Who Needs Caffeine?

Coffee and I have always had a rocky relationship. It feels like a dirty secret to admit this: I love to drink, like, four cups (preferably with lots of cream and sugar) and revel in that filthy buzz.

But the abrupt, stomach-lurching drop at the end of the caffeine-fueled ride was misery. And the havoc the caffeine wreaked on my sleeping patterns, my energy levels, and my attitude was really not worth it.

Over the years, I’ve been totally caffeine-free, indulged with abandon, and allowed a caffeinated beverage sporadically. Since I cleaned up my diet, I’ve been drinking it black and really learned to enjoy the flavor… so when we went to Prague, I started drinking coffee again. At work, my “one cup, once in a while” turned into two cups almost every day. My sleep quality and duration sucked. I was edgy. It had to stop.

So about three weeks ago, I switched to decaf tea and coffee. And a few days ago, I decided to go 100% caffeine-free (after a sleepless night brought on, I suspect, by six cups of decaf tea – even decaf contains trace amounts of caffeine).

I’ve discovered two herbal teas that are really tasty and get close to replicating that aaaahhhh… feeling of a fresh cuppa joe.

Bengal Spice is Celestial Seasonings caffeine-free version of chai tea. It’s super spicy with a touch of sweetness, and the bags are potent enough to withstand several brewings, so I can just keep topping off my mug with hot water. Gluten-free and kosher, it’s a combo of  cinnamon, roasted chicory, roasted carob, natural spice,vanilla, ginger, cardamom, black pepper, cloves, and nutmeg.

The box recommends the addition of milk and sugar for a “true Chai experience.” Um, no.

But I was curious so I heated 2 tablespoons of coconut milk and added that to my cup. It was creamy-good… so now I have two ways to enjoy it. I suspect the coconut milk version will be my companion on weekend mornings when I’m shuffling around the house, and unadorned, Bengal Spice will help me navigate the corporate overlords’ conference rooms.

About a year ago, I tried to trade caffeine for chamomile, and it worked for a while. But there was a big stumbling block: I don’t particularly enjoy chamomile tea… or berry or apple or orange or lemon and most especially not mint. They all just taste like variations of hot grass to me.

But I took a chance on Sleepytime Vanilla, and it’s really, really good. I can’t believe it! It has flavor and depth, and it’s soothing, too… brewed from chamomile, spearmint, west indian lemongrass, vanilla, tilia flowers, blackberry leaves, hawthorn, orange blossoms, and rosebuds. I was worried about the inclusion of spearmint, but it’s very subtle.

So, take that caffeine! From now on, I’ll be the best version of me… sleeping the sleep of the righteous, keeping my blood sugar stable, minimizing cortisol, and running on fuel from clean Good Food. Neener!

I'm going Caffeine Free!

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  • Kat says:

    Great post! Thanks for the ideas. I just bought Japanese Green tea to sub for coffee making myself think I 'like it" cause it's good for me. …..Ummm not! Attempting to decrease coffee to an occasional treat if really good. These are great subs for thein between times.

  • dirthuckster says:

    Thank you for this. I am suffering from a caffeine headache as we speak.. eek! I am doing the Whole 30 and I haven't cut out caffeine but I am drinking less because I am not sweetening it. Trying to improve my sleep as well. Can't wait to try these!

  • dirthuckster says:

    Oh, also, I put some links to your site in my blog. I hope that is ok. I am new to the blogging world and don't know the protocol. But, you are very inspiring to me and I am sure my buddies and readers will think so too. 🙂

  • Barbara says:

    My favorite Celestial Seasonings Tea is "Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride". How can you NOT want to drink that?

    I have 1 cup of coffee per day but lately me thinks I could do without it. We shall see!

    Happy New Year Mel!

  • michele says:

    I share your general characterization of herbal teas – grass, grass, grass. (Surprised that you include mint though – it's always been an outlier for me and especially good with Lebanese and Middle Eastern food in general.)

