Do you remember your first time? A love affair with coffee.

Do you remember your first time? A love affair with coffee.

Coffee falls into the stomach … ideas begin to move, things remembered arrive at full gallop …

the shafts of wit start up like sharp-shooters, similies arise, the paper is covered with ink …
-HonorΓ© de Balzac

Coffee is my bad boyfriend.  We have an on-again, off-again love affair.  I crave it, I love the taste, then a few hours later I start feeling jittery or stressed, and kick myself.  Then I get tired.  So I go back again for another fix.  I love coffee, but he doesn’t love me back.  Still, I persist.

I remember my first cup… it was in 10th grade French class.  I got the “cool” French teacher that year.  The teacher who we wanted to chaperone our dances.  Who was a human rights activist, a bit eccentric and outspoken.  The teacher who put a poster in the classroom window, so the Principal couldn’t look in as he walked the halls.

And not only was she a bit intimidating, but the other girls in the class seemed to be part of her cool posse.  They couldn’t speak enough French to order a baguette, but they had nicknames and inside jokes, and all drank coffee together in our morning class.

And then there was me (who, in 10th grade, was very obviously not cool.)

We had a coffee maker in class (another reason that poster was blocking the window, I’m sure) and a container of French Vanilla coffee mate creamer – et voila – my love affair with coffee was born.

Sipping coffee with the cool girls, and speaking (really bad) French, I felt so grown up and sophisticated, so far away from my normal high school existence.  Maybe that’s what made me move to Paris years later…but that’s a topic for another time!

Coffee.  Is it so bad?

Coffee always seems to be in the media, with conflicting health reports.  One day it’s good for you (antioxidants! Less risk of Alzheimer’s and liver disease!), the next, it’s the beverage to avoid (Caffeine! High blood pressure! Dehydration!)

The only way to find out if coffee works for YOU is to listen to your body.

I used to drink 3, 4, 5+ cups of coffee per day.  Especially in those years when coffee houses were new and cool, and then later, working at my first job, wanting to be the busy professional clutching a cup of Starbucks.  (Was that me? Really? Cringe.)

But recently I’ve started noticing what I eat, and how it makes me feel … and I’ve realized that coffee isn’t as great for me as I thought. 

I started noticing that on days when I had more than one cup of coffee, I felt more stressed, and more mentally scattered.

I felt a lot of pressure to multi-task and do more, more, more … but was not actually more productive.  Just more stressed and busy.

I also noticed that drinking coffee in the afternoon made it hard for me to sleep at night.

So I’ve cut back.  Way back.  To one cup of decaf per day, with the occasional full-caf on the weekends or when I’m out.

I fall off the wagon sometimes, like when I’m in Italy and can’t resist the little espressos.  But overall I’m getting my relationship with coffee under control.

(Everything, that is, except my undying love for Coffeemate flavored creamer.   I am so embarrassed to admit this.  This stuff is about as un-VintageAmanda as it comes … AND it contains trans-fat!  And loads of sugar and unpronounceable ingredients!  Aaah!  One step at a time.)


What’s your experience with coffee, and caffeine in general? Love it or hate it? Do you notice any physical effects from it? Have you ever tried to give it up?  Share your experience in the comments!

About the author

Amanda Cook is an author, entrepreneur, and alchemist. She helps successful women create lives of meaning & magic by connecting with the seasons. Her work has appeared on BBC Radio 4, The Sunday Telegraph, Natural Health UK Magazine, and more. Learn more at

Amanda Cook is an author, entrepreneur, and alchemist. She helps successful women create lives of meaning & magic by connecting with the seasons. Her work has appeared on BBC Radio 4, The Sunday Telegraph, Natural Health UK Magazine, and more. Learn more at

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  1. Have you ever tried mycotoxin free coffee? Mycotoxins are toxic substances produced by Fungi that colonize crops. Most of your coffe troubles should come from the toxins in coffee beans that are not processed correctly. Most coffee beans are Left in the sun to wither and dry, or are pressed and fermented to remove the outer husk. neither of these are good ways to process coffee. The best way is to cold process them in clean water.

    The best way to find this type of coffee in your area is to follow these steps.

    Google “best coffee in ———-” use websites like yelp. Don’t pay attention to individual customer reviews, but the aggregate review gives you a good idea of the quality of the coffee.

