Alternative Beverages

I don't drink coffee, and never have, but I used to drink a lot of tea. Unfortunately, I suspect that 6-8 cups of Earl Grey a day may have played a role in triggering the Great Stomach Unpleasantness a couple of years ago. Certainly, hot, acidic liquids with caffeine are on the List of things not recommended for heartburn sufferers.

I miss it, though, particularly because our science building is old, and the air-handling system leaves much to be desired (if you're rich, and would like a new physics building named after you, email me...). I miss having a nice, hot cup of tea to drink, or even just to hold in order to get some warmth back into my fingers in the winter when it's 50 degrees in my office.

Unfortunately, the only hot beverages I know of are tea, coffee, and hot chocolate, all of which are ruled out for stomach reasons. I suppose I could just sip hot water, but that's kind of pathetic. I would prefer something with, you know, flavor.

Any suggestions?


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Well here is a start. Most supermarkets or health food stores carry a large variety of herbal teas (technically tisanes, be we don't like no frenchified words in this neck of the woods). Experiment, find one with a taste you enjoy and go for it.

By justawriter (not verified) on 28 Jan 2008 #permalink

If you're looking for warmth: I used to keep a jar of bouillon cubes in my office, and I'd drink cups of hot chicken broth. Very nice in winter, but probably not something you want to drink all day.

But I'll second justawriter's recommendation of herb teas. Lemon, mint, camomile, various berry teas ... all good, and easy on the stomach. Mint or berry is probably a good way in; be careful with lemon, which can have a very inconsistent taste between brands. I'm a big camomile drinker, but I think it's an acquired taste.

You could try Redbush tea, also known as Rooibush. It comes from a plant found in South Africa, and does not have either the caffeine or tannin content that regular tea does. Unlike most other herbal teas it can be drunk with or without milk.

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 28 Jan 2008 #permalink

Mulled cider! You can get bottles of apple cider or apple juice and pre-done spice packets. We usually used a crockpot and made a batch that would last all day, but you can just do a small kettle on a hotplate.

Herbal tea?

Mulled cider? (Warm apple cider with various spices added, as per your taste.)

Slight correction to my earlier post, #3. The South African name is Rooibos.

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 28 Jan 2008 #permalink

Well, there is something called Postum which is popular in Utah, and therefor is pretty much guaranteed to be caffeine-free.

However, when undergoing my own intestinal problems a few years back, I was limited for a while to just broth -- beef, chicken, or vegetable. It would probably safely satisfy your need for a warm drink that is not too hard on the stomach.

Rooibos is good, as is South African Honeybush. My favorite tea is Yerba Mate, but that does contain caffeine, and my preferred way of drinking it requires a dried gourd, which is difficult to deal with in the office/lab.

I can second Rooibos, it tastes like tea, but isn't (celestial seasonings has one that is sort of like chai masala), also mint tea (just brewing dried mint) works really well.

As for mulled cider, I have a bad poem devoted to Alpine Spiced Cider laying around somewhere...

If you think caffeine may have been the problem, try Republic Of Tea's 'Vanilla Almond Decaf'. It is terrific. And it comes in a really cool can that is too nice to throw away so I have a bunch of them with small electronic parts in them. Just right for storing RAM modules!

Try hot honey-lemon - slice of lemon and teaspoon of honey mashed in with boiling water.
If you were in the UK you could get it in little overpriced instant packages!

A nice brew of dried reindeer moss off the mountains would also work, but you probably can't get that locally either.

I second the recommendation of Celestial Seasonings. On those rare occasions when I want something without caffeine I turn to them. Red Zinger is a favorite. However, be sure to read the labels, not all their teas are herb teas, some of them contain regular caffeine-laden teas as well.


If you still want caffeine, you can try white, green or oolong tea. Speaking from extensive experience, these tend to be much gentler on the stomach, and I'm pretty sure they have very low acidity (a cursory Google search seems to confirm this). If you're feeling adventurous, try some pu-erh (there are some woo-ish claims that it aids digestion; all I can say is that it's appropriately named).

Warmed cider (spiced) with a shot of rum (dark).

To keep ourselves from freezing to death in our poorly insulated house, at night we drink various herbal teas.

So, I will fourth the Celestial Seasonings and Rooibos. We get a lot of herbal concoctions from Trader Joes but that might not be an option in your neck of the woods.

By Brad Holden (not verified) on 28 Jan 2008 #permalink

Thirding the recommendation for Rooibos. I am a serious black tea drinker, and rooibos is the only herbal tea that packs enough punch for me to drink. I like the rooibos vanilla combo that the Republic of Tea does. (If you don't like it at first, try another brand -- I bought some rooibos on sale and whatever brand it was sucked ass and tasted nasty.)

R/e specific herb teas: I'm a huge fan of Celestial Seasonings' "Tension Tamer."