    Original Sleepytime has been a habit of mine for something like 15 years – I didn't know they came out with vanilla. Must try!

    If you have the wherewithal/desire to get a little spendy with your tea, look for Mariage Freres. They have some non-caffeinated teas that will knock your socks off.

  • Nelly says:

    Who needs caffeine?


    *raises hand*

    I'm in the "two cups a day…minimum" boat right now. That's way too much, I know (even straight black, the way I take it), but I just started a Whole30 run and feel like I need some kind of familiar vice to take comfort in so I don't get totally discouraged.

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Kat –> I've tried to trick myself into liking "good for me" stuff… it never really works,unfortunately. But these two are objectively tasty, I think. Good luck!

    dirthuckster –> I think if you can ride out the headachees, they go away after a few days… and absolutely feel free to link to stuff in my blog. Love it! Thank you! I enjoyed reading your blog today!

    Barbara –> SUGAR COOKIE SLEIGH RIDE?! I want some!

    Michele –> Thanks for the suggestion of Mariage Freres… I might try some. Love their "golden rules" for steeping on the web site.

    Nelly –> If I could get away with drinking caffeine, I totally would. If drinking black coffee helps you on your first Whole30, I say go for it. Enjoy your 30-day clean-up!

  • Jenny says:

    You must try Market Spice iced tea. crack.

  • Dallas @ Whole9 says:


    We LOVE Numi's Honeybush and Stash's Licorice Spice. Melissa likes Traditional Medicinals' Throat Coat, and pretty much any kind of rooibos (The Republic of Tea's Good Hope Vanilla is awesome). Numi's Ruby Chai is good, too. All completely caffeine-free. Yum.


  • Barbara says:

    I stocked up over summer and have 3 boxes..willing to share:)

  • WordVixen says:

    I love your recommendations- I kicked coffee (and black tea and caffeinated soda) to the curb two years ago, but still sometimes miss the flavor. Currently, the Organic India brand of Tulsi tea seems to do it for me, especially in the Sweet Rose or Ginger Lemon flavors. I also like Stash's Licorice Spice, and a Christmas Eve blend that I got last year, but I can't remember for certain the brand. Spicy herbals always seem to do it for me, and make me not miss black coffee or black tea.

    I've been seeing that Bengal Spice and couldn't make up my mind if it sounded good or not, but I'll definitely pick it up now that I've seen a YES vote for it. I haven't noticed the vanilla one, but I'll be on the look out.

  • Anonymous says:

    Mellisa love the tea choices. I'm getting closer to no coffee. just yesterday I had a starbucks americano. yuk!!! threw it out. hated it. Coffee at home is working. and I do pack green tea for work. (very aware of coffee right now.) Love that you inspire so many. Thank you!!!! marianne

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Thank YOU, Marianne! I don't blame you one bit on the Starbucks Americano… I think their coffee is pretty terrible.

  • de23 says:

    I like the rooibos and honeybush teas from Adagio.com. The vanillas are good and I have an unexpected fondness for honeybush chocolate mixed with orange. You can order a sampler to try the different flavors if you want. I'm gradually cutting back on my sweetener on these – I hope to be sweetener-free in a couple weeks.

  • Anonymous says:

    Sorry for being late to the party, but I had to say that I bought the Bengal Spice last night and am enjoying the first cup of it right now – I love it! Thank you for reccomending it!


  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Kim –> Yay! Glad you like it! I just discovered caffeine-free Celestial Seasonings Madagascar Vanilla made with African Rooibos (red tea), and it is super yummy, too.

  • Brandy says:

    Bengal Spice = Best Tea Ever!!

  • Anonymous says:

    Mmm, that sounds good too. I'll have to try it soon!


  • Tianna says:

    I am a savage caffiene addict. I can’t drink coffee, but as of right now I have 3 whole giant cans of Amp energy drink stashed in my work desk. Pure caffiene, sugar and evil. It’s either that, or wake up to a bunch of snickering guys taking pictures of me snoring and drooling in a very ladylike fashion.