The daily grind: Giving up coffee

Amiya Nagpal 17 March 2017

Spring is my favourite season. Coming from the tropics, I still feel a sense of wonder when I see the flowers coming back to life after the bleakness of winter, the days getting longer, and the sun slowly returning. As the cliché goes, spring is a time for new beginnings.

I’m not very good with New Year’s resolutions, so I like how spring gives me a second chance to try to change something about myself that I would like to improve upon. This year, in the spirit of Lent, I have given up coffee. No coffee at all from Ash Wednesday till Easter Sunday, if my willpower holds.

The prospect of this terrifies me. I’m normally a three-coffees-a-day person during term time. It takes one to get me to a semi-lucid, vaguely human state in time for morning lectures, one at lunch time to prevent myself from taking an afternoon nap, and another at about 4pm to help me focus on work rather than wandering off to the proverbial cat video section of YouTube. If I have an essay due, I could easily have another two cups, bringing me up to five cups in a day. I know caffeine dependency is probably relatively normal in Cambridge, and three cups per day is probably not too unhealthy, but I fear becoming inured to it. Though I did manage to go up to about seven cups a day at one time, I know my limits now – the hand tremors were quite worrying.

Nevertheless, I think the number of coffee loyalty cards that I got through indicate I could perhaps save a significant amount of money if I simply stopped drinking coffee. Plus, I don’t generally like the idea of being dependent on anyone or anything, even if it is only caffeine.

So I’ve been without coffee for only a few days – not even a week. Do I feel healthier? Not really. Has it allowed me to save money? Also no – I still go to cafés relatively regularly out of habit. However, I now have an added incentive to try non-caffeinated drinks like the cacao and banana smoothie which I enjoyed at Espresso Library earlier this week.

Also, I do feel like I need more sleep now – my bedtime has shifted from about 2am to just after midnight. But, the trade-off is that I do feel more rested in the morning, both because of the additional sleep and, I think, because of the enhanced quality of my sleep.

Will I make it to Easter Sunday without coffee? I’m not sure. I may have to make occasional exceptions. I’m currently in Cork for the weekend and would really like to have an Irish coffee – having both coffee and whiskey in the same drink sounds like a truly brilliant idea. However, since the end of term is (fortunately, finally) just under a fortnight away, perhaps I will be just about able to reset my caffeine sensitivity in time for Easter term.