Want to drink green tea but don’t like the taste? I get you. It’s not great. I struggle with tea, in general, myself although I have found a few varieties that are somewhat enjoyable.
The thing about green tea is that the way it’s represented in the media, you’d swear it’s the holy grail of health. Who doesn’t want to get in on that?
All those antioxidants and healthy compounds that include anti-inflammatory properties, heart-healthy properties, anti-cancer properties, and dental-health properties… wouldn’t it be nice?
Sadly, all these benefits still don’t make it taste any better. I’ve looked up the top 11 substitutes for green tea and have tried many of them to make your search for a substitute easier.
If it’s the caffeine content that’s the problem for you, don’t worry, there are quite a few caffeine-free options on this list too.
Alternatives to Green Tea
So, what is a good substitute for green tea? I’ve included teas in my recommendations, but have also branched out to other beverages that are healthy and generally taste better.
Each of these substitutes has some or all of the benefits of green tea. Some you may need to limit, but if you were already only managing a cup of green tea a day, that’s not too much of a problem.
You can just pick multiple things on this to sip your way to health in a tastier way throughout the day or without the caffeine content if you struggle with caffeine sensitivity.
1. Black Tea
Black tea is from the same camellia sinensis plant as green tea, white tea, and oolong tea do. It has a darker and more bitter flavor than green tea.
This might make you doubt the suggestion, but many people like black tea with milk. There is evidence that milk does negatively affect the antioxidant content, but this is only up to 27%.
You’ll still get the cancer-fighting, anti-aging, heart-healthy, stroke-combatting benefits. It may even help to regulate your insulin levels and help the body to metabolize sugar.
Black tea is the most processed version of the camellia sinensis leaves.
It’s left to ferment and oxidize for longer than all the other varieties, including oolong tea which is more oxidized than green tea as well.
This is what gives this tea its darker color and bitter, bold flavor.
I rarely drink black tea, but when I do, it tastes fine with almond milk and at one stage I really enjoyed the Lipton Peach Flavored Black Tea without milk or sugar.
I don’t add sweetener of any kind to my tea, but you may find that sweetening it with honey, stevia or xylitol is a good way to make it taste good without the downsides of sugar.
2. White Tea
White tea is the least processed version of the camellia sinensis plant. This is what makes it so light in color and gives it a mild, hay-like flavor.
I didn’t particularly enjoy it myself. I drank it without any added milk or sugar which may be why, but it tastes better black I would assume.
In terms of the health benefits of white tea in comparison to green tea, there are some compounds that are higher in green tea and some that are higher in white tea.
Overall, you still get the same benefits but with a milder flavor. It does, however, have a slightly higher caffeine content than green tea, so be aware of that if you are sensitive to caffeine.
3. Chamomile Tea
If you’re looking for a tea to replace green tea before bed, try chamomile tea. Most of the studies done on chamomile tea have been done using extracts and for use other than tea.
But there was a study done on women who were struggling with postpartum depression and insomnia using chamomile tea.
These women were given chamomile tea to drink every day and for the first two weeks of the study, depression, and insomnia was reduced. The effect was lessened after four weeks.
So while it may not have a long-term effect, it may help in the short term.
There is a lot of anecdotal and some scientific evidence of people finding chamomile tea helpful for sleep and to ease stress and anxiety. This is true for both men and women.
Studies also show that it may have anti-inflammatory effects, provide some PMS relief, prevent osteoporosis, regulate insulin levels, and have antioxidant and antibacterial properties.
Currently, I’m drinking a blend of rooibos, chamomile, lavender, and vanilla tea at night. I haven’t found that it helped me, but we are all different. At least it tastes kind of nice.
I don’t like it plain, but some people really enjoy it. Maybe you’ll be one of them.
4. Rooibos Tea (Red Bush Tea)
Rooibos tea is native to South Africa and is actually a herbal tea. It’s derived from the Cape fynbos plant, unlike green tea. So it’s considered to be herbal tea.
In terms of flavor, I find it a lot milder and less grassy. It’s also naturally sweeter. The tea is a reddish color which is why it’s referred to as rooibos (in Afrikaans) which translates to red bush.
Rooibos tea is also high in antioxidants and although more research is needed to be sure of the findings from the small human studies, studies on rats, and on cells, but the findings are promising.
It’s safe to drink up to 6 cups of rooibos per day, and this is the number of cups to drink in order to reap the heart health benefits.
Research is also leaning towards rooibos tea improving bone health, male fertility, and possibly being helpful in preventing Alzheimer’s.
If you prefer a caffeine-free drink, try rooibos tea. I prefer flavored varieties myself, but find it nice with lemon and honey as well in lieu of a good commercial flavored variety.
5. Lemon Balm Tea
Lemon balm tea is another option if you are looking to relax at night before going to bed or during the day.
While lemon balm has been shown to have antiviral properties, these effects haven’t been attributed to the tea, but rather the essential oil and extract.
The tea is mostly used to reduce anxiety, promote relaxation, and reduce insomnia. But it may also provide an antioxidant boost and reduce inflammation.
I find this tea refreshing when I’ve made it using fresh leaves straight from my balcony (before some creature/s ate all the leaves, I was quite sad). It smells nice and has a slight citrus flavor.
I also make it from loose dried tea leaves, it’s not as nice as when it’s fresh but I can confirm that some of my muscle tension goes away after I’ve had a cup.
