Coffee addicts don't have to be told that the habit is hard to break. Price increases are weak deterrents when you wake up with your mouth tasting like the sweepings fromunder the rug. You need coffee. If it were just caffeine you needed, you wouldn't have sneered at a cup of tea the last time it was recommended. Caffeine addiction is one thing; but, as decaf drinkers know, the taste of coffee, its acrid assault, is an addiction of the palate that tea can no more satisfy than Mr. Rogers can substitute for Kojak. Tea is delicate, uplifting, optimistic. Like having a breath mint instead of a cigarette. It is all right in its time and place, certainly when you have a cold or visit with a headmaster. But it is not what a coffeeholic has in mind for bracing him to tackle the day.

Alas, wholesale coffee prices have nearly doubled in the last fifteen months. Worse than that, Washington is distinguished by the highest coffee prices in the country. A cup of java costs seven or eight cents to make at home; a pound of beans costs twice as much as steak, and we only extract nineteen per cent of them in brewing before throwing the rest away. In Washington restaurants you can pay a dollar for a cup of coffee and . . . this may not be the end. At some price principle has to holler back. What's a coffee-lover to do?

Drink incoffee.

History is filled with coffee substitutes, thought admittedly they usually have that extra public relations boost of the spirited committment to self-denial that accompanies war and famine. It was not just yesterday that scientists put their testtubes to duplicating coffee flavor. Even the ancients knew how to roast roots and grains to produce a dark brew we would recognize if we'd had but a passing acquaintance with roadside diners.

Almost anything can be roasted or singed to a dark brown, then brewed to resemble - in varying degrees - coffee. Here are some of the ingredients that have openly or secretly been used in compositing what has passed for coffee: Acorna barley bran carrots Chinkpins dandelions(roots and leaves) hawthorn seeds potatoes sawdust starch baked liver beans burnt sugar chicory root corn dried figs parsnips rye soybeans wheat

Even used coffee grounds have been sold for fresh.

You need not to try all of the above in order to give up - or cut down - your coffee consumption. Several uncoffees (instant coffee substitutes) are manufactured in Europe and sold here, mostly in health food stores. Most uncoffees of today are made from barley, chicory and rye. Each, however, includes a special ingredient which gives it distinction; whether the results are distinctly better or distinctly worse depends on individual taste. Pero includes molasses. Pionier sweetens its brew with figs. Cafix bolsters its mix with beet roots. They all cost about three cents a cup, half to one-third the current price of a cup of home-brewed coffee.

We conducted a blind tasting of uncoffees, and secretly included a cup of drip coffee and a cup of instant. Six ardent coffee Two tasters preferred one of the uncoffees (Pioneer) to real coffee. The two worst coffeeholics in the group, however, were not fooled, and easily preferred the real thing. But the uncoffee compared favorably with the instant coffee, and straight chicory ran a close second to brewed coffee. Although the brands of uncoffee (Cafix, Pero and Pioneer) were considered similarly by the tasters, Pioner was a slight favorite, described by one taster as reminiscent of Little Tavern coffee even down to its bitter aftertaste.

Wondering if the coffee fix might be substituted with a totally different hot beverag, we also applied our panel to a series of the most popular herb teas and a couple which particularly address their pitch to coffee drinkers. Sure enough, Rosstaroma Mocha spice was singled out as appealing, by half the tasters, one of whom said it tasted like drinking a cup of coffee and eating a piece of spice cake at the same time. Convenient. The opinions on the rest of the herb mixtures fell into disarray. Peppermint tea was powerful enough to represent the familiar coffee jolt, but certainly not to everyone's taste. It could substitute for menthol cigarettes as well and stand in for two habits at once. Camomile tea evoked fondness, but one taster called it sludge. In any case, it was considered more cuddly than bracing. One coffeeholic conceded Red Zinger to be acceptable for Monday mornigns, but she didn't know what she could do with it the rest of the week; Red Zinger reminded another taster of Kool-Aid. Mu 6 was called both super and saccharine. Sleepytime put some of the palates to sleep. We can't reprint what some of the people called ginseng, tea, but another thought she could learn to live with it. And dandelion leaves were too startlingly like a freshly mown lawn to be considered a beverage.

In light of our non-findings, we decided that old fashioned tea leaves deserve another chance. Maybe the way to present them as an acceptable subsitute for coffee is to mistreat them like coffee. Coffee was never meant to be boiled in a percolator and allowed to stand over heat all morning. But if that is your kind of coffee try brewing your tea that way. Yes, in your percolator. You will develop that bitterness you have grown to love. You can also put your tea in your automatic coffeemaker. Or drip it in your Chemex. But steaming it in your espresso is bound to lead to disillusionment, and if you switch to tea, your coffee grinder won't have much use except as a planter.