Indulgences - Coffee - a cruel mistress

IND 1 - Coffee - a cruel mistress

Ah coffee you cruel mistress you.  Everything I’m about to advise should be taken with a large European food mountain of salt, because I am a coffee addict. I’m drinking the first of the day now and another cafetiere will inevitably follow mid-morning. 

My problems really started when I began regularly taking the Virgin red eye service from Manchester to London for work.  A venti Americano from Starbucks at Piccadilly before boarding, large Americano from Nero Euston before entering the office, a further Nero mid morning to keep my eye in, Double espresso to accompany lunch, and then Regular Filter with an Extra shot from Cafe Rouge mid afternoon to help me stagger over the line.

All in that puts me at something in the region of 600mg of caffeine a day.  It’s actually very difficult to find any consensus online as to recommended ‘safe’ daily intake – these range from 100mg (ouch!) to 400mg (thank you Daily Mail Online) - but in summary, things were a little out of control.  The working day for me became a roller coaster ride of short periods of extreme productivity and general bonhomie, followed my troughs of dry-mouthed skittishness, mid-level paranoia, and latterly a right leg that wouldn’t stop trembling.  Sleep also became a precious commodity.  If I failed to doze off within 20 minutes, my little Cafe demon would rouse himself, scream “LOOK WHO’S BACK!!!” And there’d then follow two or three hours of him reminding me of the gargantuan scale of the ‘To Do’ list waiting for me at work tomorrow/today.

If this were a Hollywood film there’d now follow a life-affirming montage of me working through the path to a better, caffeine-free life.   Trainspottingesque cold turkey, group hugs and tears at local support group, buying Peppermint tea at Tesco’s as my adoring kids look on, then a final uplifting panning shot of me walking through a shopping precinct arm around the shoulder of gorgeous wife. I’ve a bright green organic fruit drink in one hand, while the other is giving a big thumbs up to the workman whose attaching a ‘Closing Down’ sticker to the window of a deserted Starbucks. 

This isn’t Hollywood, however, and having reviewed the montage in the last shot I appear to have three hands.  It doesn’t help that decaff coffee is, almost universally a very poor substitute – with a stack of chemicals needed to decaff it in the first place – and that those evil coffee conglomerates keep playing such dastardly tricks as introducing the velvety temptress that is the Flat White.  I’m starting to salivate now thinking about her hot, silky smooth foam......anyway. 

In the real World I have made some progress, though rather than a seminal moment of self-revelation, the key trigger for cutting down was actually economic ; I got a new job where my £40 - £50 a week caffeine habit wasn’t claimable on expenses.  So what can I advise? Well only what I am now managing to ‘achieve’ which is

·         Not drinking any caffeine after 12pm.  Sleep has improved markedly.
·         Limiting myself to 14 coffees a week – forget a rigid two a day, doomed to failure as soon as one of the kids wakes you at 4AM and you can’t get back to sleep afterwards
·         Finding a genuinely not bad caffeine free alternative.  Thank the lord for Rooibos tea.  Not only does it protect our bodies from the cell-damaging effects of free radicals and guard us from macular degeneration, Parkinson’s disease and various types of cancer but, critically, it doesn’t taste God Awful! 

Also seems appropriate to end this section talking about ‘real’ diseases given that caffeine addiction is I’m very aware a first World problem, and, if I’m honest a small problem I don’t really mind having.