I’ve never had it before bed, but many people find it helps them to sleep better. Why not give it a go?
As with most of my teas, I drink it as is without milk, sugar or honey.
6. Chai Tea
Chai tea is traditionally made using chai spices (cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, pepper, and cloves) and black tea.
These days it comes in many varieties from the brew consisting of just the spices or with one of the other teas as a base, with turmeric, with vanilla, etc. You get the idea.
You can look for chai tea and find one that suits you. This is one of the few teas I drink for actual enjoyment.
Spices are some of the most antioxidant-rich foods. This combination of spices may have the following health benefits according to studies:
- Heart protective properties
- Blood sugar regulating properties
- Gut soothing properties
- Liver health benefits
- Hormonal health benefits
- Bone health properties
- Kidney health benefits
- Anti-ulcer action
Wow! That in addition to whatever benefits the base tea has.
Traditionally, it’s served with milk and sugar or honey but it generally tastes pretty good without these ingredients too I found.
I know green tea is often recommended as a substitute for coffee. But I know I certainly didn’t find it viable as a proper substitute.
Coffee, if we’re judging taste-wise, will win every time in my opinion.
Most people can safely drink up to four cups a day. I limit myself to two max. Well, two regular coffees anyway, I don’t want to get addicted. Been there and withdrawal sucks. Headaches anyone?
I drink another cup or two of decaf usually since it’s really the caffeine that’s addictive.
It gets a bit of a bad rap, but coffee is actually one of the most antioxidant-rich beverages along with tea and cocoa.
In fact, coffee consumption was found to lower the risk for all-cause mortality. That means death due to cancer, heart attack, strokes, illnesses in general, and exposure to harmful substances.
The benefits dropped significantly or became void in the case of smokers. So if you are a smoker, food for thought.
Risk-wise, coffee isn’t recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding on account of the caffeine content, so chat to your doctor about decaf which contains very little caffeine.
But I would give that advice for all the teas on this list too.
There is also a higher risk of bone fracture for women who consume coffee. Us gals seem to be unfairly predisposed to coffee woes.
But the risk isn’t too great so unless you already have a high risk of osteoporosis and subsequent fractures, drinking up to three cups or so of coffee is safe.
Speak to your doctor if you have concerns.
Also, if you find that it triggers or worsens your anxiety, rather try one of the calming substitutes instead.
Want something that tastes kind of like coffee but doesn’t have the caffeine content and isn’t decaf coffee? Chicory might be what you’re looking for.
To be honest, I don’t know that chicory tastes better than green tea, but it does have a coffee-like taste that may suit your tastebuds’ preferences.
Chicory is actually a herb that you can brew just like you would tea. Some brands even have the chicory in tea bags.
It’s high in the prebiotic fiber inulin. As you may have guessed by the term prebiotic, it feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut.
In addition to this, chicory also may have pain-relieving properties, anti-inflammatory properties, calming properties, antimicrobial properties, heart-protective properties, and anti-cancer properties.
I tried it with almond milk as a coffee substitute. It wasn’t bad but just didn’t do it for me.
If you are trying it to replace green tea, I suspect you’ll have more success. It’s all about mindset and expectations here.
9. Hot Chocolate or Cocoa
It’s true, most commercial brands are full of sugar. But if you can find a sugar-free option you can sweeten it with xylitol or stevia and still enjoy a tasty comforting hot drink.
You can also make your own cocoa drink, hot or cold.
Cocoa is very high in antioxidants and may also benefit your heart and artery health, diabetes risk, improve your mood, maintain brain health, and reduce inflammation.
It also contains minerals including magnesium, potassium, and iron. While it also contains caffeine, it’s really minimal.
I say, never feel bad about your hot chocolate habits. Try to make your cocoa drink in a healthy way (skip the marshmallows and cream except for that occasional treat) and go for it.
10. Golden Milk
Golden milk is a traditional Indian drink made with turmeric.
It often also contains some or all of the chai spices (usually cinnamon, ginger, and pepper) and can be made with cow’s milk or plant-based milk.
You can also buy the powdered or rather the instant version to which you just need to add milk. Just watch out for the sugar content.
We’ve already gone over the benefits of chai spices. Turmeric is impressive in its own right too.
Studies show that turmeric lowers inflammation and is high in antioxidants.
In fact, turmeric is comparable to common NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as diclofenac and ibuprofen but without the side effects.
I find it useful to relieve headaches and period pain while many people with arthritis find it helpful for reducing joint pain.
It may also lower high blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity, and combat adipogenesis (the creation of fat cells from stem cells).
Turmeric on its own isn’t very bioavailable (easily absorbed and used by the body) but golden milk contains pepper which increases the bioavailability.
This drink is comforting at night but tastes good whenever you want a deliciously spicy warm drink. You can sweeten it with your choice of sweetener if you make it from scratch at home.
11. Flavored Green Tea
If it’s just the taste, try out flavored green tea. Good brands use real fruit or spices to flavor the tea without using sugar.
As mentioned before, I enjoy cinnamon green tea. But I’ve also enjoyed litchi and my sister had a delicious passion fruit green tea that she sometimes shared with me back home.
I’ve seen flavors like mint, peach, and lemon too.
In fact, why not add a slice of lemon or one of your favorite fruits, citrus or otherwise to your green tea? Studies show that vitamin C makes the antioxidants in green tea more bioavailable.
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