When it comes to coffee, I love dark roasts--the darker the better. My local coffeehouse of choice generally starts the day with three choices of brew--dark, light, and decaf--but as morning wears into afternoon they cut back to only two--regular & decaf. Sometimes the regular blend is dark, but sometimes it is not.
Over the weekend I was in Mequon, Wisconsin with my son for a chess tournament (details forthcoming!) and lo and behold found myself only blocks away from a Caribou franchise. So at the appointed time (usually about 1:30 or 2:00 in the afternoon) I left the tournament site and braved the rain and snow to get my afternoon "fix." But wouldn't you know it--the brew on tap was a light, not dark roast. Sensing my disappointment, the barrista suggested I add an espresso shot for depth or try an "Americano"--a dark brew made with espresso and hot water.
I went for the Americano and was not disappointed. It was delicious! It wasn't until my next stop into Caribou several days later that I discovered why I may have enjoyed that medium Americano as much as I did. It's made with three--count them, three--shots of espresso! A medium cup of regular coffee at Caribou boasts 190 milligrams of caffeine; I often order a "half-caf," cutting those 190 milligrams down to 95. A medium Americano, however, has 270 milligrams of caffeine. The fact that I tolerated it so well has once again started me thinking about my caffeine consumption. When my husband and I make coffee at home in the morning, we usually make "half-caf," so my two 8-ounce morning mugs are the equivalent of one medium at the coffeehouse. I usually end up having the equivalent of another 8-ounce cup sometime in the afternoon. So a typical day finds me consuming at least 270 milligrams of caffeine, but sometimes more. When I had the Americano, I was probably over the 500 mark that day, and I didn't notice any particular physiological effect (other than that it tasted really good!).
I can't quite pin down when my coffee consumption got so heavy. When I first started drinking it in college, I had maybe one cup a day. In time that grew to two. In the last 5-10 years I have started drinking coffee almost daily in the afternoon. I love my coffee break. What I don't love is how I feel if I don't have it, and that has me thinking it's time to cut back. But when one typically wakes up between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m. and doesn't go to bed until 11:00 p.m., that's easier said than done. By lunchtime I am usually already dragging, and that afternoon cup of coffee, enjoyed after my post-lunch 20-minute catnap, energizes me for the many hours still to come. And because I have to stop whatever I am doing to make the coffee, the mere act of drinking it is like a pause button for my life, forcing me to take a little time for myself and symbolically proclaiming that "I am worth it" (HT: Meredith Baxter Birney). I would really miss that afternoon treat if I had to give it up altogether, and I'm sorry, but decaf is just not the same.
So I'd be interested in hearing from my fellow coffee addicts out there: compared to yours, is my caffeine consumption light, moderate, or extreme? Do you think I need to cut down? Is caffeine addiction really all that bad? If I'm drinking too much, how much should I cut back? And more importantly, HOW do you suggest I do so without feeling totally deprived and sorry for myself (not to mention exhausted)?