Last month, I quit drinking coffee and black tea.
I’m sure that if you know me well, you will probably be choking on your coffee or tea while reading this. If you don’t know me: I come from the land of tea: merry old England. I was practically born drinking tea. It’s in my blood. The English revere this milky drink and believe it soothes all. In times of crisis, have a cup of tea. I spent my university years drinking three of four pots of tea a day, like any good student does. Even through both of my pregnancies when I found the taste of coffee or tea to be quite repulsive, I still had to have my morning cuppa since it was just wired into my brain that this is how any Brit must start their day. How could I survive without it?
Since living in the USA, it’s true that I became more of a coffee addict. And it was starting to become a problem. I realized a few months ago that I was either spending a lot of money on organic coffee beans and grinding them at home or I was popping out to a local coffee shop and spending $3-5 each visit just on a cup of coffee! Like any addict, I soon began depending on caffeine to help me through the day. I often heard my friends or colleagues say, “Sorry, I can’t think right now, I haven’t had my cup of coffee” or “I’ll wake up properly once I’ve had my morning coffee.” I started to think like that too. Sleep deprived with two small children, a new business and busy lifestyle, I believed that just like all my American friends I wouldn’t be able to get through the day without my cup of joe. America indeed, it seems, runs on coffee.
One day, I came to a crossroads. I knew I didn’t really like the taste of coffee or black tea anymore, I knew I was spending too much on my trips to the local coffee shops and I knew that I didn’t want to depend on caffeine to give me energy and help me get through my day. I knew that coffee was very acidic in the body and I wanted to try and have a more alkaline diet anyway. I also knew that after drinking a strong cup of coffee, sometimes I was so wired I became agitated, experienced some chest pain and felt as if I couldn’t concentrate. That wasn’t good. Decaf coffee wasn’t going to work for me. I needed to quit it completely. I had done a few detoxes this year, so I knew that I could do it and didn’t need caffeine in my life.
So I quit. Cold turkey. Nada mas. Yes siree.
Was it easy? No. I soon realized that even though I was only having one or two cups of coffee or black tea a day, I had formed an addiction developed over 20+ years around the ritual of making tea or coffee and of course had become addicted to caffeine itself. I missed the routine, and I missed the caffeine. I had a few bad headaches and felt very tired and sluggish for about five days after quitting.
But then something amazing happened. I switched up my morning routine to drink hot water and lemon followed by green or rooibos tea. I noticed that I had sustained levels of energy throughout the entire day and no more energy slumps or moodiness when 5 o’clock came and my kids were getting cranky. I felt so good, I was sleeping much better and even my skin was softer. One interesting side effect is that I crave sugar so much less since it was also part of the same routine: have a slice of cake and a cup of tea or a bar of chocolate and a cup of coffee. Right now, I drink a lot of herbal teas. Peppermint, fennel, licorice, green, rooibos and chamomile are my favorites and I enjoy their flavors so much more than coffee or black tea. Will I ever drink coffee or black tea again? Possibly. And I will enjoy it. But I don’t think it will ever be part of my regular routine again since I know what it does to me and how good I feel without it.
If you are trying to quit coffee or black tea, then here are my suggestions to get you started. You can quit cold turkey if you want to (like I did) but it is so much easier if you take it gradually and follow my five easy tips:
- Go slowly over the course of 7+ days. Try and reduce the amount of caffeine you drink every day. For example, start with 75% caffeinated coffee/tea mixed with 25% decaf. The next day, go 50/50 then slowly reduce the caffeine until you are just drinking decaffeinated coffee or tea. Remember that if you experience some headaches or fatigue this is a good sign! Your body is detoxing itself of coffee.
- Ditch the decaf and try new herbal teas and experiment with flavors. When and if you are ready, switch your decaf coffee or tea to herbal teas. I love Egyptian licorice tea for its aromatic flavor. Peppermint and fennel are also great teas to refresh and ease digestion. Experiment and have fun.
- Develop new habits and routines. Start your day with warm water and lemon. This will cleanse your digestive system and change your cravings for caffeine.
- Drink lots of filtered water to cleanse and flush out your system.
- Make sure your diet is full of food that sustains your energy throughout the day. A diet rich in organic protein, vegetables, fruits and whole grains will sustain your energy levels throughout the whole day and into the evening. No caffeine required!
For the record, I don’t think drinking coffee or black tea is bad. In fact, numerous health benefits have been reported for people who drink one or two cups a day. If my clients want to drink coffee or tea, I don’t try and make them quit. But if you are someone like me who just feels addicted to the stuff and wants to have a caffeine-free life, then this blog post might be for you.