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The coffee abstinence experiment

Regular readers of this blog might know that I run multiple experiments at any time. Experiments of the life hacking kind. Start doing this. Stop doing that. Well.. maybe more of the stopping kind.


April 28, 2019 marked the kickoff of one of my more ambitious experiments – quit coffee. April 28 was the last day of a whirlwind (California + Seattle) vacation. Considering my coffee love affair was triggered at a Starbucks cafe (in Park Ridge, Illinois) and became an essential part of my weekly->daily life, it was somewhat inevitable that I would sip that last cup at a Starbucks, this one was on Camden Ave in Almaden Valley, San Jose. 

In my first attempt, lasting nearly 4 months in 1999, I avoided coffee and tea completely. The second attempt was a nearly continuous 2+ year span between 2013 and 2015 where lemon tea and green tea became my new best friends (I had turned vegan by this time). Cheat days were few and far in between (black coffee at Gloria Jeans and Starbucks soy cappuccino come to mind). By the time I joined Yatra, I had found a ‘reason’ to pause this experiment.

Did this experiment have a time period?

Like most of my experiments, this too was of the indefinite kind. Which meant that I’d abstain for as long as I could or when the number of cheat days exceeded the bounds of gentlemanly conduct. If Alcoholics Anonymous had a 12-step modus operandi, mine had 3 phases.

  • Phase 1: Coffee down to black tea
  • Phase 2: Black tea down to green tea
  • Phase 3: Green tea down to herbal tea

By the end of two months, I was in phase 2 and was already experimenting with a few herbal teas in preparation for phase 3. Four full months and zero cheat days.

Did I get tempted in these 4 months? Sure I did.

All I needed was a ‘genuine’ excuse for that first cheat day. A Starbucks jaunt to celebrate a family event provided just that. A barrage of cheat days in the next two months sealed the fate of my experiment.

  • Sep 3 at Starbucks with family: Soy mocha – moderate satisfaction
  • Sep 11-13 in Bali (with colleagues)
    • Day#1 breakfast black coffee: was mildly suggestive of that perfect blend I used to treasure
    • Day#2 breakfast black coffee: was a bit more reminiscent of that perfect blend
    • Day#3 breakfast black coffee: my taste buds responded with “yeah – this is it!”
  • Sep 28 at Blue Tokai with friend: Espresso with Mason chocolate made it again mostly about chocolate – high satisfaction quotient
  • Oct 8 at Krispy Kreme with family: succumbed to Americano (disgusting)
  • Oct 16 at Cafe Terra Indiranagar with close friend: black coffee was brewed really well – high satisfaction quotient
  • Oct 19 at Starbucks with a colleague: Soy mocha – moderate satisfaction
  • Oct 27 at Phoenix Mall Eat.fit with family
    • Espresso turned out to be too strong
    • Converted that brew to Americano (tossed away 50%)
  • Oct 28 at Enerjuvate: resisted the temptation of their (previously sampled) coconut milk cappuccino
  • Oct 29 at Terra Bites: delicious soy cappuccino
  • Nov 2 at Cafe Coffee Day: not a place that tempts but I was meeting a friend after years so had black coffee (it was ok)
  • Nov 4 at office
    • On a Monday at 815am (what was my morning ritual for 15 months) I resisted black coffee from the CCD espresso machine. This was a big BIG win as it would have seriously affected the experiment outcome
  • Nov 9 at Starbucks: soy cappuccino with my brother
  • Nov 18 & 19 at Hotel Kemang Jakarta with colleagues
    • black coffee was “lip smacking good”

November (more than October) provided closure to my experiment. Here are my conclusions:

  • Yes – quitting coffee completely is hard
  • Apparently I don’t tolerate bad coffee anymore
  • I don’t need coffee for my weekday mornings
  • But.. a really great cup of coffee with friends or family does hit the spot. So that’s my main conclusion – treat coffee like liquor, have only the best coffee, never alone, preferably with friends and family.

P.S. As I hunted for the ideal picture to be used in this post, serendipity took me to this post unbelievably good cashew coffee. This extract from her post so resonated with my conclusion:

So I do love good coffee. Big fan over here. I still try to stay away from regular coffee for big-picture wellness reasons, but I love a deep, dark, mildly creamy cup of decaf in the morning. My two rules are that it has to be good coffee, and it has to be decaf.

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