Top 5 Caffeine Alternatives to Coffee

(Photo was taken pre-COVID. Face masks are currently required at all UBC Recreation Sports facilities)

As finals season starts to rear its head, most students and faculty turn to the magical world of caffeine! Whether one enjoys the smell and taste of a morning coffee or the calm serenity of an afternoon tea, caffeine is almost considered a necessity when it comes to quickly boosting energy levels.

Here are 5 caffeine alternatives to your usual cup-of-joe!

Note: Caffeine is not guaranteed to be helpful in all individuals. It is recommended to not exceed 400mg of caffeine a day (about 4 cups of coffee) and to not consume caffeine past 2pm (14:00).


Please remember that all recommendations are based on personal preferences and that caffeine amounts differ by brand.

1) Black coffee/Americano/Espresso

Before we go into the alternatives, it’s important to gain some basic knowledge on the drinks that really highlight coffee’s unique taste!

Starting from the most bitter is the espresso –  a shot of caffeine made from a small amount of water forced through ground coffee beans, under extreme pressure. Essentially, it is a shot of caffeine! Normally taken without milk or sugar, an espresso truly embodies the taste of coffee!

From the espresso, comes the drip coffee. For this drink, coffee beans are ground more coarsely than the espresso, and more water is added (dripped through the beans), making the taste (without milk or sugar) less bitter than an espresso! This option is definitely considered one of the simplest and easiest to make!

Moving on to a personal favorite is the Americano – a single or double-shot of espresso mixed with water (hot/cold). Since the water is added to the espresso, the taste of this drink (without milk or sugar) is less bitter than an espresso and less acidic than a drip coffee.

Recommendation: Iced Americano with Hazelnut Syrup

Average Amount of Caffeine for 1 cup/8 ounces of Drip Coffee: 95mg

Average Amount of Caffeine for a 2 ounce double Espresso shot: 80mg

Average Amount of Caffeine for 1 cup/8 ounces of Americano: 94mg – 150mg

2) Kombucha

Kombucha is commonly brewed from teas, such as black or green tea, meaning that there’s caffeine in this fizzy drink! There can be anywhere from 6 to 15mg of caffeine based on the brand of kombucha and the type of tea used to create it!

Recommendation: GTs Synergy Raw Kombucha Strawberry Lemonade

Average Amount of Caffeine for 1 cup of Kombucha: 6 – 15mg (depends on brand and type of tea)×2667/smart/filters:no_upscale()/Kombucha-4798807-032-6a32b7640da34c198522f9485cc33da6.jpg

3) Yerba Mate

Tea and coffee are common frenemies, with folks choosing one over the other for multiple different factors (e.g. taste, time of day, etc.). A happy medium between these two, at least in terms of caffeine, is yerba mate!

It is a herbal tea that has more caffeine than a cup of white or green tea but slightly less caffeine than a cup of coffee. The benefits of this drink have been debated, however, one thing we know is that if you’re looking for a strongly caffeinated tea, this is your best choice!

Recommendation: Guayaki Yerba Mate Raspberry

Average Amount of Caffeine for 1 cup of Yerba Mate: 85mg (depends on brewing method)

4) Caffeinated Chocolate

Now, up until now, we’ve only focused on drink alternatives, but there are many other ways to consume caffeine besides drinking it!

Chocolate or more specifically, cocoa is another natural source of caffeine. However, due to the high sugar levels common in white and milk chocolate, we recommend dark chocolate with a cocoa percentage of 70% or higher.

These days chocolates are coming out with higher and higher amounts of caffeine – some even advertising the caffeine equivalent of one cup of coffee – so make sure to read the labels! For reference, a bar of dark chocolate usually contains 80mg of caffeine, while a bar of milk chocolate contains about 20mg of caffeine.

Personal Preference: Green & Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate 70% 

Average Amount of Caffeine per Chocolate bar: 20 –  80mg (based on brand and type of chocolate)

5) Caffeinated Energy Bars

A time-saving way to boost your energy while also having a tasty snack is through caffeinated energy bars!

Popular nowadays as a pick-me-up in the afternoon or as a pre-workout snack, there are many brands and flavors to choose from, such as chocolate, peanut butter, and maple blueberry! Make sure to check out your local grocery stores for these tasty caffeine pick-me-ups!

Personal Preference: Haven’t tried yet but excited to try this tasty alternative this semester! 

Average Amount of Caffeine per Energy bar: around 100mg (based on brand)

These are great alternatives to boost energy levels while switching up your everyday cup-of-joe!

For those who aren’t fans of caffeine or would prefer to increase energy levels without it, we recommend exercise! Cognitive performance has been linked to physical movement, so for long-term benefits and to quickly supercharge your attention during study slumps, a quick blast of exercise will work wonders!

Make sure to check out our Active at Home page and @ubcrec Instagram page for fun movement breaks and more blog posts on how to stay active!