I Quit Drinking Coffee For A Month — Here's What Happened

Photographed by: Alice Gao.
This story was originally published on January 4, 2016.

Once upon a time, I was dating a guy who blamed everything on coffee. Not caffeine, mind you, just coffee. Feeling tired? That’s because of coffee. Not thinking straight? Coffee! Didn’t sleep well? You guessed it — coffee. Ugh. This went on and on, and frankly I found it profoundly irritating (like, really profoundly and deeply irritating). It wasn’t so much that his points were wrong (though sometimes they were, which was even more irritating), it’s that I LOVE coffee. And, yes, I am the first to admit that I am addicted to it. But at one point, his relentless commentary pissed me off so much that I vowed to give up coffee for one month just to prove him wrong.

That is the first and last time I will ever do that. It’s not because I experienced withdrawal symptoms like raging headaches or extreme crankiness (I allowed myself green tea and matcha). It was more a simple pleasure of life issue. Ah, perfect. Paul Simon’s "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" just started playing, so I am calling this “The 30 Reasons I’ll Never Quit My Lover (Coffee) Again.”

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There’s caffeine and there’s CAFFEINE.
The caffeine jolt from a cup of tea is just not the same level as a cup of coffee. And it's not just the amount of caffeine I'm talking about here. The jolts from coffee are better, more fun, last longer, are stronger, and help make early mornings and general a.m. ridiculousness more bearable. And furthermore…
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I refuse to live in this totally amped world and be completely coffee-free.
By “amped world” I mean my little world — New York City. Being coffee-free in NYC is like watching a really fun dance party from behind thick glass with cotton stuffed in your ears. This city moves fast. It’s relentless. It’s loud. People can be grumpy and rude. The caffeine from my cup of coffee or a double espresso gives me that extra jolt to get my “back up off the wall,” bring my best dance moves to every single day, shrug off the bad attitudes, and be one of the last people dancing/still standing. And thank god for that, because…
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Turns out, most of my personality is tied to coffee.
I think most people would describe me as a “get up and go” type of person, and that is something I have always prided myself on. It turns out, this character trait is completely caffeine-driven. Without coffee…
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I got nothing done and turned into kind of a useless slug.
Without my morning and afternoon coffee, I got nothing done. No seriously, nothing. Any to-do lists I had or little errands fell by the wayside into an abyss of “I’ll do that mañana” — even buying batteries for my remote control. Let’s not even get into my email inbox and unanswered correspondence. My blasé attitude extended to everything…
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Including the gym.
I LOVE sports. Like, I really LOVE SPORTS. Turns out, this is also tied to coffee consumption, along with any semblance of athletic ability. So basically…
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I became Zen to the point of feeling like I had a lobotomy.
Not too long ago, I listened to a This American Life podcast on testosterone: One of the segments is an interview with this guy who stopped producing testosterone and describes how it made him feel and think. At one point, he talks about how he kind of stopped having feelings and his inner monologue became just kind of observational. I totally understood, because that’s EXACTLY HOW I WAS WITHOUT COFFEE! I was a total Zen Master Flex. But is there such a thing as too Zen? (Yes, IMO). And does that kind of Zen fit NYC life? Also, let’s get into the quality of my life during this experiment...
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My mornings became a little sad without coffee.
My coffee habit started very young: Every morning when I was growing up, my mom would make herself a moka of coffee and give me a little splash of her espresso in a small bowl of warm milk. I would drink the warm coffee milk with Italian cookies — it really was just the best. Over the years, the coffee quantity went up and the milk went down to the point where I now drink my coffee black. Our morning coffee was the time of day when we would chat, gossip, read the paper together, and that mood often carried me throughout the day. I tried to replicate this morning ritual with tea, but…
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Tea is not coffee.
In my favorite Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee episode, Larry David is asking Jerry Seinfeld why his wife is so angry at him for quitting coffee; after all, both coffee and tea can be served and consumed from hand-warming mugs, and they both have lovely, fragrant steam coming off the top. Larry asks incredulously, “I’ve got it in a cup, you don’t know what it is!... I can talk just as well with this cup, just as if there were coffee in it. What’s the difference?!” And Jerry answers, “You wanna know what the difference is? We go to an ice cream shop, I get a cone, and you get a salad. That’s the difference.” Amen, Jerry, AMEN. And also…
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I don't fit the tea culture.
I know I am going to get major flack for this, but I am just going to say it: There are tea people and there are coffee people, just like there are dog people and there are cat people. I am a dog/coffee person. I like cats and I like tea, but it just ain’t my thang. Plus, I realized that I feel totally awkward in places that sell and serve tea ONLY. And you know what?
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Coffee tastes damn good.
Can we also just point out that coffee tastes really good? And that life is short and often quite difficult? And can’t we just enjoy things for the pleasure itself sometimes? Is that too much to ask?!
