Victorian Tea And Coffee Substitute Recipes – Historical Food Fortnightly

Victorian Tea And Coffee Substitute Recipes - Historical Food Fortnightly

For challenge 9 of the Historical Food Fortnightly ‘Mock Foods’ I tried out some Victorian tea and coffee substitute recipes. I found so many recipes, especially for homemade coffee substitutes.

Substitutes for Coffee:

  • ‘The seeds of the yellow water flag, and treat them as for genuine coffee. This forms a most excellent substitute for the colonial article. […]
  • Good rice and roast, and grind it, &c. in the same way as coffee. […]
  • Bread raspings.
  • Roasted wheat or rye […]
  • Slice and dry the yellow beet root, then grind it with a little coffee.
  • Peeled acorns with a little fat.’ (The Cyclopædia of Practical Receipts in All the Useful and Domestic Arts, 1841, p.59)
  • Roasted sorghum (The American Cyclopaedia, 1873)
  • Lupin seeds ‘used since 1850 […]
  • Dandelion coffee was known in 1855 […]
  • A roasted mixture of sweet and bitter almonds was used before 1700 and called “lady’s coffee” […]
  • the roots of daucus carota […] in the middle of the 19th century alongside chicory as the most important of all coffee substitutes (Coffee: Related Beverages, p.11ff)
  • Roasted walnuts (Guide for Nut Cookery, 1899)

Walnut Coffee


  • walnuts
  • water

grind walnuts in a mortar

Roast walnuts in the oven or a pan to a nice brown. Grind the roasted walnuts in a mortar to a coarse powder. Cook 1 – 1 1/2 tbsp of the roasted walnut powder with 2 cups of water for one hour. Then strain the walnut coffee through a fine mesh sieve.

walnut coffee recipe

The coffee substitute doesn’t taste like coffee, but it has a nice walnut flavor. With some sugar it tastes really good and milk isn’t necessary because the walnut oil makes the coffee creamy.

Roasted Grain Coffee Substitutes:

  • Cereal coffee: Thoroughly mix 3 cups wheat bran, 1 cup corn meal, 1/2 cup malt extract, 1/2 cup boiling water, roast in the oven ‘until a nice dark brown’ Boil 1 tbsp with 1 cup water for 15 minutes. (Guide for Nut Cookery, 1899)
  • Hygienic coffee: ‘Bran four quarts. Molasses one pint (best New Orleans). Rub together with the hands, and brown nicely in the oven. To make coffee, use twice as much of this as of genuine coffee. Make in same manner as genuine coffee.’ (Hand-Book Of Household Science, 1902)
  • Cereal coffee: Mix 1 quart wheat bran, 1/2 cup hot water, 1 pint corn meal and 2/3 cup dark molasses until well combined, roast in the oven to a dark chestnut brown. Boil 1/2 – 1 cup cereal coffee with 1 quart water, then let it steep for 5 minutes. (The Laurel Health Cookery, 1911)
  • Homemade cereal coffee: Brown 1 quart wheat bran, 1 pint corn meal, 1/2 cup molasses and 1 egg in the oven. Boil 1 cup cereal coffee and 1 quart water for one hour. (The Orange Judd Cook Book, 1914)
  • Crust coffee: roast bread crusts ‘a nice, dark brown’, put them ‘into a large milk pitcher, and pour enough boiling water over to cover them […] drank warm with cream and sugar, similar to coffee’ (The White House Cook Book, 1900)
  • Cereal or crust coffee: oven-dried crusts ‘from the old-fashioned brown bread, which is a mixture of rye and Indian meal, sweetened with a little molasses. […] Very few people make this kind of brown bread nowadays, but we may still have cereal coffee. […] take equal parts of popcorn, shelled rye, and wheat grains, roast them slowly in a pan in the oven until they are brown all the way through, keep the parched grain in tight jars, and grind in the coffee grinder just as you would coffee grains. A little practice will tell you just how much water to use to a cupful of the ground grain. Gentle boiling for half an hour gives a beverage of very good flavor. This homemade cereal coffee is less costly than the kinds that may be purchased.’ (Food And Health: An Elementary Textbook Of Home Making, 1916)
  • 1918 Advertisement for Old Grist Mill Wheat Coffee: ‘When coffee hurts you, give it up and drink the OLD GRIST MILL. For 20 years the best coffee substitute on the market – flavor as good as the best coffee without the after effects.’

roasted bran molasses coffee substitute recipe

Roasted Bran Molasses Coffee


diy roast wheat bran coffee

Mix bran and molasses with some water until well combined. Roast the bran in the oven or a pan to a dark chestnut brown.

Grain Coffee Recipe


  • 1/2 cup of the roasted bran-molasses-mixture
  • 4 cups water

Cook the bran mixture and water for about 30 minutes. Homemade grain coffee tastes better than store-bought grain coffee!

Substitute for Milk or Cream:

Substitutes for Tea:

  • ‘Clean chopped meadow hay is said to make a very good substitute for tea if used in the proportion of three to one.’
  • Mix 5 parts dried rosebuds, 1 part rosemary leaves, and 2 parts balm leaves.
  • ‘Strawberry and black currant leaves make a very good substitute for tea when properly treated.
  • The herb spring grass (anthoxanthum odoratum), when dried, forms an excellent substitute of China tea, and is more wholesome.’ (The Cyclopædia of Practical Receipts in All the Useful and Domestic Arts, 1841, p.254)
  • Dried sloe leaves ‘are regarded as more like tea than any other substitute’ (The American Cyclopaedia, 1873)
  • Bran tea: Soak a cupful of bran overnight ‘in one quart of soft warm or cold water. The next day strain it and serve raw, or put it on to boil, simmer for one-half hour, then strain. Serve hot or cold. […] Hot bran tea with cream is excellent as a substitute for tea. It can be prepared without soaking.’ (Scientific Feeding, 1914)

Sweet Vernal Grass Tea Recipe

Pour boiling water over fresh sweet vernal grass (anthoxanthum odoratum), let it steep for about 10 minutes.

sweet vernal grass tea substitute recipe

Sweet vernal grass has a nice coumarin smell, just like woodruff, the tea however doesn’t taste like woodruff tea. Vernal grass tea is terrible, not suitable as tea substitute: it tastes fishy! It tastes just like hawthorn flowers or like boiling hawthorn fruits smell!

Meadow Hay Tea Recipe

Bring water with some meadow hay to a boil. I used the hay which I’d made last year. Let the meadow hay tea steep for about 10 minutes.

The tea tastes just like herbal tea. With soy creamer hay tea tastes remotely like weak black tea.

Victorian Tea And Coffee Substitute Recipes - Historical Food Fortnightly

Victorian and Edwardian Illegal Adulterations of Coffee and Tea:

Some years ago I’ve already tried to ferment blackberry leaves. The tea however tasted just like blackberry leaf tea and nothing like black tea. I’ll surely try out the other tea substitutes: the rosebuds mixture and the sloe leaves. I’ve already made blackthorn flower tea (I didn’t like the taste very much) – so I’m curious if blackthorn leaf tea will taste better. 😉

10 thoughts on “Victorian Tea And Coffee Substitute Recipes – Historical Food Fortnightly

  1. I have read about a few of those in books before. Walnut coffee sounds interesting, but I think I will pass 🙂 Tassimo made coffee is so easy to make!

    Thanks for sharing at #bloggerspotlight!

  2. What a wonderful post! I love it! I am a Victoriana fan, and knew of some substitutes, but nor all! Am sharing to my Facebook page too! Thanks so much for linking to Tuesday Cuppa Tea!

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