Donn Felker is CTO of tech company Qonqr and author of the books Android Tablet Dev for Dummies and Android App Dev for Dummies. Struggling with his coffee addiction, he made a Facebook post asking his friends for ideas. One of them suggested yerba mate, leading Donn on this journey:
I never liked coffee until about my mid twenties. I found some sugary sweet drink that was some thing called a “latte”. I ended up liking it and 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 loves 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 and such. 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 over the last year or so I noticed a change in the color of my teeth (as do all coffee drinkers usually). I brush my teeth so its 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 thats 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 wanted brighter teeth (and better smelling breath, who likes coffee breath anyway?). So I tried to quit, cold turkey … oops.
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, 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 hooked on 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 yerba mate instead.
After some conversation with Mateo about the loose leaf I was able to finally get my hands on some loose leaf Guayaki Yerba Mate as well as a Mate 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 mate that was loose leaf 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 finally kick the coffee habit. The one super nice thing about this? I’m able to enjoy an occasional 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 withdrawls of the sort. Overall its been a great experience.
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 and the like. Make sure you buy the loose leaf kind and make sure you have a tea infuser, coffee maker for 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 and I bring my travel 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