So, here’s the thing. I’ve been drinking coffee since I was about fifteen years old. Back then, going to the coffee shop was a social event and the drinks were in blended form, covered in whipped cream and chocolate syrup, but they were still coffee. Today, seventeen years later, I drink coffee as I write this. I drink it every morning when I wake up at four or five AM to read, and meditate and start my day. Now it’s a delicious french roast from one of our favorite coffee makers, brewed at home, with some sugar-free, vegan Nutpods brand creamer added – Now it’s “healthier” coffee.
Shout out to the Big Blue Bear Cafe in my home town of Kernville, CA. That place has been turning out delicious coffee under the same woman owner since before I was in high school. No Starbucks necessary. And they had soy milk before it was cool.
My high school boyfriend was three years older than me and he loved “coffee.” I credit him for introducing me to fancy, sugary, blended concoctions that pass as coffee and that weren’t my parent’s Folgers. I remember my mom actively pushing against my new found addiction. Of course, at the time I thought she was unreasonable. I was a straight-A student with a history of nothing bad. Let me have my coffee. Only now do I realize how problematic it is to market caffeine to kids, by making it into a dessert you become addicted to for essentially your entire life. Oh, and it’s expensive. We’d take refuge from the triple-digit heat and visit whatever friend of ours was working that day while drinking the equivalent of venti Frapaccinos with two, four, and even six shots of espresso. I shudder to think of the amount of sugar in something like that (but that’s another discussion).
In college I finally lived in a town with a Starbucks, but went there rarely. My schedule didn’t allow for many trips outside of campus and work, so I would start my day with a sixteen ounce something (like a caramel or vanilla latte) from one of the coffee shops on campus. I’d have another sixteen ounce something with lunch, and then another sixteen or even twenty ounce regular coffee with half and half from the food court in the mall on my way into work. Some nights when I had to work past ten or eleven, I’d make sure to grab another gigantic coffee from the food court before they closed so I could microwave it around midnight. I drank coffee constantly throughout my day as a way to stay alert in class, to study in the middle of the night, and to work long hours.
Once I graduated and started working full time, coffee just became a ritual, social and otherwise. I worked with an amazing group of women and we’d get coffee every day before work or on a break at the local shop down the street. Our boss would constantly bring us Starbucks. It was the height of Starbucks becoming a cultural phenomenon in my world and I fully embraced it. At this point I was drinking sugar-free, dairy-free lattes, more out of concern for my weight than actual health. My dad bought me a coffee maker for my apartment. Like a very early, archaic version of what the Keurig would eventually end up being one day. So sometimes I would even make my own coffees at home. And that’s how it went during most of my early to mid twenties.
Then I met my husband. The first time I drank coffee at his apartment I think I almost had a heart attack. It was so strong. He ground his own whole-bean coffee and brewed it in a regular coffee pot like my parents had. I remember just wondering: Why? The first time we went through the Starbucks drive through together, I asked him what he wanted and he said: “Regular.” I’ve never forgotten that one.
He is five years older than me, but I would introduce him to his first peppermint mocha, pumpkin spice latte, and frapuccino. Mocha Frapuccinos are his favorite now.
Between being married to Kanan and being a business owner, my coffee habit has completely changed and evolved into what it is now. We brew coffee at home, in a regular twelve-cup coffee pot. We have three different places we prefer to purchase coffee from, and I only use sugar-free, dairy-free creamer. Also, I do want to clarify, when I say “sugar-free” that means no sugar, no sugar-substitute chemicals either. Simple and delicious. I drink exactly two cups per day, and make sure not to drink any after 9am. On a special or rare occasion we will go to Starbucks and Kanan will either get a tea with no sweetener added (which is what I get) or he’ll be in a mood and go all in with his venti mocha Frapuccino. Between cutting refined sugar and dairy and not wanting to spend the money when we have delicious coffee at home, I rarely drink coffee elsewhere. And I thought I was being pretty dang healthy about it.
Then I was taking an online webinar (not at all about coffee) and the woman hosting it mentioned in a passing comment that drinking coffee (or consuming large quantities of caffeine through any method) completely disrupts the female cycle and hormone levels.
I had never, until that very moment heard a truly compelling reason for me to quit drinking coffee. I actually did quit drinking coffee for about a six month period of time in college, just to see what would happen. I didn’t notice much of a difference in my health or quality of life, so I promptly added the habit back in. Looking back on it now, I’m sure all the college food, booze, and sugar I was consuming would have made it impossible to notice how much better I felt without the coffee in my diet, but at the time I thought it was pointless not to drink it, and it helped me maintain my lifestyle of not sleeping for four years.
The only reason for potentially quitting that had peaked my interest in recent years was the notion that caffeine was making my anxiety worse. However, I rarely feel anxious immediately after or during my coffee drinking time, so almost three years ago I quit drinking alcohol and about two years ago I quit refined sugars, two things that I absolutely knew were contributing to my anxiety. That helped with my energy levels and mood tremendously (and basically changed my entire life), and I will continue that lifestyle for what I assume will be forever. But lately, I’ve been tracking my mood and physical symptoms, in relation to my cycle all month long, every month, and there is still plenty of room for improvement.
I’ve written about it in the past, but just in case you’re not all caught up on my cycle and the ailments that befall me because of my hormones (haha), I still struggle with headaches, occasional (but very intense) cramping, tiredness, hot flashes, and irritability. And I know what you’re thinking if you’re an individual with a period: yeah, duh. But here’s the thing. I am convinced it does not have to be this way, we’ve just been taught and conditioned to believe our cycle is an unfortunate inconvenience at best, and at worst, a curse that woman-kind brought on ourselves from that little misstep in the Garden of Eden. Which is turn causes us to eternally suffer. But hey, either way we’re supposed to suck it up and deal, and do it silently and pleasantly in order to make those around us comfortable.
I’m so over that. After reading Alisa Vitti’s book In the Flo, listening to her on several podcasts, and using her app I started doing my own research and came to the conclusion that our cycle is an advantage if we make it so. However, because we’ve been conditioned to believe our pain is inevitable we rarely try to heal ourselves. And because controlling woman’s bodies and health is currently and has historically been politically valuable to those in power, helping women to understand our health in order to empower ourselves has almost become a niche or alternative movement. The research and information is simply scarce and hard to find. But it’s there, and it’s growing. And I’ve been going down the caffeine (as it pertains to the female body) rabbit hole.
*Note from the editor:
Shortly after this article was published we were informed by Mr. Kanan Wilson that his favorite Starbucks drink is in fact a caramel Frappuccino. In the original article we incorrectly stated that his favorite Starbucks drink was a mocha Frappuccino. We regret this error, and are correcting it for the official record.
Coffee Creamer: https://www.nutpods.com
Big Blue Bear Cafe: https://www.bigbluebearcafe.com
In the Flo, Alisa Vitti: https://intheflobook.com