I Traded My Coffee for Tea and Here’s What Happened

Most mornings, within about an hour or two of waking up, I join millions of other people in having a cup of coffee. And sometimes (read: almost always), I drink a cup in the afternoon if I feel like I need a boost. It’s a pretty ordinary habit that I adopted somewhere along the way, and now it’s just an accepted part of my daily routine.

Still, even though I don’t drink a ridiculous amount, I often find myself wondering whether I actually need that coffee. Am I really not already awake and refreshed in the morning? And is it the grind of the day or the coffee that’s causing my energy to plummet?

So I decided to experiment. For two weeks, I gave up coffee and drank tea in its place. (Prior to this, I typically would only drink herbal tea in the evenings to relax.) I chose not to limit myself to caffeine-free tea, as I wanted to see whether the small amount of caffeine in some teas would be all I needed for an energy boost. Most often, I reached for my favorite green tea to fill my coffee cup. Here’s what happened.

At first, coffee’s absence was looming

During the first week of cutting coffee, it felt like I was forgetting to do something. Each morning, I was a little out of sorts and couldn’t shake the sense that my day hadn’t really begun. And it’s possible the habit itself was causing these strange feelings, even above any true physical cravings. “Over the course of time, you may have become psychologically dependent on the ritual of coffee drinking,” according to Healthline. “So when you try to remove a binding psychological element like coffee, it can feel awkward.”

Unfortunately, replacing my coffee with tea didn’t do much for this feeling. I had become so used to the smell and taste of coffee to jump-start my day that nothing else would do the trick — regardless of its caffeine content. On the bright side, I didn’t experience any headaches associated with caffeine withdrawal. That might have been because I wasn’t a heavy coffee drinker to begin with. But the small amount of caffeine in the tea potentially helped, as well.

Tea didn’t become my new craving

hands holding a cup of herbal teaCredit: solidcolours/Getty Images

After the first week, it seemed like my body no longer expected to smell and taste coffee every morning. I wasn’t necessarily craving a cup of tea in its place. But I also didn’t feel like I was missing the coffee in my morning routine anymore. This further points toward the cravings being largely psychological, and over time I suspect my body might develop similar cravings for tea if I let it.

Moreover, on the days when I got enough sleep, ate healthy foods and drank enough water, I learned I really didn’t crave any caffeine source to maintain my energy. I still made a cup of tea at the times when I would have had my coffee for the sake of my experiment. But more than anything, drinking the tea became an enjoyable treat to break up the monotony of water — and not a craving on which I was dependent.

Some days still were ‘coffee days’

There were the days when tea was perfectly adequate. And then there were the days when I really could have used a more powerful jolt. One night in particular my dog woke me up, and for whatever reason it took a couple of hours for me to fall back asleep. That next day, I was dragging. Under normal circumstances, I would have used coffee as an easy solution to carry me through the day. And unfortunately, tea just didn’t cut it.

Still, it isn’t ideal to use coffee — or any caffeine source — as a frequent energy crutch. And not having it at my disposal forced me to consider other methods to boost my energy — a nap, a quick walk, a healthy snack, etc. “Enjoy a daily cup or two of coffee … but don’t use it as a substitute for other healthy behaviors,” Rush University Medical Center recommends.

Tea seemed to prevent energy crashes

Tea might not have been the shot in the arm that I needed when I was majorly tired. But it possibly had more subtle positive effects on my overall energy level. On some days (prior to the experiment) when I drank a cup of coffee, I would experience a noticeable energy crash a while later. I never could quite pinpoint why that occurred because my coffee consumption stayed relatively the same day to day. It’s possible those cups of coffee were different somehow. Or my energy already was declining from something else, and the caffeine drop didn’t help. Regardless, switching to tea seemed to prevent any major crashes.

Plus, I never had trouble falling asleep at night as a tea drinker, but I definitely can’t say the same for coffee — especially when I would use it as an afternoon energy pick-me-up. “Using caffeine to mask sleep deprivation can create an unwelcome cycle,” Mayo Clinic says. “For example, you may drink caffeinated beverages because you have trouble staying awake during the day. But the caffeine keeps you from falling asleep at night, shortening the length of time you sleep.” So impaired sleep from too much coffee also might have contributed to those energy crashes, which the switch to tea largely resolved.

Coffee will stay in my life — with more moderation

coffee being poured into a mugCredit: grandriver/Getty Images

Drinking tea instead of coffee — and cutting a fair amount of caffeine in the process — was an enlightening experience. Once I got over the cravings, I learned I really didn’t need coffee as often as I was drinking it. And my energy level was much more predictable with tea. On the flip side, tea was a little too mild for me during those days when I really needed an energy boost. Thus, coffee will continue to be a part of my diet.

But now, I’ll try not to drink my coffee simply out of habit, aiming for smaller quantities that won’t be such an influence on my energy. And I’ll sub in more cups of tea for some variety, as well. This seems to be the best fit for my life — for now at least. And because everyone responds slightly differently to caffeine and has various energy needs and beverage preferences, it’s important to find what works best for your body — whether it be through a very unscientific experiment like this or (better yet) with the help of your doctor.

Main image credit: CasarsaGuru/Getty Images

91 comments

Caitlin L
Caitlin L17 days ago

thank you

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Vincent T
Vincent T18 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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Karen K
Karen K18 days ago

I use coffee for performance enhancers-- when I'm giving talks or want extra energy for a long morning of talking with people, but use it only occasionally so it works that way. I have matcha tea in the am to help my brain, but I don't notice headaches or withdrawal if I don't take it. No caffeine after noon...

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Vincent T
Vincent T18 days ago

tyfs

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beba h
beba h19 days ago

I love chai tea.

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Teresa W
Teresa W19 days ago

I have also cut down on coffee considerably.

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Teresa W
Teresa W19 days ago

thank you

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Janis K
Janis K19 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Leo C
Leo Custer19 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Sandra V
Sandra V20 days ago

Thanks

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