Ending the Affair: Quitting Coffee

Estimated read time... 5 minutes


Having quit coffee on more than one occasion, with this most recent cessation of the caffeinated version in March 2016 (still going strong!), I wanted to share some options that I’ve been working with.  I quit decaf coffee (having more than once per week) a few months ago, which was oddly the more difficult habit to break.  I’ve been experimenting with finding “the” alternative to coffee, and think I may have hit the jackpot.

Unfortunately, I have not found a replacement for chocolate (as cacao nibs are essentially the same food to me).  I was having so little chocolate before I stopped, it did not make a difference beyond breaking the psychological habit/desire cycle. As a lot of the cravings behind chocolate are geared around magnesium, fat and sugar, you might think about having some veggies with tahini, hummus, or baba ganoush as a snack instead of chocolate.  You can make your own halva, or try this recipe for black sesame truffles (leave out the dusting of cocoa powder) as your fat-sweet-magnesium afternoon indulgence.


Quitting Coffee, Two Methods:

You can take the quick and simple approach:

Week 1 3 parts regular coffee to one part decaf  (3:1 regular to decaf)
Week 2 equal parts regular and decaf coffees (1:1 regular to decaf)
Week 3 one part regular coffee to two parts decaf (1:2 regular to decaf)
Week 4 decaf only

When I used this approach, I got mild withdrawal headaches in week 3, and wound up going full decaf after that.  I wanted to simply get it over with, if I had headaches in week 3 then might as well skip right to week 4’s decaf only schedule.


If you get (or fear!) withdrawal headaches in any of the weeks (or if you feel that your success rate would be better with a longer taper period), adjust the schedule so that you break it up into smaller parts and ratios:

Week 1 3 parts regular coffee to one part decaf  (3:1 regular to decaf)
Week 2 2.5 parts regular coffee to 1.5 parts decaf  (2.5:1.5 regular to decaf)
Week 3 equal parts regular and decaf coffees (1:1 regular to decaf)
Week 4 1.5 parts regular coffee to 2 parts decaf (1.5:2 regular to decaf)
Week 5 one part regular coffee to two and a half parts decaf (1:2.5 regular to decaf)
Week 6 one part regular coffee to three parts decaf (1:3 regular to decaf)
Week 7 one part regular coffee to four parts decaf (1:4 regular to decaf)
Week 8 one half part regular coffee to four parts decaf (.5:4 regular to decaf)
Week 9 decaf only


This schedule works out much more nicely because nine is the number of completion in Chinese Medicine, so a full cycle has taken place.  Even nicotine patches, when following their recommended programs, take place over a 9-ish week period. Nine is symbolic of longevity in Chinese Medicine, and represents the Fire element (in other words, our Hearts), so if we follow something through to completion we connect our original intention and Kidney Will/Zhi with our Hearts.

Oatstraw, rose, cardamom and orange peel infusion


Some substitutes for coffee:

Dandy Blend/Roasted Roots Blend – a blend of roasted dandelion and chicory roots, creating a beverage that is dark like a slightly weak coffee, and bitterer than any coffee I’ve ever had.  It’s drying, and cooling, so if you have dryness, coldness or Yin Deficiency pay attention to how you feel after you have had it.

CrioBru – this blend is roasted cocoa beans.  Due to the theobromine content in the cocoa beans, I cannot in good faith recommend this brand/substitute if you are avoiding the bulk of stimulants.

There are many variations on roasted grain blends available in most supermarkets, which I frankly like a lot, but(!) nearly every one of these grain blends uses roasted gluten-containing grains.  If you do not have a sensitivity/allergy to grains/gluten, or can source a gluten-free blend: enjoy!

I still have decaffeinated black tea occasionally, but since learning a bit more about how caffeine is removed from tea, I’m not so keen on having it daily.  And no, doing a quick steep does not work!  Save the organic black tea for special occasions.

Then there are the various teas containing green tea and simple herbs, not in any way resembling coffee:

You might try a toasted black soybean tea, I picked up a box from a Japanese market.  The brew is similar to a very light oolong in color, and the tea is for “slimming” (meaning: it removes water weight).  If you have issues with dryness, or Yin Deficiency, I would avoid this tea.

Hot spiced milk, the oft-called “golden milk” – this is great for the cooler months, or if you tend towards feeling cold, have inflammation, or Dampness.  It is something that I enjoy greatly.  Try a blend of turmeric, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, a pinch of black pepper, and rose petals mixed with a small amount of butter, ghee or coconut oil, then steeped with hot water and topped off with your milk of choice, or simply steep the spices and herbs in hot milk!  The turmeric ideally is heated and blended with black pepper, into a paste to activate it’s constituents and bio-availability (instructions here).

Nettles tea – a lovely, nutrient rich brew, alas, like the roasted root blends, this is can be too drying for some people.  You may add a bit of marshmallow root, or other Yin substance, to offset the drying properties. Nettles is especially nice blended with mint, rose, and rooibos.  (Mountain Rose Herbs makes lovely blends with nettles as the star. My favorite is the Dawn Chorus.)

Miscellaneous herbs – I’ve tried peppermint, ginger, linden, oatstraw, raspberry leaf, and other fairly standard “nourishing” blends.  They are all very nice in flavor, and I recommend you experiment to see if any of the herbs and/or blends suit you, your taste buds, and your body.

I hear that you can make your own Earl Grey inspired tea using rooibos blended with a very small amount of bergamot essential oil. (Bergamot essential oil is considered safe to ingest, and I suspect that a couple of drops infused with a bag of rooibos tea would be plenty so long as you are using high quality essential oils from companies like Floracopecia, Mountain Rose or Snow Lotus.) I LOVE Earl Grey tea.   I have not yet tried this, yet…  (Mountain Rose Herbs carries a red and green rooibos Earl Grey tea, if you do not want to DIY yours.)

Calli tea is quite good, it contains a blend of tea with herbs, it is expensive but has a nice taste (especially when you add a slice of lemon to it), and you get a couple brews per bag of tea.

Green tea is a lovely option, shoot for unfermented teas. I’ve been a big fan of the “fresh crop” teas available in my local Japanese market-shops.  I let them steep for a couple of minutes, then strain and “mush” the strained tea leaves into my cup – it provides a richness (and antioxidant boost) similar to matcha, without being overly stimulating.

Pu-erh (which is aged/fermented, and loved by Tim Ferris) is great in the summer, but has a fairly high caffeine content compared to a white or young green leaf tea.

Matcha is very potent, as it is powdered leaves – save this for special occasions.

As with everything, your body will tell you what you need, how you respond, and what you should avoid.

What have you found that works for you? 

Are you planning on quitting coffee, what prevents you from quitting? 

Let me know in the comments below.