I think some people brew up chicory as a coffee alternative -- you might be able to look it up. Don't know whether it is acidic or not.

I've also been known to drink hot milk on occasion.

Oh, and when I was in Holland, everyone drank this mint tea that was just a big handful of fresh mint (spearmint??) with hot water poured over it. Delicious, and good for the digestion too.

I second the suggestion of green or white tea if you want something hot and caffeinated. And if caffeine is a worry, these teas don't have as much as black teas or coffee do.

I have found that I can't stand the taste of coffee either, and I also find most black teas, including Earl Grey, to be undrinkable. Ditto Lipton, which Douglas Adams aptly described as "a substance almost but not entirely unlike tea"--though how the NutriMatic knew about Lipton is not explained in the book ;).

As for suppliers, I have found Harney and Sons to be a good source for both green and herbal teas. They are based in Millerton, NY (not that far SE of you), and you can also order from them on line.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 28 Jan 2008 #permalink

Good peppermint has enough stimulating power but the buzz does not last as long as with caffeine.

Black tea is causing upset because of tanins - especially if consumed strong, on empty stomach. Drinking less strong tea and adding milk (or cream!) after the meal is quite safe. My advice is to get a good Earl Grey (Tazo brand for example) and make it less strong.

There is yerba mate that to me tastes a bit like grass clippings combined with liquorice root - it is acquired taste but the whole south America swears by it so it must be good. It can be powerful and the stimulation lasts a bit longer than tee (even as it contains caffeine). It has very little tannins but lots of saponins that are supposedly good for stomach. People re-fill their yerba pot with hot water and drink it as long as some stuff extracts out.

Red bush (already mentioned) is pretty good. But the hot cider powder in Turkey they almost completely abadoned tea, mint tea and coffe in favor of "apple tea" - the instant mulled cider powder. They serve it there on every corner as a national drink.

And of course one can always get a dark spiced rum (captain Morgan) and combine it with some hot water and spoon of sugar and a lemon slice (or little of grapefruit juice) to produce deligtful grogg to sail through the day with a smile

I'd go for Decaff tea, if caffeine is what's causing your problem.

Try #20, the fresh mint, an put some sugar, honey or sweetener in it. Use a spoon or something else to squish it a bit, good for the flavor...

Hot water with a little squeeze of lemon is always nice.

In reply to comment #13, yes the high salt content may be bad, but the glutamate certainly is not. Despite study after study, no ill effects related to MSG consumption have been found. Much of the world (most of Asia) consumes massive amounts of glutamate every single year.

As for tea, well, a nice spearmint tea from Trader Joe's will do the trick.

Try Mate, its a tea from argintina rich flavors and isnt as harsh as traditional tea

I don't know if this is proven anywhere, probably not, but a friend of mine with stomach cancer told me his doctor recommended 1-2 cups of green tea per day. (along with his normal cancer treatment) He says that the green tea helped calm his stomach a little when he wasn't feeling well. Plus, green tea is tasty! :)

Hot ginger tea is nice on a cold day. The concentrated stuff takes a while to make (just boil crushed ginger root), but you can find weaker versions in teabags at the health foods section.

I get something called "ginger drink" at the local Asian grocery. The brand I buy is called Gold Kili and comes from Indonesia. It's basically little granules of ginger and honey mixed together. It tastes not unlike liquid ginger candy. You can make it strong or weak, as well -- the directions say 1 packet per 8oz water, but that's too strong for me. On the other hand, if you're really cold and you want something that'll sit in your stomach like a small hot coal (YMMV depending on stomach acid -- I've had reflux disease since I was about two feet tall and I can more or less tolerate it) it's also good.

By Interrobang (not verified) on 28 Jan 2008 #permalink

A stomach cancer patient as an example here...?

Ramen noodles contain ridiculous quantities of oil and salt, something like 150% of recommended daily intake of sodium per package. When I eat the instant ramen (for the lack of better food) my blood pressure goes through the roof. I don't suppose drinking solution of bullion cubes would be any better. Besides the seasoning+MSG+grease combo is not so great for stomach, once can get heartburn from it pretty easily.

I would recommend the hot instant powdered synthetic-flavored cider - it is a pleasant and completely inobtrusive drink.

By milkshake (not verified) on 28 Jan 2008 #permalink

I'm a little boggled by the number of comments this generated...

Based on recommendations here, I picked up some decaf green tea and a slightly frou-frou looking rooibos blend (with vanilla, which was the least objectionable option at the Co-Op). I'm trying that now, and it's a reasonable simulation of tea with vanilla dumped in it for some reason. The ginger thing sounds interesting, too-- I'll have to see if I can find some of that.

Surprisingly, given how often it's suggested as a stomach remedy, mint is on the List of non-recommended substances. Lemon (and citrus generally) as well, though I like mint flavors much more than citrus ones. Ramen noodles and broth generally are out, because I'd rather not gain any more weight.

