The Coffee $tudy: To Drink, or not to Drink?

“Venti Non-fat, no foam, no water, 6 pump extra hot chai tea latte.” Sound familiar? Hope not! This is one of most ridiculous Starbucks orders you might ever hear. Is this the reality we live in? Superficial coffee orders at exorbitant amounts is nothing new, but it has become the new norm around the world. Statistics say that over 50% of the population ages 18 and over in the US consume coffee every day. Whether you drink yours at home, at Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks, coffee is coffee. Those of us who have tried to lay off of it for a while are familiar with the wonderful headaches that remind us if we don’t feed our addiction. For the past year or so, it’s been a constant fight with myself as to the amount of money I was spending on coffee per year—a fight I thought I would never win.

 

Do you feel bound by your caffeine habits?

 

Sometimes it is better to look at how it all started to better understand why you have the addiction. Well, for me it started with drinking $4 Lattes at Starbucks during my college days, justifying it with the fact it kept me awake and provided me an environment outside of home to study in. OK. Then I jumped into the real world and got a job. My $4 Lattes became twice a twice a day addiction. I was now spending on average $40-60 a week on coffee. That translates to roughly $2000-3000 per year. Think about it!!! And that’s not even including the times I would buy a cookie or piece of cake every now and then. That’s more than your cell phone bill. That’s more than some people spend on gas per year. In some cases its even more than a car payment. After 6 years of this wonderful routine, I have wasted approximately $15,000. That’s a down payment on a house. OK, OK, I’m done with the analogies, but you get the point. That’s a truck load of money forked out every day, for what? For what?! That’s why about a year ago I began to look for ways to cut back on this habit. I switched from Lattes to regular brewed coffee since after all, I was after the benefit of caffeine more than the taste. So with my cup discount at Starbucks, I now was back to the cost of my habit when I started approx. $2 per Grande Pike Place Roast x 2 times a day = $4/day. It felt like going on a diet only to gain the weight back on later.

So in the grand effort to try and cut back on the coffee spending at Starbucks, I decided to try and brew Starbucks at home. My wife laughs at me, because I went through quite a series of interesting trials. I think I’ve done it all, tried all the machines (Tassimo, Keurig etc.), none of which provided the same levels of caffeine boost that the one in the store does. My guess is the heat and drip speed have a large factor in the taste and levels of caffeine in the end. So now I’ve spent countless hundreds of dollars on machines, which I ended up giving to family members after being disappointed. I had reached a crossroad and needed to find a way to analyze the benefit of coffee in my life vs. the cost, and then make a decision on if I should just just pay $4 a day, or continue just brewing semi-good “Donut Shop” Keurig cups at approx. $2 per day for the same quantity. A $2 saving per day is a significant savings of a little over $700 a year!!!  So I decided that I would do a 2 month study–you guessed it, one month on the Starbucks and one month on the K-cups, then compare levels of productivity measured at various times throughout the day. Then I would have my answer, right?

I won’t lie, deep down inside I was convinced Starbucks would win it due to it’s higher than normal caffeine levels. I had this experiment all lined up and ready to pull the trigger once I came back from my short vacation cruise in the Caribbean. During this cruise I decided I would cleanse myself and not drink any caffeine. It made perfect sense that I would come back from a week of rest and fun, start work with a clean slate after not drinking either one of the coffees and feel their true impact. Except something much better happened to me. Well, it wasn’t good at the time. My worst nightmare: I got food poisoning on the cruise. Things were gonna get worse before they got better, I can tell you that!

I spent the last 30 hours of the cruise in my room. I will be kind enough to spare you the details of why I had to stay in my room. Needless to say my week of indulgence was over. Little did I know however, that this was actually a blessing. I came back on land and could barely eat anything. Symptoms did not subside for another 5 days after that. So I had to postpone the “Coffee Study”, naturally, since I could not possibly drink coffee while having those symptoms. On the 3rd and 4th day of my slow recovery, I was pretty much back to normal with the exception of the requirement for a bathroom to be near! I felt like myself and oddly rejuvenated, even after all I had just gone through. I was confused by this and thought about what might be different. Well, I was certainly eating less, drinking more water and perhaps resting more–but my quality of sleep still was not up to par. Then it struck me: By then, I had been almost 2 weeks without of caffeine potion. Intrigued by the potential outcome of this non-voluntary study, I decided to postpone the “Coffee Study” a bit more and see how I would feel.

 

What do you think happened?

 

No splitting headaches, feeling better, stronger and no more energy crashes in the afternoons. Guess what? I even fall asleep more quickly at night and wake up less. This was a phenomenal discovery!  You mean to tell me I can save thousands of dollars on fancy coffees, machines and much unneeded morning ritual? Yes! In fact, it has now been 2 months and 9 days and I’m addiction free. Have I drank coffee since? You bet! I drank it a few times when I knew I was going to be up all night. I also drank it another time when I wanted to see if it would affect me. Boy did it ever. I was so agitated and could not stop fidgeting. You know that annoying leg shaking thing? Yeah, that was me. Bottom-line, I still love the taste of coffee and will continue to have it from time to time, when I know it won’t affect my sleep, but I honestly can say 100% that I don’t need it anymore. Of course it has been tempting to relapse when I’ve felt tired from not sleeping the night before–but ultimately, I did not trick myself into thinking I needed to have an expensive coffee to power through the fatigue. Instead, I would get up and walk a bit, drink a glass of cold water and feel great.

Have you had a similar experience, or a completely different outcome after trying to live without coffee? How bad is your habit? Please share your experience, I would love to hear about it.

Best,

Pascal

2 Responses to “The Coffee $tudy: To Drink, or not to Drink?”
  1. Matty

    I’ve done a couple of personal experiments where I stopped drinking caffeine for a month at a time and noticed that I didn’t get any headaches anymore. On the other hand, I’ve also found that drinking just a cup of coffee a day has no negative side affects for me.

    • Mr. Life Learner

      Hey Matty — thanks for the comment, I love to hear about other people’s experiences with coffee. I’ve noticed that drinking espresso based drinks once in a while doesn’t affect me either. (in moderation) I do miss the caffeine boost sometimes, but now that I don’t have to deal with the crashes, I’m much happier. I do still miss the taste, which is why I have it time to time.

      Thanks for sharing your experience!
      Pascal

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