer harmful chemicals in your drink, leading to better overall health.

What About Sustainable Coffee Options?

Do you want to reduce the environmental impact of your daily cup of coffee without giving it up altogether?

If so then sustainable coffee is what you need.

Your options include the following.

Mold-Free Coffee

Mold-free coffee is sourced from beans grown and processed with ethical and environmental considerations in mind.

This means they're often better for you, the planet, and everyone involved in the supply chain.

Lab-Grown Coffee

Lab-grown coffee uses cellular agriculture in place of traditional farming.

This innovative method involves cultivating coffee cells in bioreactors. This mimics the natural growth process without needing soil or extensive water resources.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are adaptogenic coffee alternatives?

Adaptogenic alternatives (such as Nandaka and MUD\WTR contain substances that help the body adapt to stress and promote overall balance. Mushrooms (such as reishi, chaga, and lion's mane) are popular adaptogenics.

Which coffee is most environmentally friendly?

The most environmentally friendly coffee options include shade-grown, organic, and Fair Trade certified.

What is the most sustainable way to buy coffee?

The most sustainable way is to choose coffee companies that are certified organic and Fair Trade.

What can I switch to instead of coffee?

This guide contains numerous ideas for drinks you can switch to instead of coffee.

Is Starbucks coffee actually sustainable?

Starbucks has made significant efforts toward sustainability, such as sourcing most of its products through its Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices program.

Is matcha healthier than coffee?

Matcha is often considered healthier than coffee due to its high antioxidant content, particularly catechins, which have many health benefits.

The Final Word

Choosing sustainable alternatives to real coffee can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve your health.

Adaptogenic blends like Nandaka and MUD\WTR are my absolute favorite. They're sustainable, convenient, delicious, and deliver stable all-day energy.

Other beanless coffees, such as Chaga and Rooibos, are also tasty and still gentle on the planet.

Whether you're looking to replace your morning coffee or find a healthier afternoon pick-me-up, there's a perfect beverage waiting for you in this guide.

James Miller
James Miller
James is an environmentalist, sustainability expert and senior editor at TheRoundup, specializing in testing non-toxic, organic and eco-friendly products. James, his wife and two daughters believe in chemical-free and zero-waste living. They aim to leave the planet in a better state than we found it, for future generations to enjoy.

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