Awhile ago over my morning matcha I was reflecting on how I used to never drink/need/want caffeine in my life, but now it’s a staple. My preferences have changed greatly over the years, and I realized that so much of what is going on in my life has a direct output on my caffeine intake, both in style and quantity. Sometimes, holding a mug or seeing a specific brand brings me back to a certain time in my life, which I can’t say is true with many other food groups! A quick reflection on the past 25 or so years of my life tells a pretty interesting story, so grab your favorite caffeinated beverage and join me as I weave a tale of frappucinos and matcha…
My earliest memories of caffeine are actually of my mom driving me to school in a robe, with one hand on the steering wheel and the other around her mug of coffee. She was always trying not to spill it as the car kicked in to gear, which was quite a feat considering our circular driveway on top of a hill! Because of her morning love of coffee I tried it a few times back then, every time spitting it out wondering how anyone could possibly stomach one, let alone, two cups of this bitter sludge every morning.
I still thought that coffee was bitter sludge, as I think most kids do at that age. For the record, I thought beer and wine were disgusting too… but as we know, those taste buds tend to adapt a little earlier at that age ;) The only exception I made for caffeine was twice a year during dance recitals. We always had one afternoon recital and one evening, and in between the two shows, my girlfriends and I would walk to our local Starbucks and I would ‘treat myself’ to a Caramel Frappucino aka dessert. Because of how little caffeine I took in those days, I got a serious high from these drinks, giving me just the energy I needed for the second recital. Looking back I’m sure it was more of a sugar high than a caffeine one, but nevertheless, they were the gateway to more serious caffeination.
College meant freedom to buy whatever I wanted, even though I had to pay for it with my own money. That translates to bottled frappucino beverages and a strawberry icing covered granola bar from a kiosk every morning before class. I would treat myself (still using that term here) to this combo at least 3 times a week before my 8am classes, as the sugary combo was low calorie (compared to the bagels everyone else was having) and effective. Eventually I decided to save money by buying the granola bars in bulk from a grocery store, but I still bought those bottled frappucino drinks and still have fond memories of slowly drinking them to savor every last drop.
Now, I was really frugal. I gave up coffee completely unless it was free, because when you are counting every dollar that goes out (as I did and still do), coffee had to go. I never really drank it for caffeinated reasons anyway, so I was never hooked. I pretty much gave it up for 4 years until my second job, where one of my responsibilities was being a Buyer for specialty treats and beverages, which included fancy teas. Since I was the Buyer, some of the best teas in the world, including Mariage Freres, Kusmi and TWG, were sent to me so that I could taste and decide what to offer in our store. Thus began my TEA-ducation, and my almost complete switch to tea as my main caffeination source.
Still being frugal, I did not want to spend a dime on going treating myself. Instead at my new job, I stocked my desk drawer with all of my favorite high and low end teas to enjoy up to 3 cups a day. Again, this wasn’t really for an intense caffeine jolt, but more to have something to hold every morning and sip on in boring meetings. I usually started the day with French Breakfast or Tazo Chai (specifically because this was the brand Starbucks used so I felt especially good about getting it for the fraction of the price), and finished with Green Tea (I have so many I like, it’s hard to choose!). Because I was making all this tea myself, I was pretty psycho about using MY MUG every single day, washing it out and using it again. It was a tall black Dean & Deluca mug, which held a lot of liquid but had less room to spill. I was obsessed with it, which is why you can imagine my Ross Gellar style RAGE when I came in to work one day to find that someone had stolen it out of the dishwasher for themselves! Someone at the Coach offices is using my mug still, and if you are reading this and it’s you, I would appreciate it back, please!
Working From Home
Things changed drastically once I moved back to California and started working from home. I made my own schedule, so I treated myself every damn day. Not going out (please, once stingy, always stingy), but making myself matcha lattes at home (my favorite being Ippodo). That means heating up the water, going through the typically matcha ritual with the bamboo tea ladle and bamboo whisk, frothing my own milk and dusting with matcha on top. Sometimes, I would just have the tea, but more often than not I made the latte, because this was one thing that I could count on as a ritual every day. I also started getting into self-care, which meant lots of hot water with lemon. These two together were my antioxidant cleanse warriors to give me caffeine but not any of the side effects. My husband knew my hot water and lemon habit so well, that he would wake me up with it in the morning before I would take him to work. I would put on my robe, grab the full mug and drive him one-handed to work every morning, careful not to spill. Hmmm… sound familiar?
Life with a Baby
While I am still a die-hard matcha lover… the time for that morning ritual is long gone. I now race to wake up before Marina loses her mind every morning, turning on the Nespresso for a quick espresso with almond milk before returning to bed to nurse her. Almost every time it gets cold before I manage to finish even that tiny amount, which I then reheat mid-morning and chug. If I’m feeling particularly tired in the afternoon I will make myself a green tea or a matcha, but most days I don’t want the extra caffeine for fear I won’t be able to fall asleep at night. On weekends when Mr. R is around, we go out. He gets a coffee, and I, after 32 years of being stingy, truly ‘treat myself’ to a $5 matcha latte with almond milk.
The irony is not lost on me, but really, I appreciate the treat now more than I ever would have years ago, whether I need the caffeine or not. It’s symbolizes a long journey in priorities shifting, and sacrifice for eventual gratification.
I’m not sure where the next stage of life will take my caffeine intake, but I am sure that no matter what, it will be a reflection of what is going on in my life.
What does your caffeine intake say about your life?