Thanks for all the advice.

Hmmm, Alexander McCall Smith's detective character, Precious Ramotswe, drinks rooibos tea daily, and there's nothing frou-frou about her. Also, South American cowboys are some of the toughest dudes on the planet, and they drink yerba mate (erva mate in Portugese, I think) from the aforementioned gourd or wooden mug (with a sort of metal straw, to filter out the forest litter-looking stuff). The licorice taste comes from the erva doce (anise), which on its own make a nice stomach-settling tea. When my mom was adjusting to the stomach-upsetting side effects of blood pressure meds, her physician recommended ginger candy and ginger tea. If GERD is your problem, then the timing of eating and drinking, relative to lying down or exercising, can be just as important as what you eat or drink.

Btw, what planet do you live on, that black tea, coffee, and hot chocolate are the overwhelmingly predominant hot drink options, and herbal teas, rooibos, and honeybush are exotic novelties? Every scientific meeting or study section I've gone to had several herbal tea options, at least.

Mulled wine! The Swedish variant glögg is very, very tasty and warms you right up. And after the second bottle, you won't really care about your office temperature anymore.

For cold hands, I used to recommend holding them on or over your monitor for a minute or two. CRTs, particularly large and/or old ones, tend to have a nice column of warm air coming out of the top vents. LCDs are much less useful in that regard. As a substitute, I obtained a small lava lamp. Just about the right size to wrap your hands around when they are starting to stiffen up.

I like raspberry leaf tea; no caffeine, not as sharp as mint (to the tastebuds; seems calm to my stomach); has a little complexity of flavor, like rooibos, but I happen to like raspberry leaf and not rooibos.

Also, you can get it in bulk as just leaves with no baglets or flavorings or earnest little enlightening poems or anything, if you'd rather.

Mulled urine! Well, actually that doesn't sound too wonderful. But thought I should add something here, why not.

Many believe urine promotes longevity. Never tried it mulled.

Scientist I am not. But I know my hot beverages (as in roast my own coffee, cringe at the sight of tea bags sort of guy). With ulcer issues, I have to take a lot of care what I drink and how often. Alternatives to the coffee and tannin rich teas, are an essential part of my life.

Stay away from the mate, if caffeine is a problem. Though if it is just the acidity and tannins, then mate would probably be great. To repeat many commenters, ginger is the best for stomach issues, also makes a great pick me up, as a hot beverage. Roasted chicory and barley make a reasonable coffee alternative, but chicory is also a tannin bearer. I have a friend who substitutes roasted soy for the chicory and swears by it, I find it unpalatable. Rooibos is probably the best black tea alternative. Another that I have become very fond of, is "holy" basil. Don't let the woo laden name fool you, it is really good stuff. Has a slightly sweet, slightly spicy flavor and makes a great pickmeup, especially when combined with a tough of ginger. Rounding it off with a dash of lemon balm makes a heavenly treat.

Getting them in bulk is the only way to go. Tea bags are rather frightening, though Celestial Seasonings is usually a safe bet, along with Good Earth teas (of which they have a caffeine free, tannin light version). For anything hard and stemmy, such as ginger, a french press is the way to brew. I use it for a lot of teas, but one can also brew other teas with a variety of systems. Ones that let the leaves move freely while brewing are the best.

When brewing anything delicate, do not pour boiling water over them. You should bring the water to a hard boil and let it sit for about five to ten minutes, before pouring it. With mate, you should also cover the leaves with cool tap water before pouring the hot water. The only hot beverages that can really handle boiling water, are black teas and cheap hot cocoa.

Oy, and if tannins are an issue, do not drink any sort of actual tea. White, green and oolongs, are all chock full of the tannins, which are probably harder on the tummy than the acid in coffee. You should also be leery of fruity teas, as they often include stems and skins, which for a lot of fruits, especially berries, are very high in tannic acid. Not as high in the skins, but the stems are a killer (thus why they are often included in the wine making).

Good luck. I'll just take my rather extreme beverage neurosis and go to bed now.n

Something I always drink when I have a sore throat: pour a tsp-tbsp of honey into the bottom of a coffee cup, a couple of dashes of dried ginger and a squeeze of real/fake lemon, and then pour in hot-boiling water.

hi. I am know I am late in the game but my fave hot drink that is not tea is hot gonger& lemon.

Cut a 1/2 inch off of a ginger root (which lasts forever uncut), slice into circles.
Cut a few thin slice of lemon
Put the two in a cup or teapot (you will need more for a pot)
Pour not-quite-boiling water in
Wait until warm

You can adjust the lemon so that it doesn't bug your stomach...

Have you considered cognac? It's a vasodilator, so you will feel warmer. (Granted, it has calories).