Dandelion coffee isn’t actually coffee: That’s the first thing to know about it. Although the roasted powder blend mixed with hot water or milk looks like what you’d get at Starbucks, it’s made from dandelion root, barley, rye, chicory, and beets. Dandelion coffee is the “it” drink, so if you were just about to hop on the matcha bandwagon—so 2015—don’t bother.
The idea of mashing up these roots with other ingredients and drinking them exploded, naturally, in Los Angeles. (It’s caught on across the country, at restaurants and cafes such as Chicago Raw and the Market Street Apothecary Café and Wine Bar in Austin.) Corrina Becker, owner of the organic cafe Amara Kitchen in L.A., serves dandelion coffee made with Dandy Blend’s prepackaged mix (one of several available); you can get it in a homemade cashew milk latte or mocha, too. “When I tried dandelion coffee plain, I was like, ‘Eh, it needs a little help,’ ” she says. Erin Johnson, a server at Kitchen Mouse, a vegetarian restaurant also in L.A. that serves the coffee straight and in lattes, says, “Since we opened a year and a half ago, it’s gotten more and more popular. People like that it tastes similar to coffee and has that richness but doesn’t have the stimulant of caffeine.”
That’s true, but exercise caution. The vitamin B in dandelion root can help you feel more alert. New York wellness coach Robyn Youkilis says it’s similar enough to espresso that “you might forget it’s not coffee.” In fact, Dandy Blend’s creator, botanist Peter Gail, says customers have suggested he put a warning on the package about drinking it before bed. Youkilis says dandelion root has other benefits: It’s rich in essential minerals such as zinc, potassium, and iron, and it helps soothe stomach ailments.