I Quit Coffee For 30 Days. Here’s What Happened

Ah, coffee. The nectar of the gods, the light of my life, the one thing in my day that I know will live up to my expectations. Whether it’s a soy latte, a long black, a plunger coffee or a cup of black instant, I place far too much importance on the role of coffee in my life. This was brought into sharp relief during a four-week coffee detox.

Why did I commit to this detox? Money. Health. Because who knows what damage it is wreaking on my innards. I only drink one or two cups a day but even if I drink only one regular soy latte a day, that works out to be $28 a week. And $1,456 a year. And many tens of thousands of dollars should I continue to knock one back every day until the day I meet my coffee-related doom. And that’s only if the price of a regular soy latte remains the same for the rest of eternity.

Coffee is said to improve physical and mental performance, reduce the risk of some cancers, and help ward off depression. It’s also associated with high cholesterol and insomnia. Scientists are pretty vague about whether or not it’s good for you – the general consensus is that it’s no worse for the body than most other beverages out there (barring alcohol, sugary drinks etc).

So, in the depths of winter, with no plans to replace my coffee intake with any other substances, and in the middle of having a flu, I went cold turkey.

Day one

I have the flu. Clearly my body found out about my plans to quit coffee and is retaliating. This makes the first day easy as I don’t have to get up for work, so I’m not as tempted to go via a cafe on my way. On the other hand, coffee sure would jack up my energy levels and make me feel less pathetic. It’s hard to tell if not drinking coffee has made a difference; I feel like crap anyway.

Day two

Feeling a bit better flu-wise, so it’s back to work for me. I’m not missing the caffeine until about 1pm, when I start to fade. I look on in envy as one of my colleagues takes coffee orders for eight others in the office as I sit on my peppermint tea.

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This is going well.

Day four

I never realised how much I rely on coffee to keep me going. I guess it’s one of those things that you do it every day without realising what it’s like when you don’t do it. I feel more physically tired than I have in ages, and am struggling to focus for extended periods of time on my screen. When I join some of my co-workers to go for coffee, I end up buying a tumeric latte… they forgot to put honey in it, so it tasted a bit like dirt. Goodbye $4. Won’t be making that mistake again.

Day seven

It’s Saturday, and after Christmas in July celebrations at work I am supremely hungover. I remember reading somewhere that sugar is good for replacing the body sugars you’ve lost while drinking alcohol; I decide to get a hot chocolate. Turns out chocolate milk and alcohol don’t make such a great combination, I feel even worse than I did before. Without coffee to pump me up I sleep for a good portion of the day.

Day nine

I truly thought that I would be over the coffee cravings and exhaustion by now, but I obviously thought wrong. It’s a battle to get through the work day. I usually find chai lattes too sweet, but find myself picking one up on our morning coffee run. It’s not as good as coffee, but provides a bit of warmth and spice that is better than nothing. Finding coffee alternatives seems counterproductive to my savings goals.

Day 11

I’m experiencing serious sugar cravings and am still exhausted. This is exarcebated by staying back at work until seven with no lunch break to finish a big project. Every time my colleagues bring coffee to their desks, the mere whiff of its earthy aroma is enough to make me want to break my commitment (I don’t) and scream (I also don’t).

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Real picture of me with my peppermint tea.

Day 12

Was kept up until 2am by my boyfriend talking about kickboxing. Struggle to get through another lunch-break-less-work-til-seven day. I get home at a quarter to eight and work on freelance projects until 10:30.

Day 15

I’m at the mid-point, and while I am finally feeling like myself again, I keep forgetting that I’m not drinking coffee. I order a soy latte at brunch and immediately have to rescind. I instead order a chai latte — again defeating the financial purposes of this exercise.

Day 17

I am moving house on the weekend so am busier and more tired than usual. However, I find that I’m not missing coffee to the same extent as I was before. I’ve been getting to work earlier — not because I’m waking up any earlier or am having super-charged bursts of natural energy — but because I’m not stopping at the cafe that sits out the front of the bus stop where I get off. Each time I walk past without stopping, I get a strong surge of longing. I realise it’s only out of habit, but it nonetheless never ceases to cause a twinge of coffee-related desire.

Day 23

Only seven days to go. I can do this! I’ve stopped replacing coffee with hot chocolates and turmeric and chai lattes, and skipping it has become almost habitual.

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Feeling pretty smug right now.

Day 30

Last day! While I expected to miss coffee more for its taste and social aspects, I didn’t expect skipping it to take such a physical toll. While many people report headaches and other, more severe, withdrawal symptoms, I was unexpectedly exhausted without my daily cup or two of joe. I also missed the actual process of drinking a coffee; I love sitting down at my desk early every morning and reading the news while I drink a barista-made latte, but I thought it would be easily replaced with tea. It turns out I was wrong — perhaps it’s the gratification of buying myself a treat every day, but making an English Breakfast in the work kitchen isn’t quite the same.

In terms of finances, I think my desperation to find joy in other beverages put paid to any notions of it being a financially viable experiment. Studies have shown that you are better off allowing yourself small treats each day, rather than depriving yourself to save for larger pleasures, like holidays. When you work full time, you need a daily reward; coffee is mine and I don’t think I’ll make the mistake of trying to eradicate it from my life ever again. I’ll take my chances with the high cholesterol.

Che-Marie Trigg is a freelance writer and full-time subeditor. Her work has appeared in Virgin Australia Voyeur, Collective Hub and GoPlaces with Toyota magazines among others, as well as on websites like Broadsheet and Junkee. Follow her on Instagram @chemariet.