Toasty, bitter and faintly sweet, this dandelion mocha recipe has a gentle and nourishing effect without the kick of coffee. Instead, its bitter notes come from roasted dandelion and chicory roots, while cacao, licorice, and reishi give the drink depth and the faintest hint of sweetness.
What is it?
Herbal coffees, like herbal teas, act as stand-ins for the real deal. Instead of true coffee (Coffea arabica), plants like dandelion and chicory give this herbal mocha its faintly bitter flavor and toasty aroma. These herbs lack coffee's punch of caffeine and can make a nice alternative if you're looking for a gentler approach to your morning routine.
Further, most mocha is loaded with sugary sweet chocolate syrup. Instead, this recipe is naturally sugar-free. Cacao nibs give the brew a subtle hint of dark chocolate, while licorice root lends a bit of sweetness without the sugar.
Which ingredients do you need?
Herbalists often brew decoctions of dandelion and chicory root or medicinal mushrooms to make coffee alternatives. When you blend all three together, though, you get a deeper and more complex flavor. Dandelion mocha tends to taste just as deep as traditional mochas, though decidedly less sweet and somewhat less acidic.
- Dandelion Root: Roasted dandelion root has a bittersweet flavor with notes of caramel. It's been used in the America's as a cheap alternative to coffee since the mid-19th century. Herbalists traditionally use the herb for liver and digestive support.
- Chicory Root: Chicory is rich in inulin, a fiber that helps support the gut microbiome. Inulin also has a slightly sweet flavor and it pairs well with dandelion. Roasted chicory root has flavored coffee (and sometimes stood in for it) since the 18th century.
- Reishi Mushroom: Reishi and other medicinal mushrooms are wildly popular additions to adaptogenic coffee blends. Reishi supports the body to better handle stress.
- Cacao Nibs: Cacao nibs offer a little boost of chocolate flavor, but without the sugar you'd find in the chocolate syrup you'd traditionally find in mochas. Cacao also has a gently stimulating quality owing to its theobromine content.
- Licorice Root: Licorice root is an adaptogenic herb, meaning that it supports your body's stress-response system. It also has a sightly stimulating quality, making a great match for the morning - without the heavy-hitting dose of caffeine that you find in coffee. It tastes sweet, lessening the need for added sugar.
Where to find herbs
You already know that you're unlikely to find licorice, dandelion, reishi or chicory at your local supermarket, mixed among the bundles of rosemary and parsley. Instead, you can order them online through Mountain Rose Herbs.
They stock all sorts of medicinal and culinary herbs. But what's best, is that they focus heavily on sustainability. That means their herbs are organically grown, fair trade or ethically wild-crafted.
Tips for Making Dandelion Mochas
Making a dandelion mocha is a two-step process that first begins with making an herbal decoction. A decoction, like nettle infusion and this herbal pregnancy tea, involves extracting the flavor and medicinal benefits of herbs through hot water.
Since you're using hardy, tough herbal parts like roots and cacao nibs, you'll need to simmer the herbs about 20 minutes rather than steep them. This process, rather than traditional steeping reserved for more delicate herbs like nettle, allows tough plant matter to release more of its beneficial compounds.
The second step, after preparing the decoction, is to froth milk. You can use just about any milk you prefer, but we typically use cow's or goat's milk in this recipe. Tigernut milk and a blend of coconut and macadamia nut milk work well, for those who can't tolerate dairy.
While making a dandelion mocha is straightforward, there's a few tips to keep in mind.
- Start with cold water. Adding your herbs to cold water and then bringing it to a boil improves the flavor and releases plant compounds more efficiently.
- Use a milk frother: If you want that classically foamy mocha, you'll need a milk frother. You can use a handheld model if you like, but this top-of-the-line version by Breville is dreamy. Alternatively, you can warm the milk on the stove and whisk it well. You won't have the fine foam of a classic mocha, but it'll still taste delicious.
- Add more (or fewer) herbs. The faintest sprinkle of cloves can bring out a beautiful flavor in this mocha, or you can swirl in some toasted barley.
Dandelion Mocha Recipe
Making the herbal coffee.
- Toss the herbs into a saucepan, and then cover them with cold water. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, and then immediately turn the heat down to low. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
- Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve, and then discard the spent herbs. To serve right away, pour the coffee into four mugs, or transfer it to a jar and store it in the fridge up to 3 days.
Frothing the milk.
- Pour the milk into a milk frother, and then add the vanilla extract. Froth the milk according to your machine's directions. If you don't have a frother, you can pour the milk into a small saucepan and then whisk it vigorously over medium-low heat until warm.
- Pour the milk into the mugs of coffee, and serve hot.