Good to the Last Herb

Do you love coffee but not what it does to your nerves or gastrointestinal tract? Just as there are caffeine-free herbal teas, you can now find herbal coffees alongside the Colombian and Kona blends at your gourmet store.

Herbal varieties are made from roasted barley, chicory, figs, dandelions, even acorns. The ingredients won't make you jittery, nor do they contain the possibly carcinogenic chemicals used to decaffeinate coffee. Many herbal coffees contain inulin, which actually aids digestion by fostering the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria. They are an alternative for people with health problems that real coffee can aggravate, such as arthritis, ulcers, mood disorders, and heart arrhythmias. While the taste won't fool a coffee connoisseur, these mock javas will likely quell the craving:

Teeccino by Teeccino Caffe (8-oz. can, $7.50) The most Starbucks-like of the bunch, especially the flavored versions: mocha, vanilla nut, chocolate mint. Brew in a coffee or espresso maker.

Cafix by InterNatural Foods (7-oz. can, $6.50) Strong coffee flavor; makes a good latte with hot milk. Available in crystals and instant powder.

Bambu by Bioforce (3.5-oz. jar, $6.95) This powder makes a drink that's heartier and less sweet than the other brands.

Roastaroma by Celestial Seasonings ($4.25 for 20 bags) Anise and cinnamon give it a Middle Eastern flavor. Good with cream and honey.

By Kate Murphy

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