The Daily Beet

11 Mar Adventures with Ami: Saying Goodbye to Coffee

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If I close my eyes, I can still see myself in my Nana’s kitchen.  It’s breakfast time and I am up with the sun.  I can smell the coffee brewing and the sound of the percolator bubbling.  She always used a percolator so when I started drinking coffee in 1996, I did too.  Strong dark coffee with cream and sugar, fond memories.

Fast forward 10 years.  I became a barista at an independent coffee shop.  I LOVED my job.  I’d wake up at 4am, ride my bike through the deserted streets to get there so I could start brewing the coffee for the masses.  The shop was populated by a vast array of regular customers.  I could see a car pull up and have their drink waiting for them.  We’d chat at the counter for those few minutes each day, getting to know each other.  I moved from coffee to espresso at that point.  My 3 shot Americano with room for half and half and one Splenda. Aahhh…joy in a cup!

I became manager of the shop and started learning a lot about coffee.  Not just how to make a better brew, but the social aspects of it as well.  Day in and day out, my people would come and see me.  The caffeine dealer. Some came to study or to have a business meeting, others came to hang out with the other regulars.  Most of these individuals reliably ordered the same thing every single day.  Coffee is a varied and personal as the reasons why we choose a mate.  Social circles from all walks of life gathered there around the cup I served.  From 6am to Midnight, our shop poured shots of espresso, glasses of cold press coffee, and mugs of light roast.  This spot was populated by my friends and family.  I loved everything about the place, I even met my husband there.

I no longer manage the coffee shop. It was great fun, but I am off on other adventures.  When we travel, we would seek out the best coffee shops.  I’d research ahead of time, by reading reviews and articles about the local coffee scene.  We had been making a tour of micro roasters we had read about on CNN.  From NYC to San Francisco and places in between, we revered a fine cup of coffee.  We’d buy beans at each one to savor at home in our imported Moccamaster Technivorm brewer.  I had graduated to drinking black coffee.

So on my trip to Austin, TX for the Farms 2 Forks Immersion Weekend I planned to have my morning cup of joe at the event.  I had read in the welcome email that breakfast and coffee would be served at 7am. Great!  No need to find a place open early on a Saturday.  As the breakfast service begins, I stood, dumbfounded in front of the industrial carafe of DECAF. Next to it sits another container marked HOT WATER.  I spin around in circles thinking surely there must be CAFFEINATED coffee here somewhere?!

Wow. Nope. Nada.

Of course there wasn’t.  Silly girl!  You didn’t REALLY think the Rip and his team were going to serve you caffeine now did you? I had read the books.  I knew that decaf only was the way to go. I knew the reasons why.  I somehow chose to gloss over this info when I read it, repeatedly. Didn’t want to hear it, uh huh. Not giving up my coffee, no way no how! Forget about it.  Knowing the nearest coffee shop was too far to duck away quickly, I resigned myself to decaf. Ugh.

The day progressed, a lovely day, full of interesting information, wonderful people and a brilliant piercing headache. Wowza! By 3 pm, my head interrupted my thoughts every two minutes.  Like a psychological tap on the shoulder saying, “Um…haven’t you forgotten something today Ami?? Where is our caffeine??!!!”  I pushed through it, had an amazing day at Farms 2 Forks and made a beeline for the hotel gift shop to buy some ibuprofen.  I couldn’t believe I felt that bad, over one missed coffee.

So at 6am on Sunday, guess who was first in line at Starbucks? Later that day, I listened to Dr. Esselstyn talk about the detriment of caffeine on our endothelial cells.  Having learned an invaluable lesson the day before I decided that once I was home, I was giving it up.  I wanted to be free of the addiction, and I wanted to be 100% compliant with the Engine 2 program. Now, I will always love my coffee. It played a huge roll in my life.  I can’t say that I will never have another cup, but I will not be beholden to it anymore.  My husband is quitting too, which is helpful.  It would be tough if I had to brew a pot for him and not have any myself.

So I am now caffeine free for over a year.  It wasn’t easy at first.  The first day I concocted 16 different reasons why I needed to be at the grocery store (where the beans live) or a certain shopping center (where the espresso is made) and even eyed up the soda machine in our condo building, thinking a diet cola isn’t coffee now is it? – I didn’t leave the house and I didn’t buy anything out of the machine. But I wanted to.  The second day I had to go to the grocery store for more Kale and I actually held my breath walking past the bulk coffee beans so I didn’t have to smell them.  I wasn’t going to fall into the decaf trap either.  From the chemicals use to process the caffeine out of the bean to the fact that it is a slippery slope for me to be loitering in the coffee shop or the coffee aisle, I decided to abstain.  I settled on a nice roiboos (red tea) chai that is naturally caffeine free, so I could have a hot cup of something in the morning.

