So coffee has never been something I have ever really liked - give me cakes, sweets, or even icing sugar strait from the packet and I’d be set, but coffee just never did anything for me. I used to drink it when I was younger because I saw it as an ‘adult’ thing to do, like being able to drive and having a job, but I could only handle about a half shot with flavoured syrup and a kilo of sugar to mask the taste. And for me it was always decaf, because even that made me feel kind of hot and weird and off the wall, if only for a few minutes, and then it would make me feel like curling up in a ball and taking a nap – not the affect its supposed to have, and certainly not what other people seemed to be experiencing.
So for a few years I’d drink the occasional super weak decaf coffee, to be seen to be drinking coffee, but it just never really did anything for me so eventually I just stopped bothering. Then I ironically got a job at a coffee shop, which meant I not only had to learn how to make coffee, I also had to know what the different coffees where, as having never ventured past a Latte I had no clue, but I slowly picked it up, and along with it I also picked up the habit of making myself a coffee on a shift, trying different types etc, and found I was no longer was indifferent to coffee, I just strait up didn’t like them anymore, and when I tried to explain it to the other people I work with they looked at me like I had grown an extra head – like “how can you possibly function without coffee?”. At first their obvious confusion and in some cases judgment of my dislike of coffee made me feel like I should like it – was I weird? But the longer I worked there the more my conviction grew than in fact, my dislike of coffee was a blessing in disguise.
Every shift, especially in the morning, I would encounter people who struggled to count out change, or even make polite small talk because they hadn’t had their coffee yet. At first it didn’t register, but slowly I began to notice it more and more, the signs that people where literally addicted to coffee and without it normal function was a struggle. Then I began to notice things like age groups – children as young as 8 coming in for espresso shots and regulars, people who came in everyday and even several times a day for coffee.
Over the Christmas week we opened a bit later and closed early because the company only closed for one day out of the year, and the number of furious people who came in outraged that we weren’t open on Christmas day, and that we weren’t open early enough or late enough for them to get there coffee was staggering – I couldn’t believe that some people couldn’t go without a shop bought coffee for one day! And it’s a part of the normal conversation, people come in and apologise for their zombie like behaviour because they haven’t had a coffee, and no one bats an eyelid, because everyone is in the same boat, and the only reason I look at it and wonder, is because coffee isn’t my thing and so I have never understood the hype.
And so over the months I have been there I have been watching and wondering, and doing some research because the science of things always interests me, and it’s a fact that the way coffee affects your brain is very similar to a drug, and that your brain starts to rely on the coffee to do something that otherwise would normally be performed by the body, which is keep you awake during the day and make you tired at night. However when you drink coffee this inhibits this mechanism and makes you feel more awake than you are, and over time can really mess with your body clock because the body no longer has control over making you feel awake or tired. So then it becomes a cycle – you need coffee to keep you awake because drinking coffee is throwing your body out of whack and making you feel awake when your really tired and so on.
In slightly more scientific terms, there is a chemical that is produced in the brain when you are awake, and for simplicity we can call in Chemical A.
Chemical A accumulates the more you are awake and binds O receptors in your brain, making you feel tired. The more chemical A there is, the more tired you feel, which makes sense because the longer you are awake the more tired you become. And then as you sleep chemical A levels decline, making you feel less tired when you wake up. So where does coffee come in? The caffeine in coffee is very similar to chemical A, and so when the caffeine works its way to the brain, it displaces chemical A on the receptors, but because it isn’t chemical A, it doesn’t give you the tired feeling, preventing the calming and tiring affects of chemical A and making you feel more awake then you actually are.
Over time, to try and combat this, your brain creates more receptors for chemical A to try and re-balance your body clock, meaning more caffeine is needed to have the same affect, but it also means that when you try to quit drinking coffee you experience with-drawl symptoms because suddenly the receptors are free to bind with chemical A again, causing you to feel more tired then before you started drinking coffee. The affects however don’t stop there, caffeine also stimulates the production of adrenaline, our fight or flight system that if produced a lot over time can really wear down the body, and increases heart rate, blood pressure and breathing which can be a real problem in some people. Also caffeine has the same, if milder affects as cocaine, preventing the re-absorption of a chemical in the brain, which makes you feel happy, and this is also why caffeine is addictive. Many people use caffeine’s natural origins as an excuse for why its good for you, except that falls down when you know that it is used in plants as a insect repellant and pesticide, so basically we have made a naturally occurring repellant/insect poison into a hot beverage, because why not?
So this made me stop and wonder why we have shops and supermarket aisles dedicated solely to selling what is basically a type of drug ? And it’s the world's second most traded commodity after oil!
But hey I’m not one to talk in a lot of respects, because I have been known to eat sugar out of a bag if there isn’t anything sweet to eat in the house, because for me the go to thing to keep me awake or pick me up is sugar, which has just as many negative and addictive side affects as caffeine. And its something I still work on cutting down in my diet, because knowing the negative affects, and actually doing something to change can be really hard. Many people are fully aware of the negative affects of smoking, drinking, caffeine or fast food and yet they still choose to eat/drink them. For me I am lucky to never have had to deal with giving up coffee or smoking, but for me cutting down on sugar has been really hard, but the turning point came when I realised that I was exhausted all the time because of all the sugar I ate, and in the end, being exhausted won out over the taste of sugar. Exhaustion is something almost everyone can relate to and has experienced in the past if not daily, and yet it has become entirely normal to not be able to get up in the morning naturally, or go to sleep naturally, or be productive or even function during the day with out artificial help. It is normal because no one stops to question it because everyone does it, and because the people who don’t do it are made to feel like they are the ones out of place, when really it might just be the outside perspective that is needed to make a change.
All of the blogs on From Our Eyes have been written by young people. They are about the kind of issues and problems teenagers face on a constant basis, as well as worldwide epidemics that not only youth, but EVERYONE experiences day to day.