Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Wired London; with More Londoners Than Ever Addicted to Coffee, We Challenged Richard Godwin to Go for a Week without His Usual Caffeine Hit. He Cracked after Five Hours

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Wired London; with More Londoners Than Ever Addicted to Coffee, We Challenged Richard Godwin to Go for a Week without His Usual Caffeine Hit. He Cracked after Five Hours

Article excerpt

Byline: Richard Godwin

AS I CHANGE trains at Victoria, it feels as if a black balloon has been inflated inside my brain. The pressure on my skull is maddening. My limbs have become semi-numb.

I cannot see my face but I imagine it looks like one of those melting Salvador Dali clocks, my eyes slowly slithering down my cheeks, mouth drooping, all oozing slowly down.

I agreed to go a week without coffee to help get to the bottom of London's addiction to caffeine. It has been two hours and already it is hell.

If I had the energy, as I drift towards the Circle line platform, I would punch every single idiot in my way. Get the f*** out my way. But instead, I slump in a corner and twitch.

By the time I arrive at work, I am yawning uncontrollably. Everyone else is sipping happily. Rarely has the cocoa spume on top of a canteen crappuccino looked so inviting. Never have I wanted so much to suck up the bitter gravy of a cup of Nescafe. Instead, I sit at my desk with a cup of mint tea and an immense feeling of torpor.

I discover later that I am suffering from the effects of "caffeinism" -- a withdrawal from caffeine. According to a new report into caffeine consumption published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal, Food and Function, the headache is to be expected. The report doesn't mention an uncontrollable urge to weep, an inability to accomplish the merest task and a growing feeling of enmity towards my sadistic commissioning editors.

London is in the midst of a coffee epidemic. While it is impossible to find a decent cup of tea these days (bag first, numbskulls!), we have become a city of bean fiends. We slurp the stuff from our paper flagons as if it was hot brown crack. There's a chain on every corner -- with a further 200 Starbucks to come, creating 5,000 jobs, it was announced last week. Meanwhile, a new wave of independent traders have introduced us to the coffee cultures of Italy, Australia and New Zealand, the flat white and the ristretto. Coffeedrinking goes hand-in-hand with cosmopolitanism.

My morning fix comes courtesy of the Portuguese cafe near the office, where they make it acrid as gasoline, bitter as a backbencher, black as midnight on a moonless night. No going back to Costa after that stuff.

And I'm not the only one gradually upping my dose. Jeremy Challender, co-director of the excellent Prufrock coffee, is one of many caffeine dealers catering to Londoners' increased appetites.

"In Prufrock, as with other smaller independent shops, we use around 18g of nice speciality coffee (we used to use around 14g) to give a stiffer sort of mouth feel, which comes from a combination of astringency and the tannins in the coffee that you get from a slightly higher dose. Whereas Italians like a slightly creamier espresso, which you get from a lower dose, we like it stronger. …

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