How much caffeine is too much?

How much caffeine is too much?

It’s a well-known fact that coffee is full of caffeine, a natural stimulant that helps with alertness and energy. However, as more people consume coffee every day, we have to wonder how caffeine affects people, and whether the side-effects (such as headaches and anxiety) can be avoided. Our founder James met up with Ryan, the founder of Blendsmiths, to talk about his experiences with caffeine and creating a caffeine-free alternative to coffee.

When he was 29, Ryan was diagnosed with OAB (overactive bladder) and was advised by his doctor to cut down on the amount of coffee he was drinking. “I loved coffee, everything about it, the variety of drinks, the abundance of joy found in visiting coffee shops and here I was, at the time doing my dream job, plying my trade as a coffee aficionado but something had to change.” And change he did. (To read more about Ryan’s experiences with OAB, head over to the Blendsmiths blog!)

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Ryan drinking the Blendsmiths beetroot blend

“At the time the most difficult thing for me was breaking the daily habit,” said Ryan. “I found this really hard but when I did and I cut down the caffeine consumption, I found drifting off to sleep a little easier, even though I’m one of those people who has a million great ideas (in my opinion) just as I want to close my eyes. I also noticed my skin seemed more alive, the dark circles around my eyes lifted and the anxiousness I was feeling had subsided.”

James has also found that working in the coffee industry has affected him. “After joining the world of speciality coffee via Sanremo Coffee Machines I was exposed to working with over 50+ coffee roasters across the UK & Ireland. This meant being exposed to drinking some of the best speciality grade coffee available and I was drinking up to 10 cups a day. This was far too much and it became not just a habit but an obligation as I visited clients and they offered me their freshly roasted coffee. I noticed some negative side-effects (face twitching, lack of appetite and not being able to switch off from work) and this was also affecting the quality of my sleep.”

Now, having cut down on the amount of caffeine he consumes, Ryan feels that he has considerably improved his physiological and psychological well-being. “I’m physically more alert, energetic and that in turn benefits my mind set, in the same breath my innate ability to overly worry isn’t exasperated by some of the unfortunate by-products that caffeine can bring such as heightened blood pressure, apprehension, twitchiness or the shakes.”

James has also cut down on his caffeine intake. “It wasn’t actually too hard to adjust my coffee intake, I just became more conscious of it and began drinking lots of water which helps a lot. Tip: stop drinking coffee after around 3pm and it’ll allow plenty of time for the caffeine to leave your system in preparation for sleep. I used to have coffee downers and headaches but now it’s reduced with my lower intake. I currently drink on average 2 coffees per day, occasionally reaching a maximum of 3.”

James Bellis Founder

James enjoying one of his two cups of coffee a day

As he was cutting down on coffee, Ryan tried alternatives like ‘Superfood Lattes’. Dissatisfied with the taste, he then decided to create his own – and that’s when Blendsmiths was born. “There are many similarities between coffee and our blends, from cultivation through to brewing and one of the reasons why I’m so passionate about it. Baristas up and down the country spend hours perfecting the way they prepare, pour and present drinks. Now, cafe professionals are experimenting with our blends to improve taste just like they would with great coffee.”

He continued, “In my opinion the more ‘alternative’ options that become readily available and actually taste good, the better! The more that we all learn about mental and physical health, which right now is getting the attention it duly deserves, the more we consider what we fuel our bodies with.”

James agreed. “There’s definitely more awareness about the effects of too much caffeine. It’s important to drink coffee not just for the ‘pick me up’. For me, the art of making coffee is also a momentary pause a couple of times a day to be with my thoughts and not think about work or the next new idea.” He added, “It’s a great idea for people to be open to alternatives such as Blendsmiths, or to decaf coffee. My favourite from Blendsmiths is the Beetroot Blend, it’s so interesting. There are also some truly wonderful decafs available today that taste exactly like caffeinated coffee. Our current decaf coffee is from Guatemala and uses a CO2 decaffeination process to extract the caffeine content.”

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Caffeine-free alternatives from Blendsmiths

Finally, when asked for advice on how to cut down on caffeine, Ryan explained, “Everybody is different in how they approach changes and what actually works for them, so my advice would be if one method doesn’t work, don’t give up. If you drink too many energy drinks (high caffeine) or more than 3 coffees a day, reduce this intake and create a habitual cycle for yourself. Seek out alternative options, ask people you respect and look up to. Ask them what they’re drinking at the moment and what they eat in the morning.”

He added, “For me, a holistic approach certainly helped – identifying a few things in my daily life that could be better for my mental and physical health. Just to be clear, I’m not condemning the consumption of caffeine, by no means at all – I still love coffee, drink tea and lots of matcha. It’s just about balance (pun absolutely intended). Everything in moderation, right?!”

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