Bethany Reitsma doesn't think she's dependent on coffee. What will going cold turkey on her daily fix reveal?
It all started with a brief moment of insanity: I put my hand up to the challenge of quitting coffee for a week - and not just coffee, caffeine in all forms was out.
Going caffeine-free promises all sorts of benefits: you'll sleep better, save money, have lower blood pressure and even potentially lose weight, if your usual caffeine fix is on the sugary side.
Quitting coffee is also meant to reset your body clock, meaning when you really do need a cup of joe you'll feel more of an impact from less.
It all sounds pretty appealing, but what about the withdrawal symptoms? Headaches, irritability, fatigue, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, depression, tremors, nausea, and low energy.
What have I signed up for?
The debate over whether coffee is good or bad for you has raged for centuries.
In the 1700s, coffee was seen as a dangerous "vice" gripping society and there was much public outcry about the rising popularity of Vienna coffee houses.
In London in the 1800s coffee houses were becoming meeting places for merchants and bankers to make deals. What we now know as the London Stock Exchange had its beginnings in a coffee shop named "Jonathan's".
Throughout history several famous folk have found themselves hooked on coffee: Voltaire is said to have consumed between 40 and 50 cups a day. Though his doctor warned him his addiction would be the death of him, he lived into his 80s.
The Handmaid's Tale author Margaret Atwood is also a fan, so much so she has her own line of coffee beans. And according to Huffington Post, director David Lynch drinks up to seven cups a day.
As much as the aforementioned seem to happily function on coffee, the rise of energy drinks has injected concern into the caffeine debate. In 2017 a teenager died from a caffeine-induced cardiac event after downing a Mountain Dew, a McDonald's latte, and an energy drink. The LD50, or lethal dose of coffee for half the population, is 17.25g. A standard coffee has 8mg of caffeine, so a lethal dose equates to about 200 coffees.
Research also shows there's good and bad to drinking coffee. On the negative side, it can cause insomnia, high blood pressure, and headaches. Some studies claim coffee could raise infertility risks and increase anxiety, depression, and fatigue.
Karima R. Sajadi-Ernazarova and Richard J. Hamilton, from Drexel University College of Medicine, wrote the book Caffeine Withdrawal. They found that regular and "chronic" use of caffeine produces physical and psychological dependence.
"Caffeine produces a variety of physiological effects on the cerebral vascular system, blood pressure, respiratory functioning, gastric and colonic activity, urine volume, and exercise performance," they wrote.
"Low to moderate doses of caffeine (20mg - 200mg) produce reports of increased well-being, happiness, energy, alertness, and sociability, whereas higher doses are more likely to produce symptoms of anxiety, jitteriness, and upset stomach."
My week without my usual twice-daily flat white:
Day one: Monday: I'd spent the weekend beaning up, hoping the buzz would last into the week. I had an early start, which saw me bumble into the office, pathetic hot chocolate in hand and brain fog in full swing. The withdrawals didn't take long to appear: soon enough a heavy headache settled around my brain and I started to feel drowsy and grumpy.
Day two: Tuesday: Today wasn't as bad, although the headache lingered. I got an odd look from my usual barista when I ordered a hot chocolate, somewhat embarrassed. My mood definitely improved and I slept better than usual.
Day three: Wednesday: I had a slight headache that refused to budge, even though I was drinking a lot more water. My desk neighbour happened to get a delivery of coffee beans and I allowed myself a sniff which was torture for my caffeine-deprived senses.
Day four: Thursday: Today I felt better and more energised overall, though that pesky headache still wouldn't go away. I missed coffee, wistfully watching my workmates take sips from their flat whites, I tried to remember what it tasted like.
Day five: Friday: I made it almost all the way through today, but on my way home from work I picked up a flat white. It was the best cup of coffee I've ever had. I'd technically reached the end of the working week - does this count as a failure?
Okay, so I didn't make it through an entire week without coffee. But in just five days I did see some benefits: I slept a little better and when I did buy a coffee it had more of an effect than usual.
Now that I've tried it, I know I can go without it if I want to, and if I'm prepared to brave those initial side effects.
I still maintain that I'm not necessarily addicted, but most mornings see me lining up for my flat white – I like the little ritual of getting my morning coffee fix.