My Relationship With Caffeine

I have just bought sixteen litres of highly caffeinated “Energy Drink”. It will arrive the day after tomorrow. I got a really good deal for it, thankfully. I recently bought twelve litres of the same stuff, and I have a litre and a half of it left. I also have, dotted around my kitchen several kilos of coffee, in the form of instant, ground and bean. I’m beginning to think I may have something of a problem.

Actually, no: I’m beginning to think I have something of a new-born baby and a commensurate lack of sleep requiring a bit of propping up. This current need to fill the house with as many and varied methods of turning my bloodstream, infused with caffeine, in to a caffeine stream, infused with blood, is a passing phase. Normal service will no doubt be resumed soon enough. What is normal?

The fact of the matter is that the majority of the drinks I enjoy consuming are stimulants. During the evening I like to drink beer and the like, while during the day I naturally tend towards caffeine. This is not always deliberate; I’ve just always enjoyed the taste of the drinks with most caffeine in them. I have long loved coffee and cola; energy drinks taste refreshing and fun. I don’t often drink juice.

That said, my most consumed drink is water. I keep a two-pint glass on my desk and next to my bed, so that I can have a really good drink of water whenever I want. And, given how often I fill them up and empty my bladder, I seem to want to drink a lot of water a lot of the time. I find taking a really big drink of water – well over a pint – very satisfying. It’s something that no other drink does for me.

But man cannot live on water alone: sometimes he needs a hot drink, for instance. Every day I start with a cup of tea, in an absolutely enormous cup. Not quite a pint, but not far off. It may take me several hours to get through this mug of tea, but it is a great start to the day. The thing is that the tea we have at home is decaffeinated. It started when we were trying to get pregnant, and it stuck.

Drinking caffeine is bad for getting pregnant, and it is not particularly good while pregnant. That is why we made the switch, and it seems to have stuck. While I wouldn’t drink decaffeinated coffee, because I do not see the point, decaf tea makes perfect sense to me. We even got decaf Earl Grey, for when we’re feeling fancy. Decaf tea is a mellow way to get the day started: it tricks the mind.

My mind associates tea with caffeine, and so with waking up. I don’t really like the tendency towards starting the day with a dose of caffeine. I think it’s an artificial form of being awake, and I would rather let not being in bed do the waking up for me. Rather, I tend to drink a cup of coffee later in the day, quite often after I finish work, in order to get me though the early evening parenting slot.

I have, on occasion, brewed a large pot of filter coffee and drunk it throughout the working day. I have done the same with cold brew coffee, drinking it by the pint, with lots of cold milk. I would not recommend either course of action. The dark anxiety, the paranoia, the unease which follows the consumption of such a lot of coffee is not worth it, and it always takes me by surprise. Honestly.

I find myself mid-afternoon feeling twitchy and queasy (my too favourite cartoon characters), and thinking I have some kind of food poisoning. My partner reminds / asks me how much coffee I’ve had, and the lightbulb comes on above my head. It leads to a cycle of coffee consumption where I begin with a nice cup, get a taste for it, overdo it, and then skip it altogether, all over several days.

I used to drink nice cups of coffee fairly frequently, particularly at the back end of the year. I love all of the silly frothy coffees that companies like Starbucks offer. The idea of a Pumpkin Spice Latte or a Gingerbread Latte, or a Caramel Dulce de Leche Latte puts a big sugary smile on to my face. My mother and I would go to our local Starbucks several times a week to order such wondrous treats.

Back then, that didn’t lead to me brewing up a huge pot of coffee the next day, and getting too deep in to the caffeine. It was the bells and whistles I was in to. I made espresso, I steamed milk, I bought flavoured syrups, and I topped the lot off with cream. It was the whole package I was after, and it took a lot of effort to get to it. Sadly, our local Starbucks closed, and we forgot about those drinks.

Every so often, when I am away on business, stuck in a train station or an airport, bored and far from home, I will invest in one of these diabetes bombs. I like them, just not as much as I remember. It may be that my tastes have changed; it may be that their recipes have changed; it may be that being on my own at Kings Cross is not the same as having a chat with my mother. It may be all of these.

I still make espresso now and then, but I enjoy it for the taste of the coffee these days. The big, silly drinks are almost detached from coffee for me now. I have come to associate coffee less with a fun desert, the way they were, but as a functional drink; one which I can implement as and when I need to in order to elicit certain effects. As in, I use it as a drug, in order to stimulate my mind. Normal.

And that is where energy drinks come in; especially the bottles. I can open and close a bottle whenever I want, and have a quick top up of something which will keep my eyes open for a while. I can put less effort in to it than brewing a cup of instant, and I don’t have to let it cool. While making up a bottle at 5:30am, and knowing that I will be awake for the next hour, it is absolutely ideal.

I don’t feel any of the jitters with energy drinks that I associate with coffee. Part of that is that they are a fixed strength of caffeine, and the coffee I drink is born of me dumping as much ground brown in to a filter as I can fit in, and hoping for the best. It could be many times stronger. Either way, I have both of them in my arsenal, and more besides, so no chance of falling asleep just yet.