This post is dedicated to reader “Kendall” who inquired about this recently. :)
Coffee has been my life for years. I am sure I have spent thousands of dollars in the last 10 years drinking nice coffee from the many excellent cafes here in Seattle, or brewing coffee at home. I am picky about coffee, which was an issue when I lived in the EU because iced coffee is uncommon (but the lattes were awesome), and I can’t drink coffee straight-black. I am a coffee-snob. :(
This is a problem because it costs both money and calories. Money because it’s an expensive habit, and calories because of all those sweet espresso drinks (and the pastries they sell with them).
I’ve tried many times to quit coffee, or just switch to tea, but it often fails. In my last trip to Japan, I really developed a taste for oolong tea. It has the same benefits of green tea, but doesn’t taste like lawn clippings, and is really cheap and easy to get in cold, bottled form. I drank it often instead of Coke or Coffee, and had big plans to keep drinking it here in the US, but that plan quickly ran out of steam because bottled, cold oolong tea is hard to get and expensive. You can buy large gallons of it, which are good, quite not practical where I work. And sometimes, I found I still craved coffee for improbable reasons (probably because of the sugar).
The wise sage over at AJATT wrote a nice post about the problem with personal projects: like military strategies, they quickly fall apart in real life. As his post explains, you have to make the process fit the person, not the other way around. Make a clear, concrete goal, and then adapt your process to reach toward that goal, even if process is slow and flawed.
So, my goal is to stop buying coffee at cafe’s. Just doing that will at least save $100-$150 a month, and save plenty of calories I don’t need anyway. If I can break the coffee habit altogether, that’s a bonus but not required.
I realized that in order to stop doing something, I have to put something else desirable in its place. For me, this was tea.
True to AJATT’s advice, I’ve been experimenting and evolving my strategy here. We have coffee and tea bags at work but frankly they don’t taste good. So instead I just bought some cheap tea of my own:
The Yamamotoyama brand of oolong tea costs $5 a box but has 20 bags in it, so I pay some money up front but I save a lot in return. Also it’s pretty good tea. Not gourmet but easy to prepare and good. The green tea is also good but hard to find so I probably won’t buy often.
But with help from my wife I discovered other good alternatives. Lately, my family and I have been enjoying Korean corn-tassel tea (옥수수수염차, oksusu suyeom cha):
My wife tried it first in Japan after shopping at Shin Okubo, and because it has no caffeine my daughter can drink it too. Soon all 3 of us started drinking it regularly. It’s slightly sweet but has a good, smoked, earthy flavor too. Because we shop at a local H-Mart regularly, it’s very easy and cheap for us to buy a large box and drink that for a couple weeks.
But even for coffee we found we liked Asian freeze-dried coffee a lot too:
This brand, Maxim (맥심 maegsim), comes in small packets, complete with sugar and freeze-dried cream so you just add hot water:
It’s not gourmet coffee but surprisingly good for something so cheap. Somehow it reminds me of the “Spice” from Dune. Unlike the Spice, it doesn’t cost a planet to buy it; you can buy it in bulk-sized containers for cheap and it will last a while. It won’t save calories but does help when I still crave coffee. Sometimes, I drink coffee, sometimes I drink tea. But I am trying really hard lately to avoid buying coffee at cafes. Each time I do, it saves me at least $4 or as much as $7.
The point here is that having a concrete goal and being flexible about how to accomplish it has proven much more effective and fun than my old method of self-discipline followed by procrastination and guilt.