When I’m scrolling through blogs, one of my least favorite experiences is being unable to quickly determine the point of a post, to decide if I want to keep reading. I’m happy to invest the time in a post that I find interesting, but I want to be able to make that decision up front without having to read the entire post.
In that spirit: the purpose of this post is to describe why I switched from coffee to tea (spoiler: it has nothing to do with a presumptuous superiority complex), and the positive effects I’ve noticed from the switch.
I love my morning ritual, which always includes breakfast and a hot beverage. For years, coffee has been my hot beverage of choice. I never got into boutique or artisanal preparation methods, but I typically enjoyed a simple pour-over, or more recently, a cup from our small auto-drip coffee machine.
Like many people, I had seen the MUDWTR commercials, and for me they reeked of a presumptuousness and arrogance that I could not stand. I knew myself, and I knew that coffee was working for me - it didn’t make me jittery, it didn’t make my anxious, it wasn’t having any negative effects for me. I had no interest in dropping coffee.
A couple months ago, I had a week where I was consistently having an upset stomach. Nothing dire, but enough to notice it throughout the day. I could still eat and function normally, but eating was less pleasant and I was somewhat uncomfortable throughout the day. Towards the end of the week, I remembered a conversation I had with a friend recently where he described going to the doctor for an upset stomach. The doctor had recommended that he stop drinking coffee. I’m not sure if there was a medical justification for this, though I believe it was related to the high acidity of coffee, and perhaps the high caffeine content too. I figured I’d save myself a trip to the doctor and just try drinking tea instead.
Drinking tea was not a big jump for me. I have enjoyed tea most of my adult life, though less frequently than coffee. Rather than being a daily ritual, tea was an occasional indulgence. Transitioning to tea for a week felt like a totally natural option, particularly considering the stomach problems I was having.
What I noticed from drinking tea
After drinking tea for a week, I noticed my stomach feeling much better. At that point, I had a choice of going back to coffee or sticking with tea. I decided to stick with tea. To my surprise, it had less to do with my stomach pain, and more to do with the mental effects I noticed.
I’ve now been drinking tea regularly in the mornings for about 2 months. Today I had a cup of coffee again on a whim and was reminded of why I changed to tea. Here are some of the differences I notice between the two:
Drinking coffee makes me substantially less patient with the world around me. I work as a software engineer, so a normal part of my job includes troubleshooting and debugging strange issues. Even when I’m working on a new feature, there will often be a failing test that needs deeper investigation, or an obscure reason for a failed compilation. These kinds of everyday occurrences used to make me very frustrated and impatient. When I drink tea, I find it much easier to accept these as a natural part of my job, rather than a frustrating distraction from “the real work” (whatever that means 🙃). I also find that my increased patience extends to my colleagues. Rather than getting frustrated at my colleagues for “not going fast enough” or other inherently human traits, I more easily see these behaviors for what they are: a natural part of being human in a challenging world while balancing work with life.
Less mania and ego
Drinking coffee makes me feel a manic desire to create things immediately and abundantly. This is actually part of what I used to enjoy about coffee - after drinking my morning cup, I would feel intensely energized to build things, and I associated this with productivity and mental acuity. With tea, I feel much more inclined to work within my natural human boundaries. I still feel productive and satisfied with what I create, but I no longer feel the manic desire to build for the sake of building. For example, after drinking coffee, I often feel a strong desire to build complicated software for which I’m deeply inexperienced, such as a compiler. My mind will often start racing with possible ideas and solutions and I can’t wait to get to my computer and start banging out code.
The problem with this approach for me is that I am never able to follow through with these manic impulses. Perhaps some people are able to code nonstop for a whole weekend, but my moral compass leans towards balance: I want to nurture my romantic relationship, my friendships, and my mental health by getting outside or playing with my dog or making music. This led to a recurring cycle where I would actually be wasting energy thinking about what I could build… if only those pesky requirements of adult life could get out of my way. In a sense, this circles back to the impatience that coffee makes me feel: I was impatient with normal life because I felt like it was getting in the way of my “true potential”. When I drink tea, I have none of these delusions of grandeur, and none of the associated mania. Not only am I more patient, but I also feel none of the conflict between “must build things fast” and “need to live life”. My sense of what is possible and desirable and good is much more tightly bound to the reality of my available time.
A related positive effect: I’m more mentally willing to take breaks from work to focus on life. I work from home so I have a huge advantage in this regard, but whereas previously I would be unwilling to take a break to do laundry (for example), I’m now much more willing to take computer breaks to focus on non-work life tasks.
Oddly, I find the two above points coalesce in one really positive conclusion: I find myself being less focused on myself, and more focused on people around me. Remembering friends’ birthdays, remembering to check in with family about big life events, remembering that my girlfriend has a busy day and I could help her out by making a sandwich, remembering to congratulate colleagues on successes at work - all of these things feel easier and more natural when I’m drinking tea. For me, this ends up being a substantial positive effect in my life. It strengthens my relationships as well as making me feel good while doing achievable things.
For me, switching from coffee to tea has led to a greater sense of peace in my life. I still love coffee as an occasional treat, but don’t see myself going back to daily coffee anytime soon. But as always, you do you 🙂.