Giving up coffee
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I gave up coffee and I didn’t die

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This risks being a really annoying post, but since I read a lot of “how I gave up coffee” posts before I actually gave up coffee, I figured I’d complete the blogging circle-jerk and write one of my own.

Beware the ides of March! One Sunday evening last month, I randomly decided, “I’m gonna do it! I’m just gonna stop drinking coffee!” It had always been on my to-do list, since every health book tells you not to drink coffee. I actually cut way back on my coffee habit a few years ago for precisely this reason. It’s just that I could never quite take the plunge up give up my (extra-strength) morning coffee.

I neeeeeeeeeed it. How will I ever wake up in the morning?

Well, here’s Cold Hard Truth #1: No, you don’t need it. Your body does not run on coffee. You’ll wake up just fine and you can survive without it.

(I’ll except severely-sleep-deprived people with young kids from this statement, as well as, like, day traders. They’re probably on coke, anyway. The parents, I mean.)

My first morning without coffee, I was not my most bright and vivacious self (although… when am I ever?), but I survived. A couple of mugs of green tea took the edge of my caffeine-withdrawal headache and a good breakfast gave me the energy to get going.

Based on research (see above, re: blog circle-jerk), I’d planned to use Korean ginseng for energy in the morning, but since this was an Ide of March (can you have a singular version of ‘ides’? Whatever…), I didn’t have any to take on the first few days. And, once I’d weathered the first few days and I didn’t die, the idea of spending £15 on a herbal supplement became less appealing. I never did bother with the Korean ginseng.

Cold Hard Truth #2: Forget supplements – all you need is tea!

Mana(tea) infuser
This little guy helped me through my coffee withdrawal…

Yes, yes, if I were a real health nut, I’d give up caffeine entirely. But that was a bridge too far for me, so I still drink green tea and some caffeinated herbal teas. I can tell you that, after a few weeks coffee-free, I don’t need the caffeine in the mornings to such an extent. It’s a nice boost, but I no longer find myself in a heroin-addict-looking-for-her-next-fix situation if I have to go without.

Incidentally, if you find regular green teas a little bitter, I definitely recommend investigating green teas that have a second (sweeter) ingredient. Personally, I love Ronnefeldt’s Green Angel, which has pear and peach flavourings. No, it’s not quite the unadulterated green tea magic that purists prefer, but it’s delicious.

Cold Hard Truth #3: Cut down before you cut out.

A disclaimer: green tea’s great and all, but I’m not sure I would advocate replacing 5 cups of coffee a day with 5 cups of green tea. I gradually cut down the amount of coffee I drank a few years ago, largely by discovering yummy herbal teas, and I think this is a better plan than going cold turkey on coffee.

However, before you start spluttering that there’s no point in cutting out coffee at all, let’s get to…

Cold Hard Truth#4: You’ll sleep better.

I know, I’m surprised, too. Since I only drank coffee in the mornings, I figured it would be out of my system 12 hours later when I went to bed. Nope!

As soon as I cut out coffee, I found I was less wired at bedtime and fell asleep much, much quicker. I also woke up earlier, naturally. This was in stark contrast to my fear that I’d just sleep through my alarm.

So, no, you don’t need coffee to wake you up or get you going. However…

Cold Hard Truth#5: Eat a good breakfast.

In the past, I’ve definitely been guilty of supplementing a shitty breakfast (bowl of cereal, muffin, single slice of toast) with a big cup of coffee and coasting along on the caffeine high. You can’t really do that if you don’t drink coffee. You need actual nutritional energy-boosting food, so you may need to adjust your breakfast accordingly.

I eat what many people consider a bonkers breakfast, but it works for me: a salad of crudités (carrots, bell peppers, sugarsnap peas, celery, etc.); plenty of (unsalted) mixed nuts; and a slice of wholemeal toast. Seriously, eating salad for breakfast sounds weird, but it’s hydrating and good for you.

Cold Hard Truth#6: Find herbal teas you like.

Much like ‘salad for breakfast’, the words ‘herbal tea’ make people wrinkle their noses. But good teas don’t need to be flavourless or disgusting. You just need to go out searching for ones that you like. Finding teas you’re excited to drink is not only a good way to replace cups of coffee in your daily routine – tea is also a great way to stop snacking.

I used to have a Pavlovian need to snack at 11am and 4pm, but gradually I began brewing (yummy) cups of tea instead and they became my mid-morning/mid-afternoon ‘reward’. Usually, when your body tells you it’s hungry between meals, it’s actually just dehydrated, so a cup of tea will get rid of your hunger.

If you’re still unconvinced about herbal teas, I can only recommend you try some beyond the ‘chamomile tea with the appearance of woodshavings’ and ‘berry mix that tastes like Ribena’ options at your local supermarket.

Here are some of my favourites:

Ronnefeldt’s Green Angel, as mentioned above. Seriously: YUM! Ronnefeldt’s not sponsoring this post, but I kinda wish they were…

Tea Pigs’ Chamomile Flowers. Once you’ve had chamomile tea made from freshly-picked chamomile flowers, it’s hard to take seriously the chamomile sawdust served up by Twinings et al. (I know, I know; this post just took a dive into the hippy-dippy, but really.) Tea Pigs’ chamomile, which uses whole dried chamomile flowers, is the best mass-market alternative I’d found. It’s not as perfectly sweet as ‘real’ chamomile tea, but it does contain that gorgeous pineapple aftertaste that’s missing from most camomile tea bags.

Tea Pigs’ Rooibos Crème Caramel. This bills itself as dessert in a mug and the marketing copy ain’t wrong. It’s sweet without being sickly, and it’s great for those moments when you really want a choccy bar, but you’re trying to be good.

Tea Pigs also do a nice Chai and I dig their Super Fruit berry tea as well.

Pukka Herbs’ After Dinner tea. For a loooong time, this was my staple. You can definitely taste the orange/cardamom flavour, and the overall effect is lovely and aniseed-y.

Are you convinced by the coffee-free life? Or should I plan to pry that coffee cup from your cold dead hands?

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Nicola Martin is an award-winning author of psychological thrillers, short stories, and non-fiction books

  1. Holly
    | Reply

    Cold dead hands!

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