This photo is quite intense, but coffee addiction is real! Photo via The Black Sheep Online.

Overcoming Coffee with Yerba Mate

The beginning of my coffee addiction

I never liked coffee until about my mid twenties. I found some sugary sweet drink that was something called a “latte,” and ended up liking it; I ordered one whenever I met my friends at a coffee shop. Over time I noticed that these things also carried quite the “zing” (and jitters among other things) after I drank it. Before I knew it, a couple years later, I was having a coffee every other day. Then I got married and my wife loved coffee. She brewed it all the time at home, so I started having a cup here and there and made my own version of latte’s. Fast forward five years later, and I’m a two cup of coffee drinker per day. If it was a late night, it could be 3-4 cups of coffee to get the engine going.

As time progressed, I noticed a change in the color of my teeth (as do all coffee drinkers usually). I brush my teeth regularly, so it’s not a hygiene issue. My dentist told me “you have very porous teeth, and if you drink coffee, it will be absorbed into your teeth. Sure you can brush, but that’s why your teeth are looking a shade or two darker.” That literally grossed me out. I was also growing very tired of the jitters and was beginning to have problems sleeping at night because I had so much coffee flowing through my system. I wanted to quit; I was done. I also wanted brighter teeth (and better smelling breath, who likes coffee breath, anyway?). So I tried to quit cold turkey…oops.

Coffee isn’t always your friend. Photo via Authority Nutrition.
Coffee isn’t always your friend. Photo via Authority Nutrition.

Why I quit drinking coffee

Second day into quitting, the massive headaches hit. I was grumpy, blah, not feeling good. Long story short, I started drinking coffee again. I tried cutting back, but it didn’t work. I tried slowly removing myself off of coffee; nope, didn’t work. I eventually didn’t even like the taste of it anymore, but I needed it. I couldn’t believe it…I was hooked on coffee. What the hell! How could I let this happen!? Almost amused at the fact that I was hooked, I posted on Facebook about how I was addicted to coffee and wanted to get off, but wasn’t sure how. I mentioned I liked Yerba Mate and was going to give it a try, but it seemed that the tea packets didn’t pack enough punch to help me get past NOT drinking coffee. That’s when my old friend Mateo commented and said I needed to try the loose leaf tea instead.

This photo is quite intense, but coffee addiction is real! Photo via The Black Sheep Online.
This photo is quite intense, but coffee addiction is real! Photo via The Black Sheep Online.

How Yerba Mate entered my life

After some conversation with Mateo about the loose leaf, I was able to finally get my hands on some. It was loose leaf Guayaki Yerba Mate, as well as a gourd (a gourd is a cup that is made from a gourd plant and is used in traditional drinking of the mate). Mateo informed me that drinking the loose leaf Yerba Mate allowed the mate to be brewed as strong as coffee. Using the gourd took some getting used to, but I enjoyed it. It was a different experience and I’m glad to have one. However, I’m a klutz and I work at the computer a good part of the day, so I could possibly spill it over a few thousand dollars worth of equipment – not good. To combat this and still have the great effects of the loose leaf tea, but to also be safe around my electronics, I picked up a French Press Travel Mug. I can now bring Mate with me while I travel.

I used the gourd for about two weeks and noticed a great improvement in my quality of life. The first major benefit I noticed was that I slept like a rock at night. Apparently yerba mate helps you sleep at night when you drink it during the day. Very cool. The second was that I did not have any caffeine/coffee withdrawals – I had plenty of energy. Third, I didn’t experience the jitters or crash that you can get with coffee or even black or green tea. I also felt VERY CLEAN when I drank it. Sometimes coffee (even with rice milk or almond milk) still sat very heavy in my stomach at times (this was only my experience so your mileage may vary). I did not have the brown staining effects of coffee as well as nasty coffee breath. Finally, I was able to kick the coffee habit. The one super nice thing about this? I’m able to enjoy an infrequent cup of coffee again. I still love the smell and the occasional taste of it. So, every couple of weeks, or maybe once a month, I’ll have a cup of coffee; iced coffee or something that has coffee in it, simply because I want to…not because I have to. I’ve been able to go days without drinking tea and not have cravings or withdrawals of the sort. Overall it’s been a great experience.

There’s nothing like a gourd of Yerba Mate. Photo via Unstress Yourself.
There’s nothing like a gourd of Yerba Mate. Photo via Unstress Yourself.

Kicking the coffee habit with Yerba Mate

Tips on kicking the coffee habit with mate: I’ve tried a few brands of mate and the kind that worked best for me (and the kind I liked the best) was the Guayaki Yerba Mate. You can find it at health stores like Whole Foods. Make sure you buy the loose leaf kind and make sure you have a tea infuser, coffee maker or french press.

Quitting coffee is like quitting any other drug – you have to be emotionally invested in quitting. Spend a few bucks, get a good infuser (get used to the occasional leaf in your tea, it won’t kill you) and/or a gourd. Drink it early in the morning when you wake up or when you normally drink coffee (I know many folks who only drink coffee after lunch). Basically…replace it with your coffee routine.

I now take a bag of mate with me when I travel, as well as my travel french press. Hot water is usually easily found at a hotel and then you’re off to a good morning with some good tea.

Have fun and enjoy!

Donn Felker is the founder of Caster.IO, an online training company for developers.

Originally posted on Donn Felker’s blog