People typically assume I don’t like coffee because I’m one of the annoyingly moderate coffee drinkers who has half a cup and then switches to tea by 10 AM. Not only had I hoped never to succumb to the fate of becoming a tea drinker, but I wasn’t always like this. The truth is, I love coffee, I just can’t drink it anymore.
Coffee wasn’t a taste I acquired, it was a taste I was born with. When I was nine years old, my mom would give me a cup of half coffee/half milk as a treat. I eventually graduated to drinking straight black coffee because I love the bitter flavor (and the caffeine boost doesn’t hurt). When I was in college, I picked up a job at a coffee shop for extra money, and though it felt like a retail-janitorial hybrid gig 80% of the time, I still had the best time learning to blend coffee flavors and make new concoctions. (My best invention was a “grasshopper” which is basically a liquid, caffeinated Thin Mint girl scout cookie.) I was never a five-cup-a-day coffee addict, but I liked having more than a cup or two because — especially at my coffee shop job. It was a ‘for-pleasure’ beverage, in addition to being part of my morning routine.
In this coffee prime of my life, I started getting bad stomach aches. This wasn’t too surprising; I’ve had acid reflux since I was 12 and highly acidic foods and beverages make my insides cringe. Unfortunately, it was becoming more and more apparent that the only thing to do was to give up coffee, see how much it helped, and then reintroduce it into my diet.
So, I gave up coffee for three months.
Let me say that again: I went 90 days without coffee. I was not thrilled about this plan.
I was never dependent enough on caffeine for my body to go through “withdrawal,” but I missed the taste, the energy, and the ritual of having a hot beverage in my hand. I replaced the ritual with tea and hot chocolate, both of which I really like, but working around coffee, making it, smelling it, getting the smell in my skin and hair, didn’t make not drinking coffee any easier.
It took me a month of starring longingly at the caramel mochas, but I finally began to grow accustomed to not having coffee be a part of my day. Still, you don’t realize how often you drink coffee socially until you can’t drink it. When I left my coffee shop job to go back to college, I missed drinking what everyone else was drinking at breakfast or while studying with friends.
I ended up making it a full three months without coffee, which is longer than I’d intended. If there is one piece of advice I can give to anyone attempting a 30-to-90 day food challenge, it’s this: don’t set an exact end date, set an estimated end date. I was shooting for about six weeks, but I’d never marked a You’re Allowed To Drink Coffee Again holiday on my calendar. So, I ended up pushing myself to keep going.
The biggest change was that I finally hit a point where I no longer felt “foggy” if I hadn’t had coffee. When I hit my mid afternoon slump after a long day of studying, I didn’t have the option of turning to coffee, and my body eventually took the hint.
As for whether or not giving up coffee solved my acid reflux issues, it did and it didn’t. Not drinking coffee eliminated my coffee-related stomach aches. But when you have acid reflux, if coffee doesn’t set your stomach off, something else will. So, inevitably, I would still get stomach aches if I had the occasional lemonade or the not-so-occasional plate of fries.
Here’s the final catch: the tolerance to coffee-related stomach aches I’d built up was gone after three months without coffee. When I was drinking coffee regularly, I could have a few cups before my stomach would start to bother me. But when I tried to reintroduce coffee, my body wasn’t having it. Just one cup of coffee would make my stomach hurt and I’d end up “crashing” from coffee much sooner than I ever had. Almost immediately after my coffee buzz wore off, I’d be sluggish — more so than before my coffee detox.
It seemed ridiculous to keep drinking as much coffee as I had before my 90-day coffee-free stint, but I wasn’t about to give it up again completely. It just naturally became a smaller part of my life. A week after the challenge, I was probably drinking one cup of coffee a day. Now, I drink coffee two or three times a week, and I honestly don’t miss the days when I inhaled four cups of coffee in one day. I’ve become that annoying tea drinking asshole, and I don’t hate it.