Postum, an Instant Beverage for Caffeine-free Consumers
Postum – named after its creator, C.W. Post, of the Post Cereal Company – was introduced in 1895 and viewed by many as an alternative to coffee, thanks in large part to the company’s staunch anti-caffeine marketing. It built a loyal customer base over the next century but was ultimately discontinued by then-owner Kraft Foods in 2007, leaving its fans scrambling for another caffeine-free solution.
Fortunately for those who remained nostalgic for their childhood drink, Postum was purchased in 2012 by Eliza’s Quest Foods, a family-owned company based in North Carolina, and returned to grocery stores across the country the following year. June and Dayle Rust, owners of Eliza’s Quest Foods, grew up drinking Postum and wanted to bring the instant beverage back for others who shared their nostalgic memories.
“When it went off the market we were very dismayed, as [were] a lot of other avid Postum drinkers,” says Dayle Rust. “We searched for an alternative to Postum and couldn’t really find anything that was even relatively similar to its qualities, so…we ended up buying the trademark and trade secret and about a year later relaunched Postum. It’s pretty much a family-run business: June is the president, I’m the Vice-President, and our daughter Eliza, who we named the company after, is our IT specialist.”
Now, the instant beverage can once again be found on the shelves of grocery stores, although many who did not grow up with Postum in the pantry still aren’t quite sure what it is or what to expect. If you’re new to Postum, read on to learn more about how it’s made and the different ways it can be prepared.
What is Postum? “Postum is basically a cereal beverage that’s made out of wheat, wheat bran, and molasses,” says Rust. “The wheat is roasted, brewed, and concentrated, and then it is dried, to make it instant, and ground up so the particles are small enough to dissolve.”
Since it is made with only wheat bran, wheat, and molasses, it is naturally caffeine free, and is certified as a vegan, kosher, and non-GMO product. Unfortunately, as a wheat-based product, it is not gluten-free, so those with Celiac disease and gluten intolerances will need to look elsewhere for a coffee substitute.
Why drink Postum? Whether consumed with a little milk and sugar or the fancy trappings of a gourmet latte, Postum beverages are very popular with those who abstain from caffeine for religious reasons, including members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Seventh-day Adventists. For those like the Rusts who grew up drinking Postum, it’s also a nostalgic beverage.
“It brings back a lot of those family memories,” says Rust. “We have people tell us, ‘I used to drink this with my grandparents! They used to have it every time I went to their house,’ or, ‘I used to spend the summers at my aunt and uncle’s house and they drank Postum every night. It just reminds me of being there on the farm with my family.'”
However, many people who choose to not drink caffeine for health reasons (including stress reduction, digestive discomfort, and avoiding caffeine withdrawals) may rely on Postum for their morning beverage.
“A lot of people who have reflux and [digestive issues], coffee is like the first thing doctors tell them [not to drink],” says Rust. “We’ve even had some dietitians call us up and [ask for] a couple of cases of samples so [their patients] can try it.”
What does Postum taste like? Postum is available in three caffeine-free flavors: original (which the KaTom team tried), coffee, and cocoa. The coffee flavor is designed to provide drinkers with a taste that more closely resembles the caffeinated drink, which may help habitual coffee drinkers transition to the substitute. The cocoa flavor is meant to mimic the taste of hot chocolate and was introduced after the Rusts learned that some Postum drinkers enjoyed adding cocoa powder to the instant beverage.
“I would say it’s a coffee alternative with a very mild taste that can be made to your liking,” says Rust, who enjoys Postum with sugar and canned milk. “Postum is a great alternative because it has a mild but robust flavor [without] any acidic value to it; that’s why it’s so mild.”
The aroma of the powdered Postum mix can be intense, but the roasted grain flavor in the drink’s final form is more subtle. During our taste test, some KaTom team members found the smell of brewed Postum to be reminiscent of soy sauce, which has a simple explanation: Soy sauce is also made with roasted wheat. (Fortunately, that similarity did not transfer to the flavor.)
Although it has been traditionally enjoyed as a hot drink, Postum can also be incorporated into cold beverages. If you’re ready to give Postum a try, you can check out five easy recipes below or try substituting it in your favorite coffee drink.