Postum: Coffee Substitute

I am almost out of Postum,

a powdered coffee substitute sold by the Post Cereals company. The caffeine-free beverage mix was originally created by company founder C. W. Post in 1895 and marketed as a healthful alternative to coffee. Post was a Seventh-day Adventist and a student of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg who felt caffeine was unhealthy, and thus created an alternative of mostly wheat and molasses. Postum is still available, although it is now owned by Kraft Foods.

(from Wikipedia)

I never had much Postum to begin with. Maybe an inch in the 8oz bottle the girlfriend “borrowed” from her parents and left at my place. It’s amazing how little you need for a cup: 5ml. So it’s lasted me a while.

But so Postum isn’t really anything to write home about. The bottle is a turn-off for one: it looks like some sort of Metamucil or related geriatric bowel enhancer, and it’s got this really dated colour scheme (yellow, red and sea-sick blue) and typography, and a very clogged-colon-looking illustration of two people on a bike ride in some southern marsh. You never see Postum advertised and it’s always on a remote top shelf at the end of the coffee aisle, just one little column of jars for at least $8 a piece and never on sale.

Postum’s tagline is “Instant Cereal Beverage–No Caffeine” and if I was 10 years old and hopeful to snag a cup of grownup liquid Count Chocula I’d be sorely disappointed by how much it resembles coffee. So congrats there, C.W. As an adult I wouldn’t say it’s the grail of coffee substitutes (not that I’m on a quest for one or something), but it holds its own considering the meager ingredients:

  • wheat bran
  • wheat
  • molasses
  • corn dextrin

Anyhoo, I guess I’m recommending it. You just put the brown powder in a cup and add water that is boiling. I like it before bed with honey.

Update June 26, 2006
Commenter Kara has kindly forwarded these pictures of what she says are two cans of Postum from 1912 that she found while renovating her 140-year-old house (click thumbs for larger view).