Darya Pino Rose

I'm Darya Rose (formerly Darya Pino) and this is my personal blog. I'm the author of Foodist: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting, and creator of Summer Tomato, one of TIME's 50 Best Websites. I'm also a neuroscience Ph.D, NYC foodist, former dieter, & soulmate to .

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Coffee, tea and quality of life

Sencha green tea

I decided awhile back that starting Sept 8 I would try to break my coffee habit. Don't get me wrong, I love coffee. But there's is a big difference between enjoying coffee and needing coffee, and for the past few years I have definitely been in the needy camp.

I've been a coffee drinker since I was 15 yrs old, and have been addicted to caffeine most of my life since then. This doesn't bother me from a health perspective, the vast majority of the data I've seen suggests coffee is a healthful drink for many reasons.

But being addicted to coffee isn't fun, because it means that any lapse in caffeine intake results in a strong, debilitating headache and generally fuzzy head that inevitably impacts any work I attempt (and not in a good way).

For the past 2 years I've been simultaneously working to finish my PhD and become a respected writer in the food and health space. This involved daily lab work as well as building and maintaining a website with 4 original, high-quality articles per week. As you can imagine, this was a staggering workload and I could not afford to take the mental hit that would be inevitable if I were to wean myself off coffee.

But since I graduated I've had the time and flexibility to make the shift. My intention was not to ditch caffeine completely, but just take the dosage down a few notches so that if I'm on vacation I don't need to inject myself with espresso before I can crawl out of bed.

I reasoned that if I could get myself onto tea as my morning beverage, I would still be able to enjoy coffee without being a slave to it. Also, as a personal challenge I wanted to see if I could make the transition without resorting to Advil.

But this isn't easy.

Tea is not a direct substitute for coffee, and in the past when I've tried to get by on tea alone (even several cups) it only delayed the inevitable headache by a few hours at best. However, through experimentation at Samovar Tea Lounge I realized that a strong Japanese green tea called sencha actually does have enough caffeine to get me through a day. And it can stave off a headache for about 20 hours.

Though at first I could not get by for 2 straight days on sencha, I began by alternating between coffee and sencha each day for the first week and a half. This reduced my caffeine intake by enough that toward the end of the second week I could get by for two full days on just sencha, or one day with a pot or two of high-quality oolong or other tea. Another week and almost any well-caffeinated tea would suffice, so long as I drank enough.

At this point it's been nearly a month and, while I still need some form of caffeine by 3p each day (that's when the headache starts now, it used to be 10:30am) I can get by on tea alone for days at a time.

My guess is I could probably go a full week on just tea, but the delicious, roasty allure of San Francisco's Blue Bottle Coffee has prevented me from attempting it.

I adore my beloved coffee.

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Reader Comments (15)

That's funny! I've been doing the same thing for the same reason recently (and with some pressure from my bf, who's an avid tea drinker). I've gone about a month now with only occasional coffee.

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVirginia Griffey

@Virginia That is funny. We might have the same boyfriend... *awkward*

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDarya

I rarely get headaches after cutting soda from my diet and transitioning to a pescetarian diet. When I do get headaches (which is rare) I never take meds for it either. I've been this way for three years now. And this coming from a person who had terrible headache issues.

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Rashall

Matcha is like a nuclear bomb of awesome - That's were the caffeine is at!

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Wise

@Stephen I've never had matcha without sweetened soymilk or something similar. Is there a way to have it without sugar?

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDarya

@Darya so the guys over at matchasource.com hooked me up the other day with their MorningMatcha - It's pure matcha. Sugar is only used in 'cooking matcha' or 'ingredient matcha' for baking and icecream and shakes. Hit them up and try that or their ceremonial grade matcha, and you'll be set.

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Wise

@Stephen Awesome, thanks!

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDarya

Matcha Source sells a cafe grade matcha that doesn't taste bitter or overly grassy when used with water. No sugar, either!

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

The few times that I've transitioned from coffee to tea, I've noticed that my energy levels seem more consistent throughout the day, as if tea has more of a timed-release quality to its caffeine load.

But that said, coffee is soooo delicious.

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArsenio Santos

That last line says it all. Coffee's thinking, "you're not going anywhere, muahaha"...

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertraveleric

it's not tea, but mate helped ween me off my 10 cup a day habit (working in a coffee shop is a tough life). if you can't get used to the taste, try it infused with mint and/or licorice/anise. Samovar has some great blends. also, how does pu-erh rate with other teas regarding caffeine content?

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAaron Del

I quit cold turkey. Went straight to regular black tea. It wasn't easy at first and luckily I didn't get the headaches. I now will have coffee maybe one day a week but don't feel like I "need" to have it. Maybe someday I will not need any caffeine in the morning. :)

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTeresa Franklin

I know what you mean about the blue bottle. In the past, i've been able to stop drinking coffee when i wanted to; but since blue bottle came into my life i CANNOT give it up. been trying for months now to stop drinking coffee. i go for about a week without it before the thought of a tasty cup of BBC lures be back.

October 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersarah

Good to see that a 'health' writer came to a balanced decision: coffee is not the problem ;-)

October 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIain

My problem is pop, energy drinks, and the odd time yes coffee (Starbucks)
Being only 16 trying to quit is not the funniest thing. Like you I get intense headaches which cause me to basically shut down, or get some major CC's of caffeine into me ASAP.

I have been trying to quit from Caffeine period, but being so addicted to it and use to it. I am having a very hard time. Tea's like you mentioned Sencha and others I enjoy and try to drink as much as possible but for me to even get enough Caffeine intake I could drink 3 energy drinks before my headache would go away.

Its a struggle I know, and I hope you get better from your Coffee habit.

October 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDakota O'Neill
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