I believe I'm developing a love/hate relationship with coffee. Shall I start at the beginning?
[Photo credit: SodaHead.com]
I started drinking coffee in college. I wouldn't even drink it regularly, just in circumstances of late night studying or research paper writing. I did begin drinking it regularly when I began my first 8 to 5. I found it lifted my spirits, cleared my grumpiness, and boosted my energy. It wasn't that I relied on it for waking up; it was that I looked forward to it. Which reminds me of what I've heard smokers say about cigarettes. It's not only the nicotine, it's the fact that it's a treat to look forward to and covet... even a astucious ritual.
Then I moved to Richmond and started my dietetic internship. I drank coffee occasionally at first, if my roommates made some and offered it to me. Then, thankfully, I landed a job at the coffee shop one block from my house. This was quite apropos since the money I'd saved to live on ahead of time was dwindling. Not to mention, this coffeehouse was just my pace - quirky and colorful with a laid-back hippy vibe. I feel like my time here has brought so much appreciation of food culture to my life. Within its walls, I've begun to develop my palate for many of life's finest flavors: that of beer, wine,olives, tea, and, you guessed it, coffee.
Not only did I learn to brew drip coffee on a large scale, but I was trained by three experts at various times, not to mention given various tips, on our Italian espresso machine. Now, at least in this coffeehouse, there is a bit of anthropomorphism placed on the espresso machine. People are protective. So, it is always fun and gratifying to be the barista for the day!
By working at the coffeehouse, I started appreciating and drinking coffee much more. At first, I wanted to try all the types and figure out what I liked. I've found I like the "earthy" qualities of Ethiopian harrar and Sumatran blends. Some say they taste like dirt. I love them.
As for the health effects of caffeine consumption, there is a bit of difference of opinion. The stance I learned in college was that coffee and caffeine themselves are not unhealthful, even boasting cancer-fighting antioxidants; it is the sugar and cream that taint the health quality of the drink. However, in my more recent self-study of holistic nutrition, I've found many believe that caffeine depletes the adrenals and can lead to adrenal fatigue. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue can be salt and sugar cravings, lethargy, or trouble falling asleep or getting going in the morning. This is due to the decreased production of the hormone cortisol. I've also read that caffeine can be detrimental to blood sugar regulation. That lift that caffeine gives you causes excess sugars to be released into the blood stream, potentially leading to insulin resistance, systemic inflammation, and yeast overgrowth.
With this in mind, I've chosen, as the Buddhists say, the middle path. I don't want to rely on coffee to get me going in the morning or over do it, possibly contributing to the conditions listed above. Actually, I have noticed that when I abstain, I have more even energy throughout the day. But I do enjoy, and, let's be honest, sometimes desperately need coffee. I choose healthier alternatives to sugar and cream such as stevia and vanilla soy milk; although, I'm not opposed to drinking it black either. (And some would argue that cream is healthier than soy milk anyway.) Nowadays, I would say I drink coffee a few times a week. And this seems to be a good balance for me.