30 day challenges

Focused on self-improvement and living a fuller life.


Flat white at Brother Baba Budan in Melbourne, Australia

As part of my journey embarking on a new challenge every 30 days I decided that I was going to try something radical, I was going to give up coffee for a month. Giving up coffee might not sound like a big deal for those of you who do not drink the elixir of the gods, but for someone who had been living off of this stuff since he was a teenager, this was a big commitment. Coffee is how I wake up, how I get stuff done, and how I connect with people.

So why did I decide that coffee and I needed a break? To better understand that question let’s look at why I embarked on this series of monthly challenges. The goal was to create positive habits that better frame my personal value system. So why then give up coffee? The answer was relatively straightforward; I had developed a dependency on coffee to get through my day, and I did not want my happiness to be dependent on whether or not I had my daily cup of joe or more. I wanted to increase my independence and see if I could remain productive and happy.

To provide some background, I like coffee, not just a little, a lot. I have an AeroPress, a French press, and a Rancillo Silvia Italian espresso machine. I enjoy the craft that goes into making good coffee and the ritual that it provides me in the morning. I can tell you all about my favorite roasters and coffee shops in San Francisco, my favorite being Andytown Coffee Roasters if you’re curious. For me, coffee is about the experience that you have, which is why when I noticed that I was having 2–3 cups of coffee a day, and usually not the good stuff this was a red flag.

So how did it all start, I can remember at an early age my Dad making cappuccinos and always making extra steamed milk foam for my brother and I. This eventually lead to us to drinking coffee when we were teenagers on the weekends. On special occasions, my Dad would brew a pot of Jamaican Blue Mountain, and I’ve pretty much gotten a pound of it ever since for Christmas from my parents. When I went to college drinking coffee became an everyday thing. Having a pot of coffee to power through a project was a common occurrence for me.

The use of caffeine to get stuff done carried through to my professional career as well. When my mind wonders I grab a cup of coffee, instead of just working on being present or meditating. I use walks to grab a coffee as a way to bond with my team, and I was worried that giving up coffee would impact this ritual.

So for the month of March, in the spirit of increasing my independence, I set out to stop drinking coffee for 30 days and see what effect it would have on me. So what did I observe?

Caffeine withdrawal does exist

The first three days were the hardest of my experience. I had a headache and craved a cup of coffee, but now I feel like I have adequately broken this addiction.

Tea is a great substitute for a cup of coffee

I would regularly drink green tea at work in the afternoon, and a cup of English breakfast during the weekends. It’s not quite the same as a latte but deserves its place in the world.

Most importantly, I was still able to get stuff done

I still went out with colleagues, but I no longer had the afternoon lulls at work. Learning to manage my energy and not my time was a great piece of advice from Marie-Claire Dean.

Like most things, I feel that coffee falls into the bucket of everything in moderation. I have learned that I don’t need to have coffee to be productive. When the first day of April came around, I enjoyed a Latte from Bluebottle, and it tasted great. I have regained my appreciation for coffee, and now it is a treat to be savored not to be gulped down.