". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Thursday, April 17, 2008


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)?


Marie N. said...

I love coffee, the aroma, the flavor the warmth, all of it. I've loved it since i was 5. When I was expecting my children though, I could not tolerate the flavor or the idea of drinking coffee (strange hormones!) But when health issues arose I was advised to cut my coffee consumption in half. I didn't have even one cup a day to begin with. I still enjoy the very occasional coffee ice cream, and I've started having occasional decaf iced coffee. But I think decaf does not taste as good.

Every Sunday my DH brings a cup of good old regular up to me in bed to wake me for church. I hope that tradition never changes! But I find I don't finish the cup nearly as often as I did before my health warnings.

Not liking the way you feel without it might be a warning sign if that feeling is physical as opposed to attitude.

elephantschild said...

I am *beyond* the wrong person to ask; I drink WAY too much, and I know it. I drink ALOT more than you do.

I could switch to mostly decaf, tapering gradually into it, little by little, but it's alot cheaper to just buy regular instead of two different kinds.

SuperMom said...

I drink about what you do, perhaps a touch more. 1-2 full strength cups in the morning and a full strength cup in the afternoon, though now I'm feeling guilty so I may make this afternoon's pick-me-up a half-caf.

And BTW, I live just south of Mequon and have been to that Caribou coffee scads of times. :)

Cheryl said...

Marie, your dh needs to have a talk with mine. I like that coffee in bed idea!

EC, we actually save on our coffee bill by buying Wal-Mart decaf to mix with our pricier Caribou dark roast!

And Supermom, you and I need to meet someday. Are you plugged in to all those Wisconsin homeschoolers?