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How to Kick Coffee

At Samovar Tea Lounge, we get a lot of customers coming in asking us how they can kick the coffee habit. We never hear people asking how they can get off tea though. Why is this?

I have nothing against coffee, and enjoy the occasional well-brewed cup of Joe just as much as the next person. But coffee as part of your daily routine can present some problems.

First off, coffee is highly addictive. Once you start to depend on coffee to wake you up in the morning, and keep you going all day long, it becomes a crutch. How many people do you know who have to have their cup of coffee in the morning, or else they’ll get massive headaches? Perhaps you’re one of them.

Second, coffee can be harsh on the stomach, so people tone down their coffee with lots of cream and sugar. Not very healthy.

Coffee can also give you the jitters. Anxiety, irregular heartbeats, and tremors are all well-documented effects of coffee. Recently a customer commented that coffee makes her feel busy. Not productive, just busy.

If you drink too much of it, coffee also keeps you awake at night. So to relax at night people drink alcohol. This makes it even harder to wake up in the morning, so they drink even more coffee the next day. Before they know it, they’re stuck what I call it the Coffee-Alcohol Loop, needing coffee to wake up in the morning, and alcohol to go to bed.

How to Kick Coffee

1. Look For the Real Problem

Coffee may not be the real problem. If you’re stuck in the Coffee-Alcohol Loop, search for the true cause of this cycle.

For instance, ask yourself, why do you need coffee? So you can wake up. Why do you need to wake up? Perhaps you’re going to bed too late. Why are you going to bed too late? Because work has been stressful, and you’ve had a lot on your mind which keeps you from falling asleep. Why is work stressful? Because you can’t stand your job and long to make a career change. Ah, so that’s the real problem that needs to be addressed.

What issues are you avoiding? What unaddressed problems are you masking with coffee-induced momentum?

2. Understand Your Habit

Habits have great power for both good and bad. Humans are creatures of habit, yet most of us are unaware of the habits we follow every day.

The book The Power of Habit is a great resource on becoming more aware of your actions. Here’s the basic rundown:

All habits are triggered by a cue. A habit is the routine we enact following that cue, in order to receive a reward. For instance, the trigger is that we feel stressed. The routine is that we have a cigarette. The reward is that we instantly feel better. Smokers know that cigarettes are bad for you, but the trigger and reward are incredibly hard to resist.

Let’s look at coffee. The cue is, it’s morning. The routine is, we drink coffee. The reward is, we feel energized and go about our day with enthusiasm.

The trick to changing any habit is understanding them so we can create different routines, or implement different rewards. And the first step to change is awareness.

3. Replace the Habit With Something Else

Often, the reward is too strong to fight head-on. If a coffee addict goes off coffee cold turkey, he or she may start to feel sick after just an hour or two. They worry that their work productivity will decrease if they are ill and sluggish all day. So they go back to coffee to get energized again. The reward of continuing the habit is too great.

But what if you replace the routine with something comparable, but healthier? My friend Leo, author of the blog Zen Habits, recently decided to stop drinking coffee by getting into tea.

While tea is still a hot, caffeinated drink, it’s much more mellow than coffee. Tea has less caffeine, and tastes great without needing to add cream and sugar.

Plus, tea contains something called L-Theanine. This ingredient balances out the jittery effect of caffeine by inducing a state of mental focus and relaxation. In ancient China, monks cultivated tea to help them focus through long periods of meditation. Studies have also indicated tea has tons of health benefits, from destroying cancer-causing free radicals in the body, to promoting healthy cholesterol levels.

Tea is a slower drink than coffee. People drink coffee to speed up, but people drink tea to slow down. We encourage customers at the Tea Lounges to slow down, and focus on the process of watching their tea brew. To savor every sip, and savor the company of friends they may be with.

With so many rewards, tea is the perfect replacement routine for folks looking to kick the coffee habit.

Tips for Getting Into Tea

Your new replacement routine needs to be easy and accessible. Fortunately, tea is both. All you need is hot water, an infuser, and some tea leaves. Here are a few quick pointers:

Pick a Tea. I recommend whole leaf teas over teabags because whole leaf teas are usually fresher and have richer flavors. They also save money and reduce packaging waste; tea is usually mere cents per cup.

Coffee drinkers often go for dark teas with strong, robust flavors. Try a black tea, pu-erh tea, or darker roasted oolong. Green teas are also popular for their high antioxidant levels. Try matcha, a powdered green tea which is high in caffeine since you consume the whole leaf in powdered form. Or our Ryokucha green tea which blends Japanese tea with matcha and toasted rice for a double dose of caffeine and antioxidants.

Pick a brewing method. We recommend a simple brewing basket or infusing mug to get started. Tea balls are okay to use, but they don’t allow the leaves to fully expand and release their flavors.

If you really want to automate your tea ritual, try the One Touch Tea Maker. It’s similar to a coffee maker; just pre-load your tea the night before, and hit Start in the morning. Minutes later, your pot of tea is ready to go.

Boil water. Don’t worry about the minutia of water temps and quality; just boil the water. Filtered water is better than tap water, since good tasting water makes good tasting tea.

Steep the tea. Add about one tablespoon of tea for every eight ounces of water. It’s a lot of tea compared to the typical recommendation of one teaspoon per cup, but more tea leaves yields more caffeine, flavor, and health benefits. Then brew it fast, for just 30-60 seconds. From there you can experiment, brewing it longer or shorter, depending on your personal tastes. You can also re-infuse the same leaves for many additional cups of tea. Check out our video series and tea sets if you want to get into the details of tea brewing and tasting.

Then notice. As you wait for the tea to steep, use this time as a mini meditation to focus on the day. Clear your mind, and focus on this simple ritual. Pour your tea or remove the infuser basket from your mug, sit down, and enjoy.

Just notice the effects as you sip your tea. Do you feel jittery? Awake? Relaxed? Feeling awake and alert is different than feeling jittery. What flavors do you taste? Grassiness? Flowery notes? Nuttiness? Earthiness? Just notice.

You may want to phase tea in slowly. For instance, if you drink three cups of coffee every morning, replace one cup with tea for a week or two. Then replace two cups the next week, then three the week after.

Focus on the Rewards

Is coffee inherently bad? Nope. But what is bad is the addictive cycle that coffee can induce. With addiction, you lose the freedom to control your habit if it starts to become unhealthy. Even tea can become a crutch if you’re not mindful of how you enjoy it. The key is to avoid addiction, and to replace bad habits with good ones.

So join the countless tea drinkers who’ve made the switch from coffee. It’ll take time and effort, but if you get discouraged, just focus on the rewards. Imagine yourself waking up naturally energized. Imagine yourself feeling focused and present rather than jittery or anxious. Imagine yourself slowing down rather than speeding up. And when you do kick the coffee habit, please send us a note and share your own tips!

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