Judging Java: Caffeine and mindfulness

Written By Jake Dabkowski, Coffee Columnist

Last week, I wrote about Iced Vanilla Lattes, and one drink that I talked about was the Vanilla Sweet Cream Nitro Cold Brew from Starbucks. What I found out about the Vanilla Sweet Cream Nitro Cold Brew when I was writing the article is that it has an ungodly amount of caffeine: 265 milligrams. A traditional cup of coffee has around 60 milligrams of caffeine, so adding 200 milligrams on top is a lot of caffeine.

This got me thinking about caffeine because it’s something I never really talk about in this column. Part of the reason that I don’t talk about caffeine is that caffeine affects people differently. When I review a cup of coffee, I like to talk about the things that are always going to be consistent for everyone. If a cup of coffee tastes very bitter to me, it will almost certainly taste very bitter to you as well. But if a cup of coffee makes me feel incredibly energetic, you might end up having a panic attack and impulse buy a bunch of Legos because the thought of building a Lego set calms you down. Maybe that analogy doesn’t work for you, but I know personally whenever I am having a bad day or am very anxious about the fact that I am seemingly witnessing the collapse of civilization in begrudging slow motion, I like to buy Legos. They are very fun to build and never fail to make me very happy. They are, and I am not speaking hyperbolically, one of the coolest things ever. If it could be, this column would be about Legos instead of about coffee. But I digress.

Caffeine is a very interesting substance. It’s the widest consumed drug in America, and an estimated 90% of Americans drink caffeine daily. It’s different for everyone, but I’m going to be honest: I think that we have played god when it comes to caffeine strength in coffee. I feel as though some of the cold brew drinks on the market now are unnecessarily strong. A twelve ounce can of Red Bull has only 110 milligrams of caffeine. I like Red Bull, but I don’t love Red Bull. When I drink Red Bull it is usually either before work, while working on a big assignment, or when traveling. Otherwise, I have no reason for that much energy. But for some reason, I don’t feel that way about the caffeine content in a cold brew that’s well over double the amount of a Red Bull.

My point is: I’m done drinking cold brew. It’s simply way too strong for me. Earlier this week at Starbucks I opted for an Iced Vanilla Blonde Latte. What’s crazy is that it still had 170 milligrams of caffeine, however, that was not an unnecessary amount.

I think that everyone needs to be a little more mindful of the amount of caffeine that they are consuming. For me, I’m obviously neurologically addicted to caffeine and cannot function without it. But on the flip side, if I weren’t, could you really trust me to review coffee?