It started one night in college. It was the end of winter, and I had given up my go-to hot drink, hot chocolate, for Lent. It was late, and I was trying to finish up a reading assignment in the dining hall, where each night there was a helpful sampling of snacks and drinks known fondly as “Brain Break.” The book I was reading was particularly dense in style, and my options for which steaming drink would keep my eyes open for the next 50 pages were either the weak, hours-old tea from a huge carafe, or the more regularly refreshed coffee. Reader, I chose the latter.
I’d never been a coffee drinker, though it was a staple in my house and part of my family’s identity. “We,” as my mom likes to say, “drink our coffee searing hot and extra bitter. Really, really hot.” Perhaps it was my innate aversion to fitting in with my clan, or my heeding of the warning that it’d stunt my growth, but it wasn’t until that night that I wandered down the coffee road myself. Like a lot of coffee virgins, it was a rough couple of days as the caffeine burst infiltrated my system; it was so cold that Boston winter that I had to have something, and yet I literally felt my limbs shaking and heart racing after each large hazelnut coffee I ordered from DD. Before long, the shakes stopped, but coffee became so ingrained in my routine-loving brain that I was drinking at least 4 cups a day, mindlessly and with varying degrees of enjoyment.
Fast forward about 4 years, and like most relationships, mine with coffee has changed a great deal–it’s more discerning and less in the obsessive-honeymoon phase. I drink coffee when I really feel the urge, but otherwise, I’m a tea-girl–herbal, black, green, pink… What brought about the change was a realization that the reason I thought I was drinking coffee–for the caffeine buzz–was actually all in my mind. That night of my first cup, I still felt myself dozing about 10 pages into my reading; and even after years of 4-cup days I never felt I was deriving useful energy from my Joe.
Caffeine affects everyone differently, and it seems that every day there’s a new study or article about its benefits and dangers to one’s health. It is, after all, a drug, and many people are literally addicted to it. That being said, it’s generally understood that if your body is okay with caffeine, it’s fine to enjoy, like most things, in moderation. The amount considered “safe” by Consumer Reports is up to 400 mg per day for adults, 200 mg for pregnant women, and 45-85 mg and children, depending on weight.
But it’s hard to know sometimes, even from your body’s reaction, how much caffeine you’re actually getting in a given drink (or food); even brands of coffee can vary widely in their caffeine content. If you’re interested in cutting down on your caffeine, or finding another way to get it that’s different, less expensive, or comes with other benefits in its base, take a look at this handy guide. You may be surprised what hidden sources of that sought-after buzz–or may even be inspired to find a more natural source of internal energy to keep you going when 4 PM rolls around.
Coffee: wide range, 130 mg (16 oz. McDonald’s)-330 mg (grande/16 oz. Starbucks)
Americano: 154 mg/12 oz.
Cappucino: 154 mg/12 oz.
Espresso: 77 mg/1.5 oz.
Espresso beans: 6 mg/bean
Black tea: 50 mg/8 oz.
Green tea: 25 mg/8 oz.
Matcha: 70 mg/8 oz.
Yerba Mate: 85 mg/8 oz.
Herbal tea: 0 mg
Other Popular Drinks
Hot chocolate: 25 mg/16 oz.
Sodas: 35 mg/12 oz.
Red Bull: 111 mg/12 oz.
5-Hour Energy Extra Strength drink: 242 mg/1.9 oz.
Dark chocolate: 12 mg/oz.
Cacao nibs: 2.24 mg/oz.
Do you have a favorite caffeinated beverage? Or are you a caffeine-free unicorn?
Also by Jennifer: Classic Vegan Carrot Cake
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Photos: Kaboompics, Jennifer Kurdyla