Mornings in my house start with a shot of hot, dark espresso. A mix of Espresso, Sumatra, and Great Lakes blend organic beans go into the grinder as needed; then, a little bit of Gaggia magic and out comes that elixir into a double glass-walled espresso glass. This may be the only moment of delicious peace in the day. This is ritual. It’s also the only direct hit of caffeine I have in a day, and it isn’t very much: about 80 mg.

I enjoy coffee and am not too fussed about the caffeine thing, a chemical substance classified as a stimulant with addictive properties. (Not quite like cocaine in Coca-Cola in its early days.)   I don’t consume enough to worry, but I am paying attention, because increasingly, caffeine is showing up everywhere, a variety of energy drinks, certain medications, candies and chewing gum. Why is that? Keep us active and headache free? Give us more awake time to do things we enjoy that involves spending money? Is there….a conspiracy to get and keep us addicted to caffeine? And how much caffeine is in what, anyway?

Brewed tea
Black tea, 8 oz (240 mL) …40-120
Black tea, decaffeinated, 8 oz (240 mL) …….2-10
Starbucks Tazo Chai Tea Latte, 16 oz (480 mL) ……..100
Stash Premium Green, 6 oz (180 mL) ……….26


Anacin, Maximum Strength, 2 tablets …………………….64
Excedrin, Extra Strength, 2 tablets …………………..130
NoDoz, Maximum Strength, 1 tablet ………………….200

Caffeine is in PMS pills too, which is odd, because isn’t caffeine supposed to contribute to PMS? It’s true that the science is not definitive on caffeine: for every study that says it’s okay, there’s another one that says it isn’t.  At any rate, I hunted around a bit to see if I could find evidence of a caffeine conspiracy. Came up empty handed.

But coffee?

Well..after oil, coffee is the world’s second most widely traded commodity. And coffee and caffeine are inextricably linked. Conspiracy might be TOO strong a word, but let me say this about that.  The International Coffee Organization (ICO) headquarted in London, and created under the auspices of the United Nations has some curious information on its website:


Efforts to promote consumption have a key role to play in achieving a balanced and more sustainable world coffee economy…


A constraint for increasing coffee consumption is the linking of coffee with fears about its effects on health by part of the population, particularly in certain countries. However, there is now significant scientific information available on a number of positive health effects of coffee drinking, including its high content of antioxidants.”

Interesting, no?

(And just out of curiosity, what is London England’s claim to coffee, exactly? (Think Imperialism + monopoly).  Oh..the next time you’re there, do drop into the little Tea + Coffee Museum.  I absolutely loved it. It’s very cool and has fun tea and coffee related items.)

There’s more fascinating tidbits of info on the ICO’s website, including how coffee beans are expected to be in short supply through 2010 for a variety of reasons and as a result, prices are going to remain high in spite of the slow global economy.

What’s interesting about that is this: a few years ago, Viet Nam re-entered the coffee producing/exporting business which it was in before the war. The beans produced are of a different quality and less expensive than those of Brazil and other coffee producing nations, but it sold well and forced coffee prices down, causing a crisis in the industry. What happened then? A strong marketing focus on differentiation and quality, oh and coolness factors of certain types of coffee beans.

I don’t know if it’s the same where you live, but here in Toronto, that cool coffee culture is alive and well.  We can never have too many cafes. My favs remain Dark Horse, Broadview Espresso, aka the Porn Coffee Shop, F’Coffee, The Mercury and for exceptional Americano, The Beaver. But in truth, many of Toronto’s cafes have good espresso. Bad coffee is just going out of style.

But it seems no matter how much coffee we drink, we (Canada) don’t come near Finland, in terms of our coffee consumption. Who knew?

I did a detox thing about 16 months ago, and the naturopath was adamant about giving up coffee. I got home and in a meditation went to my happy place and thought about it. Could I do it..?  Would I do it? Would it make a difference?  I could, I did, it did.

Would I do it again?

Well, to paraphrase the guy who played Moses and Ben Hur, you’ll have to pry my double walled glass out of my cold, dead hands before I give up my little shot of espresso.

I don’t know why caffeine in everything these days, but I am not entirely convinced that there isn’t a wee bit of a cartel behind those bags o’ beans. Something to think about when I make my next hot, dark espresso with slurpy, gorgeous crema.


About FS

Toronto, Canada. Writing about slices of life, the moments and minor details of which come into awareness or out of imagination and the spaces inbetween.
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  1. Buuba Ray says:

    You have no idea how much of a conspiracy caffiene (and consequently chocolate) actually is. Isnt it funny how cigarette companies are forced to put warnings on every pack of cigs sold. “warning may cause emphysema,lung cancer,etc” But I wonder what all caffeine causes? Anxiety,Panic Attacks,Unwarranted Depression,Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and more. Just a thought…

  2. Max says:

    Geez, Frances…it’s 10:59 p.m. and though I, too, , keep the caffeine consumption down to one a day, I suddenly want to get dressed and go get my double-double now. Good post, my sister. Few could could resist reading this.

    Love you,

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