    Visit the top ranked sites from yelp/google and look for coffe snobs that know their coffee.

    Look for coffeehouses with Single origin coffee, and other markers of quality, like roasting their own beans, etc.

    You are, in short, looking for mechanically cold processed coffee.

    I would have to recommend The coffee from A friend recommended this to me once, and I’ve never looked back. It’s about 19 dollars for a 12 oz bag, but it is the best cup of coffee that I ever tasted, with none of the Jitters and headaches coffee normally gives me.

    I am not paid to endorse this. I just love the taste

  2. I lovelovelove coffee, but have found that it can be too much for my system. If I’m stressed or angry, it gives me the energy to stay stressed or angry for a much longer period of time than I otherwise would πŸ˜‰

    I’ve gone back to tea for most of my daily caffeine needs, and save coffee for once or twice a week.

  3. Amanda, it’s funny you mention this, because for me, coffee has been sort of a doorway into the slower and more thoughtful lifestyle you write about. In high school and college I drank tons of sugary, flavored coffee and used it to stay awake. As a teacher I’d nurse a giant mug of coffee all day long like a baby’s bottle. When I moved to Costa Rica, where the coffee is unbelievable and the daily schedule revolves around it, I thought I’d be drinking more than ever, but I gradually learned that the people here who really love coffee take it seriously and treat it with respect. Coffee is a chance to sit down and connect with your family or friends or coworkers – so coffee to go defeats the whole purpose. Coffee to stay awake all night and work starts to seem ridiculous. The origin of the coffee matters – is it from this town or that town? – so a “Latin American blend” or a completely generic blend starts to seem wrong. You don’t mess up your coffee with flavors (the real purists even frown on milk, but I’ve gotta have a little milk). So I gradually started changing my attitude about coffee, and I think that started changing my attitude about other things…

    1. Such good points! La Pura Vida, huh? πŸ™‚

      I found this in a similar way in France…with wine. The French have little glasses of wine regularly with meals and really enjoy/appreciate/savor them – in total contrast to London where we get 1/3 of a bottle per large glass and just drink, drink, drink!

  4. I drink coffee every morning – a habit I developed while working a corporate job. It was the thing to do, and even now a year and a half OUT of that job, I’m still drinking it every morning. With that same chemicalized creamer that I know is terrible for me. It’s something that I want to cut back on, but just haven’t taken the steps to do it yet. Whenever I don’t have it, my energy levels tank in the afternoon, which is a good indicator to lower my consumption. Usually the smells keep luring me back in and I can’t say no..

    P.S. I LOVE your writing style – have you ever taken writing classes?

    1. Hi Rachael, I hear you! About the energy slump, a lot of that can be helped through diet – I noticed that since I’ve cut back on sugar and increased veggies + whole grains my energy levels are much better all day… caffeine or no. Might be something to experiment with.

      And thanks for the compliment on the writing, I really enjoy it! (The writing… not the compliments!) πŸ™‚

  5. I adore my coffee- usually a rich and dark roast, but I don’t ‘need’ it to start my day. I don’t like fancy creamers all that much; I prefer the full-bodied rich taste of black coffee or the creamy nuttiness when you add just a little milk or cream. I can have a cup (just one) after dinner and not have any extra problems with sleep; because one serving actually makes me feel a little sleepy (my husband has a similar reaction). So, in the morning it is good that my go-cup actually holds two servings or I would probably be tempted to nap at my desk. I also enjoy a good cup of tea, (as anyone who has seen our tea cupboard can attest to) and sometimes prefer that to coffee. As for caffeine in general, I tend to avoid too much of it outside of coffee, tea, and chocolate (of course) because I tend to have a very short energy burst (20 min- 1 hour) followed by an intense urge to sleep for 24 hours… πŸ™‚
    Have you ever tried to make your own flavored creamer- so that you don’t have to use the fake stuff?

    1. Hi Sarah, so strange how coffee affects everyone differently – I’ve never gotten the urge to sleep afterwards (although I definitely do from sugar!).

      I’ve tried making my own pumpkin spice coffee creamer that is delish! Usually I stick with just cream … but occasionally the powdered coffee mate temps me back. Grrr.

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