Life Experiment: First Coffee after Four Weeks Caffeine-Free

Birthday Coffee

Way too much coffee.

But if it weren’t for the coffee,

I’d have no identifiable personality whatsoever.
– David Letterman

I never intended for my caffeine-free stint to last forever. I like coffee. I like tea. I especially like chocolate! I simply don’t like being dependent on caffeine.

Yesterday, just one-day shy of my four-week caffeine-free anniversary, Tim and I found ourselves at Rory’s for brunch. Rory makes exceptional coffee. He’s got a super-badass espresso machine but that isn’t what makes the coffee so special. Rory pays loving attention to every cup of coffee he makes, from the roast to the grind (which he does himself) to the tamp to the steamed milk. If I was going to break my caffeine fast, there is no place I’d rather do it that at Rory’s over one of his superb coffees.

Rory’s signature coffee is a “flat white”, a popular beverage in his and Tim’s homeland of New Zealand. A flat white is generally made with 1/3 espresso and 2/3 steamed milk, where “the volumised milk is prepared by folding the top layer into the lower layers”, or so Wikipedia tells me. Rory might have his own method, or he may have written that Wikipedia entry himself. I wouldn’t be surprised!

As the resident American in the room, I opted for an Americano with a splash of milk.

Yes but how did it feel?? At first it felt, well, tasty. Nothing special. Ain’t no thang. But after cycling home I found myself intensely WIRED. I forgot what it feels like to have a caffeine high. I can’t say it felt terrible, but it also didn’t feel great. I found it impossible to concentrate or sit still. I couldn’t get any work done so I went for a walk, then cooked, and finally had a beer and a glass of wine, which seemed to take the edge off.

I could see the odd coffee being a good thing if I were, say, on holiday and were about to spend the day galavanting around town, where concentration wasn’t such an issue. Of course, if I went back on caffeine regularly, the buzz wouldn’t happen because I’d be immune again. But that’s not something I plan to do. Yesterday’s coffee doesn’t have me jonesing for another cup. But it does remind me that it’s okay to enjoy caffeine once in a while. It’s a quality of life thing, and once in a while, especially on a sunny Saturday and with good friends and tasty food, it’s important to enjoy the moment and just be.

6 thoughts on “Life Experiment: First Coffee after Four Weeks Caffeine-Free

  1. Adam

    As an avowed coffee addict and fitness professional, I hear you! I adore the whole experience of a great coffee. My poison of choice is a double long espresso with beautiful, thick, golden crema. Ahhh.

    But having given it up a few times, I understand what you are saying about losing sight of what it does to the body when you consume it on a regular basis. In fact, I wrote a post on that quite some time ago during a phase when I would only allow myself one cup a week (

    Around three years ago, I actually gave the stuff up completely for a few months straight. Since then I’ve gone through periods of great restraint and others of wonton abuse. I’m currently on a 3-4 cup-a-day stint. Part of me thinks I should get that under control. Another part of me figures the upside outweighs the downside, that I don’t have many vices, and that I should just enjoy my black nectar.

    At any rate, thanks for the post. It helps reassure me that I’m not the only one… 😉


  2. Rob

    This is almost exactly how I feel too when I return to coffee from a long absense without it.

    But unlike you, I really HATE the feeling of being so wired. I just can’t get anything done and it makes me kind of anxious.

    These days I try to keep the caffeein to a minimum with maybe one coffee per day (down from 5 or 6 a year ago).

    Even then, I consider whether it would be worthwhile eliminating it altogether (but I also love flat whites!!)

  3. monica

    Adam – you are definitely not alone. Your coffee post was interesting, especially the part about training vs. practicing. I did find that last Sunday’s coffee made me want to MOVE, hence the walk, but I definitely didn’t have the focus to do anything that required real coordination.

    Rob – Yeah, the inability to get anything done is annoying. That’s one of the reasons I’m not going to make coffee a regular thing. But as you suggest, who would want to give up flat whites forever? And worrying about it certainly isn’t very healthy!

  4. Charlie Hills

    I must be immune to caffeine because I never experience anything remotely like what others describe. Granted, I don’t drink coffee, but I do drink tea and soda, and have been known to take a “no-doze” once in a while to (theoretically) stay up longer to work on something. But I get absolutely nothing out of it. I’m not any more alert, I’m not wired, or jittery, or anything.

    It’s kind of sad, really. I feel like I’m missing out.

  5. Adam

    Charlie – When I am consuming my regular amounts of coffee, it can actually put me to sleep. I have been known to take my afternoon double espresso and go for a nap. But if I cut caffeine out of my diet for a few weeks and go back to it, the difference is astounding. The stimulatory effect is almost immediate and very surprising. And you don’t need coffee to get caffeine. That soda you are drinking contains can pack quite a punch (55 mg caffeine per Pepsi / 100 mg caffeine per espresso).


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