Coffee & The Brain
I am currently sitting at my desk at an ungodly hour, working through my second batch of French-press in the last 3 hours. I’ve reached this point because I need to focus, to be more productive - because this article is on my task list for the day, and god forbid I put my head down before I run a bold line across “write article about coffee”. I wasn’t always a coffee drinker. In fact, until about five years ago, I had only ever had coffee when my father strong-armed me into drinking any coffee based beverage twice a day, every day because he was convinced it was conducive for a healthy gut. I will go as far to say that, up until this point in my life, the only point of contention between my father and I has been his insistence that I drink coffee. Suffice to say, that phase didn’t last very long, no small thanks to my teen angst and unwillingness to cooperate.
Alas, our paths unexpectedly crossed again when I was offered a coffee whilst interviewing one of my creative heroes for my college thesis, and I just could not bring myself to say “that’ll be a hard pass”. This is where one might expect a freakish miracle, a love at first sip sort of twist. It wasn’t. It did, however, open me up to the idea that coffee wasn’t… dreadful. From that point on, I actively chose to drink coffee. The progression from milky and frothy and laden with unnecessary flavour, to a more subtle iteration was slow.
This is where I stand today - for the last seven months, I have worked very closely with Nangoo Coffee. Now I hardly go a day without a cup, or three. This has led me to deep dive into reading on coffee, learning about the culture and ultimately understanding its effects on the human body. It has also made me question why I, like millions of others around the world, flock to the stuff anytime I want to get something done. I never had trouble with being at my productive best before I grew so used to drinking coffee daily, yet now any time I want to get my focus on, I sit down with a freshly brewed cuppa.
What is it about coffee that makes us more productive? Is it even linked to productivity at all? Most people drink coffee for a jolt – to jump-start their day or to carry them through a midday slump. Others drink it to try and stay on task, which is why you see so many people in coffee shops with computers, hard at work or a communal coffee pot in nearly every corporate break room. It’s no secret that what people are truly seeking is the caffeine in the coffee, though some admittedly do also enjoy the acquired flavour. Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive drug in the world and there’s a reason for that – it does its job and it does it well.
So does the caffeine affect productivity? Yes, and no. Time and again, caffeine has proven to be a powerful and efficient stimulant. But the question of its effectiveness towards personal productivity has no concrete answer. Countless studies have shown that in small doses, caffeine can be incredibly effective, providing your body with a short boost of energy and alertness. It is also proven to, among other things, provide enhanced motor and cognitive performance, a short-term memory boost, and increased accuracy of reactions and the ability to focus attention.
The general consensus across caffeine studies is that it can increase quality and performance if the task you are doing seems easy and doesn’t require too much abstract thinking. This is the exact reinforcement I need to annihilate the coffee remnants, strike the last thing off of my to-do list and call it a day.