After drinking so much coffee day in and day out, one can’t help but wonder, “what else could be coffee?” How about peach or even cherry seeds? They’re all drupes like coffee, so could we brew up some of those? Or what about plants you find growing wild for some sort of coffee tisane? After a while, everywhere you go, you are looking for things that could be coffee.
Luckily for those of us with coffee-colored lenses, there is Alexis Nikole Nelson, better known as @blackforager on Instagram and @alexisnikole on Tiktok . In her latest video, Nelson goes foraging in her backyard and finds a lightly-caffeinated alternative to coffee, and it’s making me wonder what else I could brew up.
@alexisnikoleIM OKAY I SWEAR♬ original sound – Alexis Nikole
Through highly entertaining short videos, the Ohio-based Nelson shares recipes and tips, explores the indigenous roots of foraging, and unpacks the often troubling history of foraging laws in the US. In the video shared with her nearly 5 million combined followers across the two social media platforms, Nelson takes to her backyard to forage for something coffee-like and finds the cleaver plant. Known scientifically as Galium aparine and is part of the Rubiaceae family, which Nelson notes that coffee is also a part of. An herb, cleaver is believed to have in southwest Asia but is now considered a native species to Europe, Asia, and North America. It’s everywhere basically.
But you don’t make coffee with the entire plant. In the video, Nelson uses only the seeds of the cleaver, the “little pom poms” that are “barely caffeinated,” as Nelson states. “[I] don’t like they’re fuzzy ad I don’t like that they’re in pairs,” she sings. After gathering enough for a brew, Nelson roasts the cleaver seeds in a pan “until they smelled a little like coffee.”
After grinding them with a mortar and pestle, Nelson steeps the brew using a sieve. The result is a light, golden in color concoction that “smells a lot like instant coffee.” It tastes “cozy” in the same coffee that coffee does, but without all the bitterness, per Nelson. Final verdict: it is something that she is definitely going to be trying again.
Personally I’m here for it. I’m not intellectually equipped enough to be foraging for my coffee. I’d probably end up drinking a warm cup of poison ivy or something equally foul/lethal. But if an adventurous expert such as Nelson wants to lead the way and show me what all could potentially be coffee, then I’m happy to follow suit. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to so see if there’s any cleaver growing in the green belt by my house.