As is the case with so many things in life, I blame Mr Stuart.

More years ago than I care to admit, he mentioned in passing to the Horse Doctor that his doctor had told him caffeine made back pain worse. The Horse Doctor has long suffered back pain, and took this advice to heart. She decided to give up caffeine in all its myriad forms, and I being such a nice fellow agreed to give up at the same time. That way she wouldn't be tempted by the smell of freshly roasted beans of a morning.

I don't have a bad back, incidentally, although at the moment I've got a bit of a sore neck.

Anyway, we both of us gave up caffeine, which basically meant coffee since neither of us were great tea drinkers. I found withdrawal hard - I think I've mentioned before the month of splitting headaches and the sudden gaining of a stone in weight. There was then the problem of coffee substitutes, since you've got to drink something. It was particularly difficult when I was working as an agricultural IT consultant, visiting farms every day. The first thing you're offered as you step into the kitchen is a coffee or tea. I used to ask for hot water and grew accustomed to the odd looks. Sometimes I'd lie and say I was caffeine intolerant - it was easier that way.

Over time I've tried herbal infusions (or tisanes, as some people like to call them), Rooibos tea, and latterly the rather fine selection of decaf coffees available from HasBean Steve. On one memorable visit to the potato growing region of Aberdeenshire, I was even given a mug of decaffeinated tea, which was at the time rather strange. The Horse Doctor, for her part, went very swiftly back to full strength coffee. It hadn't really helped her back, and she's never been a morning person. I have been known to partake of caffeinated coffee just occasionally - most recently when I had to drive to Harlow and back in a day, leaving at five in the morning and not getting back home until after nine at night. But mostly it's been decaf and I'm quite happy that way.

Fast forward those unmentionable years to a couple of weekends ago. Some friends came to stay, bringing with them their two border terriers and a packet of Taylors of Harrogate Yorkshire Decaffeinated tea. Someone else, it would seem, had been forced on medical advice to cut back on the dreaded white powder.*

Then, of course, they went and left the teabags behind.

Lately I've been tiring of redbush. Perhaps it's the popularity of the drink brought about by Alexander McCall Smith and his books - I've never been too happy with being part of the mainstream. Or maybe it's just not as nice as it used to be. By which I mean not as nasty. True rooibos -the stuff my South African cousins used to bring over in the late seventies and early eighties - is a frighteningly disgusting concoction that takes a lot of getting used to.** What comes in a dozen different varieties today is almost as benign as ordinary tea.

Which left me with the Yorkshire decaffeinated.

So I tried some. Made me a mugful and drank it down. It wasn't bad, really, so the next day I had another. The day after that it was two mugs. You can see where this is going.

I've just made a pot of decaffeinated tea - well, it's quicker than boiling the kettle a half dozen times over the course of the afternoon. I'm heading north
on Wednesday for a wedding, stopping off at the farm on the way. Hopefully my mum's old tea-cosy is still in the drawer in the kitchen, otherwise I'm going to have to go out and buy myself one.

Damn you Mr Stuart. It's all your fault!

* that's what caffeine looks like when it's been extracted. Honest.
** but I'm nothing if not stubborn. I used to drink Dr Peppers at school because it was so stomach-churningly revolting no-one would ever take a swig from my can.


Gabriele C. said…
I may be able to live without coffee though it would be hard. But without tea? Impossible. And I mean real black and green tea, not roibos, mate and whatnot (though those can be nice now and then).
highlandwriter said…
An engaging read, James.

And although I'm terribly fond of coffee & tea, I get my daily caffeine fix from Diet Mountain Dew.

I absolutely agree with your description of Dr. Pepper...yech!



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