Do you want to quit your caffeine addiction?  My best tips: Plan ahead! Start on a Saturday or another day of the week when you don’t have a lot going on.  Don’t try it on a Monday morning before a big day at the office!  Find a buddy to quit with you if you can.  I find it helps to have someone to commiserate with whenever you are trying something new.  Know that you probably will get a raging headache if you have self-motivated by morning joe for years.  Plan to eat as much green leafy vegetables in the next few days as you can muster.  I feel that the mineral content and nutrient density of greens really helps, not only with detoxing, but to keep you full.  Caffeine tends to suppress appetite so I was voraciously hungry on day 2 of no coffee. Drink a lot of water to help cleanse your system and to help keep you full. Apples are great snack! You will probably be tired for the first few days.  I know I took a nap on one of the early days of being caffeine free and I am NOT a napper. It does get better, I promise!  If you have made the leap into eating Plant-Strong, you can make this leap too. 


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Ami Mackey for Engine 2
Ami Mackey

Ami Mackey is the Curator of Creative Content at Engine 2. She is also a food coach at Engine 2 and has been plant-strong since 2011. When she isn't attending to all things Engine 2, she is the Program Director at St Louis All City Boxing a nonprofit youth program. She has earned certificates from eCornell in Plant-Based Nutrition & Fitness Nutrition from NASM.

  • Becky
    Posted at 12:28h, 11 March

    Is there any type of hot drink we can drink and stay in compliance with the Engine 2 diet?

    • Beatrice Sadeghi
      Posted at 12:50h, 11 March

      I agree, decaf is not the answer because of the process to remove the caffein from the whole bean. But what about the coffee made from roasted soybeans or other plants?

  • Shana Brannon
    Posted at 12:50h, 11 March

    How timely! My boyfriend and I are going through this as we speak! I tried the “herbal” coffee drinks, and they lack the aroma I crave from coffee. I’m finding that chai tea fills that need nicely. I haven’t had to smell coffee since we started this a week ago, so I’m afraid I’ll give in when that happens. I have coffee loving company coming in a week…that will be the true test of my will!

  • Tina
    Posted at 13:18h, 11 March

    I also quit coffee and had something wonderful happen. It was about a week or so after I had quit and noticed my horribly dry eyes had disappeared! I can wear my contacts again after several years of having to give them up! Color me impressed!

    • Amy Frey McCarthy
      Posted at 21:39h, 11 March

      Thanks for sharing that! I love my coffee habit, but the thought of possibly being able to wear contacts again might make it worth the trouble.

  • Molly Elston
    Posted at 13:34h, 11 March

    I de-caffinated myself back when I was pregnant with my kids, but I continue to drink decaf coffee. Are you telling me that this isn’t enough? I think I’m a little bummed.

  • rosa
    Posted at 17:18h, 11 March

    I give up coffee for a couple of weeks now and then but always go back. I tried the Dandy Blend “herbal coffee” and I love it. I have no desire to go back to drinking coffee.

  • Don
    Posted at 18:19h, 11 March

    You don’t need to suffer withdrawal headaches when quitting coffee. Start with half regular and half decaf and then reduce the amount of regular over a few days until you take only decaf. No need to suffer.

  • Matilda
    Posted at 21:55h, 11 March

    I feel many people don’t know how bad coffee is for them. A lot of kids in my middle school bring coffee everyday and go to starbucks whenever they are at the mall. Yes, even sixth graders bring coffee. This is where the seed are planted for a lifetime of being dependant on coffee

  • Stacy Lingle
    Posted at 11:54h, 13 March

    I really, really enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning with my oatmeal, but not for the sake of caffeine (I drink decaf often). I’ve wanted to stop this habit, or at least decrease it, but I haven’t found a tea with that “bold earthy flavor” to compliment my various oatmeal creations. I’ve tried Teeccino, but just can’t handle the taste. Any suggestions for a good tea that has a similar taste to coffee??

    • Camilla M. Blossom
      Posted at 11:13h, 08 April

      Earl Grey is really good it got a fruity taste. or try green tea.

  • Spark
    Posted at 06:29h, 17 June

    Why is it necessary to give up coffee?

  • David Sloane
    Posted at 13:26h, 30 December

    To much of anything will have a bad effect on your body.
    One cup a day apparently has no adverse effects.

    I did research on the effect of coffee, Interesting findings from a study
    published May 2006 neither caffeinated or decafe filtered coffee has a
    detrimental effect on endothelial function.these are the cells
    that line the walls of veins and arteries, when effected this could be the
    reason plague/cholesterol builds up in veins and arteries blocking the
    blood flow.
    Another study 2013 coffee dose not contribute to urban mortality rate.
    A Greek study done 2013 their findings were there is no effect on the endothelia cells,
    possibly the opposite.

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