From the queues of haggard, grey-looking people in front of me, I know I’m not alone. As soon as the barista hands us that warm cardboard cup scrawled with an approximation of our name, we’re part of the caffeine club – sane, awake and in need of a breath mint half an hour later.
Whether you’re knocking back an espresso standing at a counter-bar or warming yourself up with a double-shot caramel latte, the majority of us have a caffeinated coffee at some point during the day. In fact, according to the British Coffee Association, we drink around 70 million cups a day.
A survey by Visa Debit found that in the UK, we spend an average of £2.09 a day on caffeinated beverages, reports the Mail Online. Perhaps this financial commitment is why, this January, fewer of my friends did dry-January and instead focused their efforts on a coffee-free month. Or perhaps it was how it left them feeling.
Everyone knows that caffeine isn’t great for you. It's one of the most easily available and cheap mood-altering drugs on the market. The opium of the masses. It’s easy to get addicted – it keeps you alert and gives you an energy boost.
Frida Harju, a nutritionist, explains that too much coffee can leave you trembling. “It can also cause sleeping problems or make you feel stressed. It’s also very addictive, giving you adrenaline exhaustion, which makes you reach for another cup.”
Tamara Bannister, a 26-year-old lawyer, experienced the tremors first hand, deciding to give up caffeine after she got severe heart palpitations at work. “My days were very long. Typically I’d be at work for 17 or 18 hours, because that was the culture. It wasn’t uncommon to sleep at our desks! My quality of sleep was utter crap so I used to power through the day with five or six cups of coffee."
One day she felt palpitations. “My heart just sped up fast and I had to sit down really suddenly.” She told her boss and went to the doctor. Her doctor advised her to give up caffeine and get more sleep. “Easier said than done, but I took her advice giving up coffee. It was hard at first; a week of headaches, feeling jittery as hell, but soon enough I was weaned off coffee. I miss the smell, and iced Frappuccinos on a hot day, but otherwise, I haven’t had a palpitation since I gave up.”
It’s always the same. The first few days I feel fine and then day three the headache kicks in. That lasts for about five days and then I’m fine. Though without coffee I do end up falling asleep at 7 or 8pm every night.
So is giving up coffee always as easy as Tamara's experience? Edie, an illustrator, explained how she’d gone cold turkey a few times: "It’s always the same. The first few days I feel fine and then day three the headache kicks in. That lasts for about five days and then I’m fine. Though without coffee I do end up falling asleep at 7 or 8pm every night.”
Caley, who is currently pregnant, agrees. She says: “Pregnancy makes you give it up, or at least cut back a lot. The hardest thing is realising it's in everything. Like, do I want to have one cup of coffee (single shot) that would take me to my daily allowance, or would I rather allocate it to chocolate? Such is my predicament.”
Caffeine has a whole bunch of benefits, from being high in antioxidants and endorphins to simply doing a wonderful of job of helping you do your work.
Caffeine has a whole bunch of benefits, from being high in antioxidants and endorphins to simply doing a wonderful job of helping you do your work. But drinking as much coffee as we do probably isn’t sustainable, for either our wallets or our bodies. Frida Harju says: “Once the adrenaline rush from the coffee has worn off, you will feel twice as tired as before.” Tired or not, I’m off to buy a bag of peppermint tea.