Coffee: Can’t live with it, can’t live without it. That’s how I used to feel, at least.
I started drinking coffee in college as a means of surviving exams—and let’s be honest: a hungover morning or two. But it wasn’t something I craved, and I certainly didn’t fall into the “don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee” camp. My intake ebbed and flowed, but it never felt integral to my existence. And it honestly barely helped me stay awake.
Then I moved to New York, where coffee is not only a necessity, but also an accessory. It seemed like half the people whizzing by me on the street were holding a cup of coffee, some even clutching it for dear life. Coffee lines were out the door come morning, some even wrapping around the street—and that was just for coffee from a cart. It blew my mind. And slowly but surely, I became a coffee-guzzling, street-whizzing bean snob.
Sure, coffee tastes great, but for me, it’s always been about the ritual. I love the smell of freshly brewed coffee emanating from the kitchen in the morning, I love popping into the local coffee shop on weekends before strolling around the neighborhood, and I really love early afternoon coffee dates for brief face-to-face interactions and a subtle break from technology. But I don’t always love the way coffee makes me feel.
Most mornings that start with coffee end in an inevitable afternoon crash. And when I crash, I often reach for that late afternoon top-up and find myself cursing at the ceiling come bedtime. Those artisanal beans that so many New Yorkers gush about? While delicious, those are the brews that often give me the shakes and make me feel like I’ve momentarily been drugged—not to mention, sweat profusely. All signs seem to point to: stop drinking coffee.
When I cut it out, I feel great. I wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I have sustained energy throughout the day, I fall asleep with ease, and I stay asleep. But I like coffee. I miss it when it’s gone. I miss the smell, I miss the sound of grinding beans, and I miss the rich flavor. It’s not about addiction—yes, I know, caffeine is a drug; and yes, I know, I probably sound like an addict—but instead, it’s about that ritual. And despite those unappealing symptoms, I wasn’t convinced that it needed to go.
Fortunately, I found ways to enjoy coffee sans jitters, crashing, and even spontaneous sweating (that didn’t require switching to decaf). These two coffee hacks have transformed my coffee-drinking habits and make me feel superhuman—all day, every day.
Not-so-fun fact: Coffee beans can be super toxic. According to research, mycotoxins (the toxic chemicals produced by fungi a.k.a. mold) might likely be lurking in your coffee. And that’s not cool, because these toxins have been shown to cause diseases in both animals and humans, yet there are still traces of it in our food—and, gasp, wine. While roasting coffee beans can kill the mold, it doesn’t necessarily rid beans of one of the most abundant food-contaminating mycotoxins. At best, there is only a small reduction.
Choosing organic or wet-processed single-estate beans can help keep those toxins out of your cup. When I stick to these high-quality beans, I skip the crash and don’t sacrifice sleep. It’s as if I’m drinking tea, but I still get to grind those beans and inhale the intoxicating scent of freshly brewed coffee in the morning. It also means I’m also doing my wallet a favor, as most coffee shops don’t stock organic so I’m forced to DIY. The best part: The pick-me-up is much better, and I don’t hate that the high lasts pretty much all day.
The benefits of coffee are well-documented: It can improve your mood, make you sharper, boost endurance, and increase your metabolism. But in my opinion, the way you drink it matters. And by adding healthy fats, the coffee loves me back.
When I first heard about “butter coffee,” I was appalled. You’re telling me you want me to put butter and oil in my coffee? And you’re telling me it’s good for me? There’s no way starting the day with a calorie and fat bomb is a good idea—or so I thought.
But naturally, one of my friends started drinking it. And naturally, I became interested. She began documenting her journey, and I became a side cheerleader (slash investigator) who would check in almost daily. I’m not going to lie: The perks she experienced were interesting. Increased brain power, improved endurance, decreased appetite… where can I sign up?
Next thing you know, my French press was brewing away next to containers of grass-fed butter and MCT oil, the two integral ingredients of the infamous Bulletproof coffee recipe. And holy goodness, did it taste amazing. I typically drink coffee black and don’t love added creaminess, so I was surprised by how much I took to it. Despite the fact that butter was frothing at the top and that there was a slight sheen from the oil, it tasted light. It was the latte I’d always dreamed of—but better.
It also made me feel good. And not just good, but really good. The morning fog immediately lifted and I felt like I was experiencing mental clarity for the first time. I powered through work like Clark Kent (you know, the human, business-like version of Superman), completing task after task after task. My focus was laser sharp, my energy was sky high, and my work was top notch. And I didn’t reach for my daily mid-morning or late-afternoon snacks.
I still think it’s great to take the occasional coffee break. And by break, I mean a few days that are coffee free. I also think it’s smart to limit consumption to one to two cups per day, one if I’m opting for butter coffee. Too much, no matter the quality, can make me feel off-kilter. And taking breaks is a nicer reminder that no, I’m not an addict, and yes, I can still be a perfectly decent (and smart) human being without consuming caffeinated rocket fuel. But I’m glad I finally found a happy medium with coffee, and one that makes me feel spectacular to boot.