After 20 years of addiction, I've finally quit coffee — and developed a raging addiction to green tea.
The addiction swap-out, apparently, means great eco-benefits. According to GOOD
, a cup of coffee requires 37 gallons of water to make (from growing the coffee, etc.), while a cup of tea requires just nine gallons.
That isn't why I quit coffee though. Though GOOD's chart compares somewhat similar choices we make in everyday life, I don't think the lower water use option is necessarily always the choice you "should" make. If it were, we should eat oranges (13 gallons) and shun apples (18 gallons), and always opt for beer (20 gallons) over wine (31 gallons). A healthy, eco-friendly diet, though, requires variety — and in my opinion, a fun factor that makes room for individual taste. Picking fair trade coffee — or an organic apple — seems to me more eco-effective than always going for tea or oranges.
But now I really am always going for green tea over coffee. Why? I finally realized coffee was making me a more anxious, less even-keeled person.
I'd been drinking coffee daily since sixth grade, so I thought my anxiety levels and daily energy highs and crashes were just part of my nature. Coffee was just a normal, daily habit, a morning routine I looked forward to. Until recently, I started each day with three cups of French-pressed organic fair trade coffee — and couldn't function without it. In fact, when I started my personal green blog, its main focus was coffee — fair trade, organic coffee, to be specific. I did lots of coffee reviews, interviewed movers and shakers in the fair trade coffee world, and gave advice on drinking the most eco-ethical cup of coffee.
But about a year ago, when I complained about low-grade anxiety, low energy in the afternoons, and some trouble falling asleep at night, a doctor recommended that I try cutting back my daily habit to just two cups of coffee. So I did. The result? I still felt my energy dip in the early afternoon, but I felt less anxious and I slept better! In fact, I felt so much better that whenever a friend mentioned anxiety or mood swings or insomnia, I waxed lyrical about how much cutting back on caffeine helped my sense of well-being.
Oddly, this did not spur me to explore actually quitting coffee altogether.
I think part of the resistance was that I'd tried to quit coffee before — and failed rather miserably each time. Usually, these attempts to quit were linked to some sort of bigger lifestyle change that sparked my interest — something that forced me not only to go cold turkey on all caffeine, but totally revamp my diet or some other big aspect of my life (one especially tortuous stab at the Master Cleanse comes to mind).
Needless to say, those "change everything" dealios gave me horrible caffeine withdrawal headaches and just made me feel crappy altogether. It's been an extremely slow process, but through the years I do seem to be finally accepting the fact that I generally do better when I try to make gradual changes over time, instead of attempting to alter everything in one go as I'm often tempted to do.
If you're like me, my method of finally quitting coffee successfully might work for you.
My attempt to go from the now two-cup habit to zero began when I decided to do the Crazy Sexy Diet cleanse
— in a sane manner that wasn't too shocking to my body. That cleanse recommended, among other things, quitting coffee, but also preached moderation and going at your own pace.
Around the same time, I read Robin Barooah's post at Quantified Self
about how he quit coffee due to the "growing suspicion that coffee was causing mood swings and crashes that are bad for my overall sense of well-being." His quitting method? A very gradual and exact self-devised program that required a lot of measuring — and some unfortunate coffee waste:
I made the same amount of coffee each day, using a vac-pot. Although I didn’t measure caffeine content, I did control many factors including grind, age of beans, water temperature and water/coffee contact time. From this controlled pot of coffee, I used measuring cups to discard an additional 20ml per week.
He quit successfully — and found his concentration improved to boot! So instead of going cold turkey, this time I decided to channel Robin's anal retentive methodology, minus the coffee waste. How? I counted beans. I started with 100 beans every morning, cutting back five beans every few days and reducing the amount of water I put in the French press. Finally, I had about 15 beans left in my coffee jar — with which I made my last weak shot or so of coffee.
The next day, I drank a cup of black tea instead — without suffering a caffeine withdrawal headache. I had about 20 bags of black tea stockpiled in the apartment, mostly begotten as friends or as samples for review. Those finally got quaffed. Then I moved onto the green tea — I also had about 20 bags of those to get through. After those were gone, I went entirely caffeine-free, starting my days with herbal tea. I even proudly told a number of organic tea companies to not send any more caffeinated tea samples, because I've quit caffeine, to which they replied "Congratulations," and started sending more herbal tea samples.
That caffeine-free streak lasted less than a month.
It ended when I read some nice things about green tea's many healthy properties — things I had certainly read before, but this time, could use as an excuse to enjoy some caffeine in the morning. I guess I'm just not ready to part entirely with a caffeine habit yet, because I don't see a reason to kick it entirely. The switch from coffee to green tea has definitely lessened my mood swings and energy crashes — and I'm happy with the results as they are.
Perhaps 20 years from now, I'll find a reason to quit green tea. For now, I'm slowly becoming a green tea connoisseur, so expect to see more fair trade, organic green tea reviews here. One thing I've discovered so far: Back when I drank coffee, green tea never seemed to "do" anything in terms of a caffeine kick — the effect of the brew seemed no different than just water. Now, I not only feel the caffeine jolt but also can feel the difference in the caffeine levels of cheaper, paper tea bags and the more expensive, premium silk satchel bag or loose leaf varieties. The latter definitely gives you more of a kick!
Have you quit coffee — or tried to? What's your story? And do you have a green tea to recommend?