Creating Caffeine-Free Options for Your Seasonal Menu

Ready to build your seasonal menu? Don’t forget caffeine-free options! Here are some fun and easy ways to spice things up, sans caffeine.

BY EMILY MENESES
SENIOR ONLINE CONTRIBUTOR

Cover photo by lisa870 via Pixabay 

Anyone who has worked at a coffee establishment knows the familiar question: Do you have any caffeine-free options? Though there’s sometimes a stigma against decaf in the specialty-coffee world (ever heard the phrase “Death before decaf”?), having caffeine-free drinks is essential. Whether it’s a child, someone with a medical condition, or a person who just prefers to go without caffeine, they matter too. Today, we’ll look at how you can create a seasonal menu that considers their needs.

When it comes to holiday drinks, our minds naturally gravitate toward pumpkin spice lattes, mochas, and the other typical luxurious seasonal bevs. When faced with the challenge of avoiding caffeine, though, it becomes a little more complicated. Never fear—besides the simple solution of using decaf espresso, there are tons of ways to create caffeine-free café drinks. Check out our top tips: 

Work with seasonal ingredients.

When creating caffeine-free beverages for your holiday menu, start by making a list of your favorite seasonal ingredients. What comes to mind when you think of the holidays? Peppermint, apples, pomegranate, cinnamon, pumpkin, chocolate, ginger … the list goes on and on. All of these ingredients are great recipe starters—and a lot of them make great garnishes, too. Reflect on your own holiday traditions, and see your recipes as opportunities to tell your personal story. 

A festive red and green seasonal display of drinks on a wood table with cranberries, flowers, greenery, apple slices on skewers, rosemary sprigs and pomegranate. Adorning the table is a decorative cardinal figurine, fake snow, flowers, and ribbon.
What ingredients come to mind when you think of the holidays? Use those as starting points for your recipes and garnishes. Photo by Brooke Lark via Unsplash.

Get creative with herbal tea.

Herbal tea is an underused asset in the café world! Don’t limit yourself to the usual suspects like chamomile or mint; try playing around with other festive types of tea such as cinnamon, clove, star anise, or even citrus tea with a hint of spice. When it comes to herbal tea, the possibilities are endless. 

Play with texture.

Make any non-caffeinated beverage a little more luxurious by adding some texture; whipped cream, cold foam, or unique garnishes will do the trick. Another great way to make a drink more festive is to incorporate something bubbly. Try making a tonic with your favorite seasonal syrups and herbs, or even a house-made sparkling cider. 

Play around with spices like star anise, cinnamon, clove, and even cayenne. A little goes a long way when dressing up typical holiday drinks like hot chocolate. Photo by Blandine Joannic via Pixabay.

Embrace spice.

Don’t be afraid to make things a little spicy! A simple hot chocolate becomes so much more exciting with a hint of spice. Try adding a little sea salt and cayenne to your usual recipe to create a little bit of dimension and heat.  

Don’t forget presentation!

Just because a drink doesn’t have caffeine or coffee in it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t get equal attention when it comes to presentation. We love this tea setup by Los Angeles’ Constellation Coffee for their hot ginger and guava tea. 

Los Angeles-based Constellation Coffee serves up hot ginger and guava tea. Photo courtesy of Kevin Kim of Constellation Coffee.

Why no caffeine?

Beyond catering to the needs of those who can’t have caffeine, offering caffeine-free drinks is also great for business. It provides an option for those who stop in during the afternoon or late evening. It can also entice customers who are staying in the shop for a few hours and want a second drink. Don’t let the thought of being caffeine-free restrict you. Get creative and have fun with it! 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Based in Los Angeles, Emily Joy Meneses (she/her) is a writer and musician passionate about culture and collective care. You can regularly find her at Echo Park Lake, drinking a cortado and journaling about astrology, art, Animal Crossing, and her dreams. Explore her poetry, short stories, and soundscapes on her website.

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