If you’re like me, you drink your weight in coffee on any given day. So, like me, you probably also spend a lot of time scouring the internet for news on coffee production and the impact of climate change on that production. Right?
This might be news to you, but coffee is already falling victim to environmental changes. Now, this isn't happening tomorrow, but within a few decades that cup could cost you twice as much. That's if you can get it at all.
There are a lot of factors that contribute to this: Coffee grows in high-altitude areas along the equator—it likes tropic rainfall but not tropic heat. It likes altitude but not freezing temperatures. It's the definition of finicky. Think Goldilocks and her beds.
Over the last two decades, many coffee-producing countries have faced dramatic weather patterns from drought to downpour. Reuters India reported last year that the 2016-2017 coffee crop was projected to have the lowest yield since 1998-1999. The warming climate has also unleashed insects and plant blights that have devastated crops in Costa Rica, Brazil and Ethiopia. The corporations that control coffee (Starbucks, mainly) have invested millions to hybridize new varieties and to replace the plants destroyed by these events.
In the spirit of trying to plan ahead for a no-coffee future, I visited a couple local coffee shops to see what alternatives I could find. I love tea, but I went looking for non-tea options as well, since this wouldn't be a challenging quest otherwise. I also decided to look for only iced options because it is August. I found two contenders to potentially add to my future morning routine that don't rely on the imperiled plant.
1248 Siler Road, 930-5763; 7 am-6 pm Monday-Friday; 8 am-1 pm Saturday
2801 Rodeo Road, 474-5282; 6 am-7 pm Monday-Friday; 6 am-5 pm Saturday; 7 am-5 pm Sunday
A few columns ago, I gave a recipe for making your very own switchel at home (May 24: "Switchel It Up"). That recipe was an example of a family of drinks called shrubs that are basically vinegar with water and other things. Java Joe's is offering their blend of fruit preserve, cider vinegar and sparkling water made to order in front of you. There are two flavors available: blackberry mint and pineapple sage in a healthy 16-oz. size for $4.25. I went with the blackberry mint—it just sounded better in the moment.
The sharpness of the vinegar definitely wakes you up a bit, so it works as a kick in the pants. This is the key to this kind of drink; it refreshes by igniting your taste buds, and the fruit adds a nice palatable sweetness. I found the tartness to be a bit like drinking one of those trendy sour fruit beers.
Luna Center, 505 Cerrillos Road, 982-9692; 7 am-6 pm Monday-Friday; 8 am-6 pm Saturday
1098 ½ S St. Francis Drive, 982-9692; 7 am-6 pm Monday-Friday; 8 am-6 pm Saturday; 9 am-2 pm Sunday
After 30 years, this longtime staple has expanded its menu to explore the non-coffee world. Late last summer Ohori's added matcha lattes and a small range of made-to-order Italian sodas, but the most interesting new thing on the menu is the rooibos espresso. Rooibos is an African bush that produces dark red leaves that can be dried and made into a vitamin C-rich tea.
Using a product called Red Espresso, they make rooibos shots by running the tea through the espresso machine to produce a deep, rich, insanely concentrated drink that has the feel of coffee. The best part is that it can be used as a substitute in any espresso drink. I got a 16-oz. iced rooibos latte ($4.15) and added a touch of simple syrup to it. The drink has elements of honey and light tobacco, which sounds weird but works. It definitely has an earthy taste, but this makes it a good coffee substitute (I found that the vitamin C made me feel a tad zippier as well). Of the two drinks, this is the one I could see myself drinking every day.
Not one of the cafes in town seems to have jumped on the golden milk trend, though. This was all the rage in café culture last year. It's a blend of turmeric, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon and honey and is usually made with a non-dairy milk like coconut or almond. It is energizing and amazing and I hope to see it on at least one menu in the next few months because it is definitely good for you, and definitely the coffee alternative I want in my life. And we might just need alternatives before you know it.