I seriously love black coffee. I honestly can’t really get enough of it. A day just isn’t complete without coffee – and I’m far from the only one. Alongside tea and water, coffee is one of the most common and oldest non-alcoholic beverages on the planet, and even when factoring in booze, more people drink coffee and tea than almost anything else on this green earth. And, a staggering amount of people drink their coffee black, like me.
But what if you want to do something special for your cup of coffee? What if you’re in the mood to spice it up and bit and turn it into something else? Coffee chains like Starbucks grew large and became a worldwide staple due to the invention of coffee with a twist – countless recipes and new annual additions showcasing how coffee can be mixed with different ingredients to completely change, enhance, or adjust the flavor of the drink. While we definitely don’t recommend loading your coffee with tons of sugar and dairy with a touch of flavoring, here are a few simple ingredients you can add to a cup of black coffee to seriously pep it up.
Yes, cinnamon. The core of pumpkin spice lattes, cinnamon by itself is not just a great flavor-booster and brings a little spice to your cup, it’s also quite generously healthy. In fact, cinnamon has been prized for thousands of years not only as a widely exported spice, but as a medicinal herb. While not exactly the kind of plant to replace a visit to the modern-day doctor’s office, cinnamon does have a number of health benefits – all of which are evidence-based, making it a seriously great addition to your morning cup of coffee. Here are some of the few things a bit of cinnamon can do for you:
- Boost your metabolism (in a good way), improving weight loss and vitality.
- Fight back against free radicals through very potent polyphenol antioxidants.
- Help fight against inflammation in the body (including arthritis and fever).
- Cut down on heart disease risk.
- Lower your blood sugar.
- And much more.
These benefits require little more than 2 teaspoons a day, perfect for each cup of coffee.
Next on the list is cardamom, another ancient spice with centuries of history. Cardamom has been historically used for its powerful taste and flavor in countless dishes and spice mixes throughout South and Southeast Asia and continues to be used throughout several cultures. Not only does it have a unique and distinct taste, but it doubles up as the perfect way to start the day by combating bad breath and fighting cavities, due to its antibacterial and antioxidant effects. It also helps prevent ulcers and improves digestion. Be careful, though! Cardamom is also known as a diuretic.
Cayenne pepper is the dried and crushed version of the cayenne pepper, a fruit of the cayenne plant high in a phytochemical called capsaicin. If you’re literally looking for something to spice up your cup of coffee, this is an incredibly potent and unorthodox choice. Capsaicin interacts with certain pathways in the brain related to sensations of heat and pain, causing what we understand as a “hot” feeling. This is used by plants such as pepper plants to avoid predation through mammals, who are prone to crushing the seeds of these fruits rather than passing them through their digestive tract. Birds, for example, don’t experience spiciness when feasting on a chili pepper.
However, rather than see this warning as a bad thing, we humans have developed a unique taste for chilies – particularly milder ones such as the cayenne pepper. A bit of capsaicin also has a number of health benefits if you can stand the heat, particularly for the heart. Cayenne pepper and other ground up dried chilies are more traditionally mixed into unsweetened cups of cacao, rather than coffee, but if you want the double kick of caffeine and capsaicin, there’s no better way to go about it.
Almond, Rice, or Coconut Milk
Plenty people don’t do well on lactose, and there’s no reason to torture yourself if you want to enjoy a cup of coffee with a little extra something in it. So, pick almond, rice, or coconut milk. Out of these three, coconut milk is by far the fattiest and tends to have the strongest taste, tasting quite sweet and nutty not quite in the same way as almond milk. Rice milk, on the other hand, has very little in the way of fat and is far more watered down, with little flavor. It makes for a great base to add other spices. Just a quick tip – heat the milk up a bit before you pour it into your coffee. That way it doesn’t cool down too much.
Different from regular sugar, coconut sugar is extracted through the flower of the coconut palm, and on top of being incredibly sweet, it has its own large list of phytochemical ingredients due to usually being left unrefined, and effectively “raw”. These have a host of different positive properties, including a variety of essential minerals, antioxidants, and more.
Dark chocolate is easier to mix into a cup of coffee than cacao powder, and comes with the added benefit of being sweeter, plus bringing cacao butter to the mix. Dark chocolate must be at least 72% if you want to avoid milk – at that point, the chocolate is just a mixture of sugar, cacao, and cacao butter, ideally. Famously known to be a powerful antioxidant, dark chocolate is also a great way to start the day with a slew of essential micronutrients in your morning coffee, including copper, magnesium, and more.
Maple extract is the less-syrupy version of maple syrup and comes with much of the same benefits as a chunk of dark chocolate in your coffee, adding sweetness, a touch of breakfast goodness, and a long list of essential micronutrients, such as riboflavin, calcium, zinc, manganese, magnesium, and potassium, all of which promote good health and help maintain a stronger body.
Vanilla is, first and foremost, good for the heart. It reduces cholesterol, helps prevent strokes, and helps prevent inflammation of the arteries. That, and it’s an excellent flavoring. While some might consider vanilla a bit too, well, vanilla, it also plays nicely with a wide host of different flavors and ingredients, including the coffee itself. Give it a try the next time you make yourself a hot cup.
Countless trendy coffee shops are serving the combination of coffee and mint, and as strange as it might sound, it’s something you absolutely need to taste to understand – especially in addition to dark chocolate. Mint chip is a classic flavor, but coffee really brings out the bite of the peppermint while giving you a great kick – and there’s more in there than just flavor. Peppermint extract is also a great digestive tool, perfect for an afternoon cup of coffee right after a large lunch and can help relieve menstrual cramps.
Virgin Coconut Oil
Virgin coconut oil is a great superfood but go easy on it. While it does support the immune system, give you healthier skin and hair, and improves healthy thyroid function, it should definitely be stressed that it’s still an extremely high-calorie source of saturated fat, and that too much of it is going to have a negative impact on your physical condition. Fat is good, and we need fat, but not too much. A bit of it in your coffee definitely doesn’t help, though. If coconut doesn’t float your boat, another high-quality morning source of energy (calories) is:
Grass-fed butter is surprisingly healthy – surprisingly, because it wasn’t too long ago that butter and similar animal fats were blamed for all the world’s metabolic woes and ills. While you shouldn’t make it a habit to chew on a chunk of butter every morning, a little bit of it certainly does do the body some good if you’re eating a balanced and healthy diet to begin with. Grass-fed butter is rich in conjugated linoleic acid, giving it much the same benefits you’d find in virgin coconut oil.
Ginger, like other spices, has been traded and used medicinally for centuries, alongside its relatives in the plant family: cardamom and turmeric. Less strong-tasting than turmeric, ginger is a great reliever for nausea, pain, and inflammation – perfect when you want a cup of coffee but are sick, feeling down, or cramping.
However you might enjoy your cup of coffee, it’s important to play around with more than just one spice and mix and match, see how you might otherwise change things up. For example, mixing a touch of almond milk, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon and coconut sugar is an easy way to bring a ton of matching flavor and sweetness to your morning cup.