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On a side note, green tea makes me kind of nauseous.
Like, I turn the color of my tea when I drink green tea. Can that be good for you? (If someone writes to me that it’s the green tea “detoxing” my body from coffee, I will get very upset.) Not to mention that…
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Dealing with jet lag without coffee is a TOTAL bitch.
In the middle of my coffee-free month, I had to fly to Europe for work and that was definitely a low point: Jet lag and no caffeine is a doozy. Not being able to have a shot of espresso in Europe is also no fun. That’s really when I started asking myself why the hell I was doing this. Because, after all…
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Coffee is good for you.
Too much of anything is too much, but a few cups of coffee per day isn’t going to kill you. In fact, it’s probably even good for you.
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And, no, it doesn’t stunt your growth.
I have been drinking coffee since I was a pre-pubescent child and I am almost six feet tall. Speaking of small children...
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I am going to have to give up or cut down on my coffee if/when I get pregnant.
So why deprive myself now? And speaking of things that are expensive (like having kids)…
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Money.
During my month of coffee abstinence, a friend of mine said, “Wow! You must be saving so much money!” To which I thought, “Oh yeah, that is a good point.” But then I also thought to myself, “Wait. Isn’t one of the main points of making money to buy things that are pleasurable to you?” The same friend said to me…
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“And your teeth won’t get coffee-stained!”
To which I thought, have you ever heard of a dentist and a teeth cleaning? And this is just one of many “beauty” rumors I found to be baseless or exaggerated. Look…
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All that beauty talk.
People across the web will talk about how when they quit coffee they experienced all these beautifying effects, like glowing skin, etc. And, yeah okay, I’ll admit my skin did look marginally better, but isn’t one of the main joys of having a body and being alive experiencing corporeal pleasure? This reminds me of an article I once read in a fashion magazine that said the best way to avoid getting fine lines and wrinkles was not to smile or laugh — HA! Like, these boots are made for walkin’ and this body is made for using, and I am going to use my body to ingest COFFEE. And, TBH, my eyes don't roll higher into my head than when I hear people say...
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"You’re a slave to coffee.”
People often insinuate that coffee drinkers are slaves to caffeine, to which I now say, “Yep, and it feels SO GOOD.” And you know what else really gets my goat?...
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All that “It’s a drug” talk...
Listen, do I have to go through life completely vice-free? Is that even remotely realistic? If two cups of coffee per days plus an occasional espresso after dinner are my vices and burdens to bear throughout my life, I’ll take it. And I am just going to take a stand against this nonsense, too…
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There is no spoon.
Many people say that caffeine is not “real energy”; it’s chemical energy. Again, I’ll take it. To paraphrase Borat, “having more energy is better than having less energy” (especially when living in NYC). After all, I also missed my…
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Photo: via @elettraw.
I need my funny coffee paraphernalia.
If I don’t drink coffee, I can’t own mugs like this. And I can’t…
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Instagram signs like this.
I have never seen a tea sign where I am like, “OMG SO TRUE.” Not to mention…
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Coffee puts me in a good mood!
Isn’t an upbeat, active human being more fun than a listless, observational, overly Zen one? And speaking of being active, coffee helps with…
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Productivity.
The girls over at Man Repeller went off coffee for a week, and when they had their first cup again, they leaped into balls of explosive energy: “I had SO many ideas. I made phone calls, wrote five stories, went grocery shopping and learned a new language all in like, one hour.” The new language thing is obviously (hopefully?) an exaggeration, but I don’t think much else is, because…
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Case in point.
I banged this entire article out in less than 90 minutes — THANK YOU, COFFEE. And you know what I am going to do to reward myself? Go to one of my favorite…
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Espresso bars.
Being coffee-free also made me realize that grabbing a little espresso in the early afternoon is one of the great pleasures of my day. I love the atmosphere, the ritual, the people-watching, the smells, the sounds, shooting the shit for the duration of my espresso with the barman/woman. It’s just great. You know what else is great?
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Photo: Getty Images.
Coffee Ice Cream.
If that's not enough coffee for you, there's also...
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Photo: Getty Images.
Affogato.
Which is ice cream with espresso poured over it (YUM). You can also have it in cake form, also known as...
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Tiramisu.
Need I say more? Actually, I do have one more thing to say...
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Nope, that's all I have to say about that.
Any time anyone tells you that you need to quit coffee, you don't have to say a word — you can just send them this post.
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