My Doomed Romance With Coffee


Scientists say genetics may explain some people’s high caffeine consumption. And I’m pretty sure that some day, my genes will explain why coffee makes me crazy.

According to the BBC, researchers have found genes that control the way people’s bodies process caffeine — those with a certain variation drink, on average 40 mg more of the stuff on a daily basis than those without it. I’ve never been one of these high-caffeine consumers. The first time I had a full cup of coffee, I lay awake for hours with a strange rushing sensation in my head, and while I downed the occasional cup in college to stay awake during class, I never became a regular drinker. Then I went to grad school. I developed a new routine that involved doing most of my writing in coffee shops. And I discovered coffee was magic.

It was summer, a lot of my friends were out of town, and I had a lot of time to myself. I’d take my notebook, order a giant iced coffee, and start scribbling like a madwoman. As the coffee took effect, I’d write faster and faster, ever more convinced of my own superhuman powers. I could crank out pages and pages in a single day, and everything I wrote felt like pure genius. I’d leave the coffee shop at sundown, ready to beat up a wildebeest.

And then I’d crash. At first I didn’t really understand why I felt a sense of doom at 6 PM every day, or why I also got kind of shaky, or why I sometimes had to sit in the same chair and read magazines for several hours until my feelings of free-floating anxiety passed. And when I did realize that my naturally nervous disposition was being magnified a hundredfold by caffeine withdrawal, I was at first reluctant to do anything about it. I would suffer for my art! But when the magazines themselves started to make me anxious (to be fair, this was my first summer working for Jezebel, and my first intensive exposure to ladymags), I had no further recourse. I quit cold turkey, and except for the occasional cup of decaf, I haven’t looked back.

I’ve long thought there was some physiological basis for the way coffee affect me — how else to explain the fact that what seems to be a normal beverage for other people behaves in my veins like an illegal drug? I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the flip side of the high-caffeine gene variant exists, producing in coffee drinkers brief feelings of grandiosity followed by a prolonged desire to hide under the bed. I assume this gene also governs one’s attraction to coffee-flavored hard candies, of which I currently eat about ten per day. These are pretty much like coffee except they don’t wake you up at all, and they rot your teeth. But boy are they delicious.

Coffee Addiction ‘In Your Genes’ [BBC]

Image via Feng Yu/

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