Coffee and Tea: My Adventures and Woes

This post is dedicated to reader “Kendall” who inquired about this recently. :)

Coffee has been my life for years. I am sure I have spent thousands of dollars in the last 10 years drinking nice coffee from the many excellent cafes here in Seattle, or brewing coffee at home. I am picky about coffee, which was an issue when I lived in the EU because iced coffee is uncommon (but the lattes were awesome), and I can’t drink coffee straight-black. I am a coffee-snob. :(

This is a problem because it costs both money and calories. Money because it’s an expensive habit, and calories because of all those sweet espresso drinks (and the pastries they sell with them).

I’ve tried many times to quit coffee, or just switch to tea, but it often fails. In my last trip to Japan, I really developed a taste for oolong tea. It has the same benefits of green tea, but doesn’t taste like lawn clippings, and is really cheap and easy to get in cold, bottled form. I drank it often instead of Coke or Coffee, and had big plans to keep drinking it here in the US, but that plan quickly ran out of steam because bottled, cold oolong tea is hard to get and expensive. You can buy large gallons of it, which are good, quite not practical where I work. And sometimes, I found I still craved coffee for improbable reasons (probably because of the sugar).

The wise sage over at AJATT wrote a nice post about the problem with personal projects: like military strategies, they quickly fall apart in real life. As his post explains, you have to make the process fit the person, not the other way around. Make a clear, concrete goal, and then adapt your process to reach toward that goal, even if process is slow and flawed.

So, my goal is to stop buying coffee at cafe’s. Just doing that will at least save $100-$150 a month, and save plenty of calories I don’t need anyway. If I can break the coffee habit altogether, that’s a bonus but not required.

I realized that in order to stop doing something, I have to put something else desirable in its place. For me, this was tea.

True to AJATT’s advice, I’ve been experimenting and evolving my strategy here. We have coffee and tea bags at work but frankly they don’t taste good. So instead I just bought some cheap tea of my own:


The Yamamotoyama brand of oolong tea costs $5 a box but has 20 bags in it, so I pay some money up front but I save a lot in return. Also it’s pretty good tea. Not gourmet but easy to prepare and good. The green tea is also good but hard to find so I probably won’t buy often.

But with help from my wife I discovered other good alternatives. Lately, my family and I have been enjoying Korean corn-tassel tea (옥수수수염차, oksusu suyeom cha):

Korean Corn Tea 옥수수차

My wife tried it first in Japan after shopping at Shin Okubo, and because it has no caffeine my daughter can drink it too. Soon all 3 of us started drinking it regularly. It’s slightly sweet but has a good, smoked, earthy flavor too. Because we shop at a local H-Mart regularly, it’s very easy and cheap for us to buy a large box and drink that for a couple weeks.

But even for coffee we found we liked Asian freeze-dried coffee a lot too:

Korean Coffee

This brand, Maxim (맥심 maegsim), comes in small packets, complete with sugar and freeze-dried cream so you just add hot water:

Korean Coffee inside

It’s not gourmet coffee but surprisingly good for something so cheap. Somehow it reminds me of the “Spice” from Dune. Unlike the Spice, it doesn’t cost a planet to buy it; you can buy it in bulk-sized containers for cheap and it will last a while. It won’t save calories but does help when I still crave coffee. Sometimes, I drink coffee, sometimes I drink tea. But I am trying really hard lately to avoid buying coffee at cafes. Each time I do, it saves me at least $4 or as much as $7.

The point here is that having a concrete goal and being flexible about how to accomplish it has proven much more effective and fun than my old method of self-discipline followed by procrastination and guilt.

About Doug 陀愚

A Buddhist, Father and Japanophile / Koreaphile.
This entry was posted in Cooking, Dune, Health, Japan, Korea and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Coffee and Tea: My Adventures and Woes

  1. wartica says:

    I totally agree; tea is so good for you and always cleanses you out of toxins. Great post and I look forward to sharing more with you:))

  2. ヤンヤン says:

    I’m also a big tea drinker.

    Problem is when I have to go to the toilet too often, hehe :) )

  3. Kendall says:

    I’ve never been one for cafes as I simply don’t go out much. My work supplies free coffee, so between those two things, I don’t spend much money on coffee. At work, we have one of those Keurig machines. They are expensive, but do an alright brew. I like all of the flavors we can get and it takes less than a minute to get a cup. Like you, I have to doctor up my coffee. I’m steadily lessening the sugar I need in order for it to be palatable. I don’t use much creamer.

    With tea, brew time can be a turnoff if I’m in a hurry. 3-5 minutes can be a long time sometimes. I prefer the way tea makes me feel afterwards. It’s lighter, smoother, and does the body good. I currently have some less awesome teas that need a bit more sugar than usual, but more often I use less sugar with tea than coffee. For those looking for a good online source for tea with lots of flavor options, I highly recommend Adagio Tea, They also have fun products to use for tea.

    Studies actually show both tea and coffee can be good for you so it’s win-win. I’m trying to get myself to drink more of a balance between the two, but the more filling feeling of the coffee is something I often crave over tea so I drink more coffee than tea right now.

  4. Doug 陀愚 says:

    Hi guys,

    wartica: Welcome to the JLR!

    ヤンヤン: Yeah, I have noticed that issue. :P

    Kendall: Ah yes, Keurig machines. When I worked in Ireland, we had one of those, but I just never tried it out. We also had a tiny little espresso machine so if you brought your own milk, you could make yourself a nice latte….but no one really knew how to clean it right, so it got kind of gross later. :P

    Yeah, I hear both coffee and tea have benefits, but it seems like tea is less harsh on the body (less stomach acid too).

  5. Rurousha says:

    I can’t imagine life without coffee. Or chocolate. Or books.

    I’m quite sure you know mugicha (麦茶). Roasted barley tea that’s particularly nice in summer, and a nice alternative to lawn clippings. (That has to be the best description of green tea I’ve ever read. I’ve never been able to develop a taste for it.)

    Thanks for the hint about the Korean corn tea! I’m going to try that one …

  6. Doug 陀愚 says:


    I used to drink mugicha a lot. I even wrote a blog post about it maybe 2 years ago, though lately I don’t drink it much. It is good when served cold but it’s hard to make at work. We do make it at home in a large jug and my daughter drinks it often but I didn’t like carrying a large container of drink daily. Also sometime I found t wasn’t enough. So having a bunch of tea bags (or little coffee bags) is more flexible and much more convenient to carry. We have plenty of hot water at work at least. :-)

    Yeah I just don’t like the taste of green tea much. I’ve tried but I can only drink it occasionally. Oolong tea has all the same benefits and tastes a lot better in my opinion.

    Enjoy corn-tassel tea. It’s quite good.

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