Mo’ joe.

You know those pesky days when your body unceremoniously disintegrates?

Yeah, neither did I…until around 4pm yesterday, when a total system failure occurred. Headache, muscle cramps, nausea, the works. Four hours of agony. I was prepared to chalk it up to a delayed-onset food hangover (go to Parm for the limited edition s’mores ice cream cake, but not for the oily sides or merely passable namesake sandwich. End amateur review), but as I lay there moaning and resisting the urge to Internet-diagnose myself with a brain tumor, it occurred to me that there were two more likely explanations:

a) I had unwittingly been made into Voldemort’s eighth Horcrux, or

b) I was experiencing caffeine withdrawal.

I made a cup of tea to test my theory.

My symptoms cleared up within fifteen minutes.

Even the modern writer starts each day with a blank page.

For the past two years, I’ve greeted every day with French press coffee, steeped with cinnamon and tempered with a splash of almond milk. I treasure the ritual as much as the taste as much as the reliable jumpstart that it provides, and I’m willing to wake up at an ungodly 5:45am to ensure at least an hour of slow sipping before the grind begins (pun intended). On days when I’m feeling extra fancy (read: skip the gym), I can even squeeze in a luxurious post-coffee, pre-work nap.

Don’t tell me I could just sleep later. What would be the fun in that?

Every third week brings some new study on coffee’s health benefits and/or destructive forces, but unless it emerges that the stuff is basically arsenic, I have no desire to give it up. As with any other “vice,” I think context and enjoyment justify its moderate usage. That being said, I do side-eye the idea of pounding it all day to stay functional. My skepticism has less to do with the coffee itself than with its substitution for less ambiguous sources of energy. Coffee as pleasure trip? All about it. Coffee as crutch? Not so jazzed.

I could afford to be holier-than-thou in college, when my time was my own. I cut myself off after one morning mug and relied on a potent brew of power naps and dance parties to get me through the day. Needless to say, this system has short-circuited in the face of full-time employment, and these days, I find myself plowing through a lot mo’ joe. A cup when I arrive at work. A cup when I return from lunch. Only tea* after 3pm, because my bedtime looks like your grandma’s. Even still, three cups a day isn’t exactly what I’d call moderate usage.

I was fine with drinking my words until yesterday, when one caffeine-free morning saw me sprawled prostrate across the couch like a junkie. Sure, coffee is legal and natural, but the idea of physical illness in the absence of any substance freaks me out. It’s been an iffy month for me and healthy living, but even when I was a lean, mean, salad-worshipping machine, I hit that same late morning/early-afternoon wall. I’m stumped on how else to navigate around it. Staring at a screen all day is not natural (and should not be legal). I’m going to see if I can take my consumption down from three cups to two, but I’d love to know how you handle the caffeine conundrum.

*I went on a tea-buying spree at World Market last year and have enough to last several decades at least (hazelnut chai? Whiskey green? Red velvet? Got you covered), especially since I’m one of those stingy nutjobs who reuses each teabag twice. Sorry I’m not sorry I’m not sorry. Anyway, I drink a lot of tea, but it doesn’t serve the same function for me. Tea is for taste, not energy.

Are you a coffee drinker? How much coffee is too much coffee? Desk jobs, what are those all about?

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7 responses to “Mo’ joe.

  1. I gave up coffee 3 months ago due to it causing a lot of stomach issues for me and the withdrawal was terrible (just as you have described) and it doesn’t go away for a few weeks :(. Now I am off coffee fully and without withdrawal symptoms finally yay! And… I drink tea a lot. Like you said, however, tea is not much of an energy booster. I now eat chia seeds in my daily diet and they provide me with much more sustainable energy than a cup of coffee ever did. I highly suggest them!

    • emmaaubryroberts

      Literally picking chia seeds out of my teeth as I type this (super cute visual, I know)! I put them in oatmeal and yogurt and whatnot for bulk/satiety but had no idea they could be used as an energy supplement. I’ll have to do some experimenting. Thanks!

  2. What about experimenting with your coffee’s caffeinated-ness? I drink 1 cup of 60% caffeinated coffee a day (3 scoops Folger’s French Vanilla; 2 scoops rando decaf). Although this may offend a coffee connoisseur’s sensibilites, it certainly means that I feel just fine skipping my morning coffee on days when I’m actually feeling rested. And it makes my single latte much more potent on particularly brutal (read: 2- hours of sleep) days. And although nothing works as well as a dance party, taking a quick stroll around the office will wake you up quite nicely, and it won’t look as funny as doing the stanky leg in your cubicle with earbuds in.

    • emmaaubryroberts

      Gah so smart! I’ve done this to stretch out expensive flavored coffees but I never even thought to do it for caffeine control purposes. You are a genius. Definitely worth a try.

      And I’m actually famous for my rhythmic one-two punch. Think runty boxer on, well, lots of caffeine.

  3. girlfran, i’m kind of a crazy hippie so take what i say with a grain of granulated kelp (ew…), but i finally got a juicer and am TRANSFORMED. i continue to shotgun caffeine until i have the day-long shakes … but when I inevitably crash and begin to feel like i cannot possibly handle my yoga sesh/ daily elipticizing whilst glued to MTV like the super cool 15 year old I never was/ whatever menial task i’m made to do at my UBER GLAM job/ people in general… i pound a green juice and have instant energy. seriously. i occasionally have 3 in a day, which is much easier to do when they don’t cost 8 bucks a pop. WORTH IT.

    • emmaaubryroberts

      I SO believe you, but how economical is juicing really? Not $8 a pop expensive, but still kind of a pricey habit, right? Ugh, I had a watermelon juice with agave and lemon over the weekend and I’m still thinking about it. One day. One day.

  4. I just saw this! Fooey! I’m the worst budgeter of. all. time. That is, I don’t do it. I spend my money until I run out of it. But I’m the type of person who must incorporate some sort of green into every meal… so my veggie funds have just been allocated elsewhere. But my juicer HAS freed up what I feel comfortable eating as a meal… I’m a vegan, a foodie, and an aspiring health guru; so pre-juicer, I’d get really pissy if I ended up at bar with boca burgers and iceberg lettuce. Now I can have a green juice before I go out and then feel ok about occasionally eating french fries and tequila on the rocks for dinner. That’s balance, right?

    That said, I thought about buying one for, oh, 5 years before I took the plunge? I have this one http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0018Q7LCK/?tag=hyprod-20&hvadid=15474605259&hvpos=1o1&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=4775080581607414874&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&ref=asc_df_B0018Q7LCK

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