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We Tried This Healthy Coffee Alternative for a Week — Here’s What We Thought About It

For many of us, coffee is the only way to start the day. But if you find that you’re feeling sick to your stomach or jittery, it could be time to ditch your usual cup of joe and move on to brewed cacao, a popular coffee alternative. I decided to skip the caffeine for a week and find out whether the hype was real. I have a lot of anxiety, and even one cup of morning coffee was making it worse. But I still needed something to wake me up and help me focus, so I decided to give brewed cacao a try.

What is brewed cacao?

Although it’s a fairly new trend, brewed cacao has been around since before 1500 BC, when it was given to Olmec, Mayan, and Aztec soldiers to enhance their fighting stamina. Brewed cacao is basically brewed powdered cacao beans. Cacao is unprocessed, raw cocoa. Usually, when you make a pot of coffee, you use ground coffee beans. Brewed cacao can be made in cold brew form, or if you like it hot, with a French press.

Is brewed cacao healthy?

Brewed cacao is healthier than regular and even decaf coffee, the latter of which can contain harmful chemicals. Because theobromine, an alkaloid found in cacao, dilates the blood vessels instead of shrinking them the way caffeine does, drinking brewed cacao increases blood flow. This is how it gives your body energy. Theobromine is a naturally-occurring stimulant that has been proven to boost the mood and enhance focus. It also has far less acid than coffee, which is great for those with caffeine sensitivity or digestive issues.

What does brewed cacao taste like?

I tried a brand of brewed cacao called Choffy, which was sent to me by the company’s founder, Jason Vanderhoven. Because I like my coffee with cream and sugar, he advised me to start with the Volta flavor, which is the sweetest and mildest of their flavors. I used my French press and gave it some time to steep after stirring, then strained and poured myself a cup, into which I added a bit of two percent milk and a teaspoon of sugar. It had a pleasant taste that reminded me of a mild mocha that I’d get at any coffee shop.

Is cacao better for you than coffee?

It really depends on what you’re looking for, but generally, brewed cacao is healthier for you than coffee. This is due to its main ingredient, theobromine, and lack of caffeine.

Different varieties of brewed cacao are made with certain compounds that have beneficial health effects. These include polyphenols, which are antioxidants that lower inflammation in the body, and fat-regulating hormone myostatin, which helps promote weight loss. It also contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid that helps the body produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that controls optimism and satisfaction levels in the brain.

In addition to the physical health benefits of brewed cacao, there are mental health benefits as well. The biggest thing I noticed about an hour after I drank my first cup was that instead of feeling anxious, I felt calm and happy. This was likely due to the tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin production.

People often assume that tryptophan makes people tired, but that is not always the case. When eating foods that contain tryptophan, our brains transform it into serotonin. This is why it’s purported to make us sleepy. However, if it’s combined with other amino acids which most foods with tryptophan have, the sleep-inducing effects are lessened.

This calm mental state was enough of a reason for me to switch from coffee to the brewed cacao alternative. I’ll see how long I can hold out, but I’d love to quit drinking coffee for good. It wreaks havoc on my digestive system.

How is cacao brewed?

Any ground version of cacao beans can be brewed in a French press coffee maker. Just add two tablespoons of ground cacao into your French press, add six ounces of boiling water, stir, and let it steep for three minutes. Stir again, steep for three more minutes, and it’s ready to enjoy. You can add milk, non-dairy milk, the sweetener of your choice, or drink it as-is! I liked drinking the Volta with milk, and a teaspoon of sugar was all I wanted with that flavor. When I tried the French Roast the following day, I found it needed a bit more sugar and milk for my taste.

Where can you buy brewed cacao?

Brewed cacao is available at your local health food store, as well as Amazon and Walmart .

All in all, I really enjoyed this coffee alternative. I felt good about the health benefits, and enjoyed the lack of anxiety and jitters I experienced drinking it. If you’re thinking about easing up on your coffee intake and want to maintain your focus, but still enjoy a delicious hot beverage in the mornings, brewed cacao is the drink for you!

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