There were two times in my life when I took myself off of caffeine and experienced full-fledged caffeine withdrawal. The first was when I decided to go vegan. Up til then, my life was dependent upon my morning coffee with one tablespoon of raw sugar and a whole lotta half & half. Even though I was already buying rice or almond milk instead of cow’s milk for everything else for years, we were far from vegan and adding a dairy-alternative to my morning coffee was an insult to my taste buds. Now deciding to go vegan, I knew my first step would be ditching the coffee all together, it just wouldn’t be the same so I didn’t want to have it at all. I even tried to work my way down from coffee to black tea to green tea to white tea to no caffeine at all. Thinking I played it safe, I was surprised to find myself with the worst migraine of my life, and I was already no stranger to migraines, mostly due to my caffeine intake, but this one was more intense and in a completely different place. Instead of the right side of my head, it was right smack in the center of my forehead that spread the entire width. It slowly crept up on me like a ninja in the late afternoon and by 6pm I was in bed but in too much pain to sleep until it slowly dissipated around 10am the next morning. I assumed I was in the clear until the second day it returned again in the late afternoon and left me bed ridden until the next morning. I remember laying there, moaning and tossing and turning, wrapping everything around my head hoping something would dull it just a little bit. I was nauseous and sweaty and thinking, in true addict form, that if I just had a cup of coffee it would take the pain away. I toughed it out because the realization that my body was that dependent upon something was a bit alarming. By the third day I think I started praying but thankfully on the fourth day I was finally in the clear.
I was good for a year or so, steering clear of caffeine all together, but emotionally still felt a void. Even though I wasn’t dependent upon coffee to function anymore, nothing replaced the warm hug of a cup of coffee and the smell of it left me in a sad, longing state. Not ideal when you live near a coffee roaster and your neighborhood is often overpowered with freshly roasted coffee wafting through the air. Beating my cigarette addiction had been easier. So I slowly incorporated a decaf soy latte here and there, making sure I didn’t have more than one a week. There’s still some caffeine in decaf and very often a whole lot of chemicals in coffees. I also didn’t need help in the inflammation department and I found I drank less water even if I just drink one cup of decaf in the morning. But still I would splurge and it wasn’t long before those decaf lattes would occasionally turn into regular. I still really missed my daily morning hot beverage and I was reading about how high in antioxidants green tea was so now there I was every morning with my unsweetened green tea. I convinced myself it’s low in calories, healthy, and caffeine does help tame my ADD – I don’t even enjoy the taste of tea that much so I thought the chances of addiction were slim. Then we went on a road trip to Maine in March and I started slamming regular soy lattes like it was my job. It was freezing up north, it was vacation, I was already eating dessert with every meal and more in between, a latte didn’t seem like my biggest concern, at the time.
Until I returned home and by chance, didn’t have a latte or even my green tea the next day, having been out of my routine. And by 3pm I felt it creeping, that familiar migraine that sent me to bed before dinner. I instantly realized what it was and had two choices – drink some coffee or tough it out. Not being comfortable with any kind of addiction, I thought it was best if I rode it out and 4 brutal days later I was finally free from the relentless grip of caffeine. Still, the mornings without a warm mug in my hand were not the same. I wanted something to fill the void and keep me from running down to the local coffee shop. I dug out the forgotten ground chicory root in my cupboard and made it into a warm, frothy, fragrant, nicely spiced and sweetened beverage. You guys, I just may be able to do this (but just in case, I probably shouldn’t make any promises.)
I was going for an espresso latte feel but it almost turned out more like a chai tea latte (another former addiction that I gave up when going honey-free). Maybe more of a Dirty Chai? Either way, it’s delicious and my new morning friend. Chicory is naturally caffeine-free so kids can enjoy their “coffee” along with you. It has also been used for decades as a medicinal herb with health claims from herbalists for detoxifying the liver, helping with digestive issues, regulating the heart beat, reduces inflammation (the opposite of coffee!), high in antioxidants, and more. I just enjoy the taste and it doesn’t come along with the baggage a cup of coffee brings. Another plus, it’s really good cold. I doubled the batch and stored it in a jar in the fridge. The spices and date fiber will settle so just give it a good shake before enjoying over ice or right from the jar.
- 2 cups non-dairy milk, I used store-bought rice milk
- 1 medjool date, pitted (optional, for refined sugar-free sweetener, or use liquid sweetener of choice)
- 1/4 cup hot water for steeping
- 1/2 teaspoon ground chicory root
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon raw cacao powder
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla powder (or 1/2 teaspoon extract)
- 1/4 teaspoon mesquite powder
- Place the chicory in a tea ball or bag and steep in the 1/4 cup of hot water for 4 minutes
- While the chicory is steeping, heat the milk on the stove until hot, ensuring it doesn't burn.
- In a blender, add in remaining ingredients and the milk and chicory once ready.
- Blend on high until smooth and frothy. Transfer to two mugs, or just one for yourself, and enjoy!
- If you want a pure white froth to top your drinks for aesthetic purposes, reserve some of the milk and blend separately to froth.