Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Trader Joe's Done Done Me Wrong

I'm a big girl. I should know by now. Decaf doesn't mean no caf.

As someone with an extreme--and really, I can't overstate that word, extreme--sensitivity to caffeine, I keep a sort of mental chart of what I can and cannot handle. A few sips of Diet Coke will speed up my heart, but it won't make me sick to my stomach. A whole can? Well, let's just say I'm not that far from my 13-year-old self, who got so hyped up by a can of soda at sleepaway camp that she decided to try to jump off the concrete steps leading up to her bunk. It took the rest of the summer for the skin to grow back on the backs of my thighs after I slid down the last four or five of those steps.

[An aside: When I worry about having bipolar disorder like my dad did, it is to stories like that that I obsessively turn. Because I distinctly remember giggling about how I was Supergirl or something equally insipid. And that is pretty much textbook mania...if you're not on drugs. For me, however, caffeine is very much a drug. Whether there's a connection between the two, well, you tell me.]

What else can I handle? One tall Starbucks decaf coffee a day, so long as the barista actually POURS decaf. (I would say that two out of every five cups I order has to be poured out when I ask, "That's decaf, right?") What can't I handle? Any decaf coffee beverage from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. I don't know why. Their decaf is just too...caf for me. Which is a pity, because their Iced Blendeds kick some Frappuccino ass. But it's not worth the price.

What is the price? Depending on the level of caffeine and the amount I drink, it can include some or all of the following: A rapid heartbeat that easily lasts six hours after I down the drink. Hands that shake more than normal (which means some fairly serious shaking, considering that 'normal' for me is Parkinsonian for most other people). Intense, low-level nausea. Other gastrointestinal symptoms (I'll spare you specificity there). Extreme irritability. And a post-reaction headache that can hang on for days.

So what did TJ's do to me that warranted a scolding in the title above? It sold me a can of decaffeinated whole coffee beans, is what it did. And not just ANY coffee beans. I've been trying to pay a little more attention to the quality of what I eat, and care a little more about where my food dollars go, and so I decided to forego my usual Trader Joe's brand decaf and try this new 'breakfast blend' that was both organic AND 'fair trade.' (I am the world, I am the children, lalalala...) After all, I've never had a problem with any of their coffees before.

Of course, now, one mug later? Oooooooh, I'm not feeling well. I'm not feeling well at all. Like venti-cup-of-full-caf bad. And I'm pissed about it (see irritability on symptom list, above). Because I have stuff to DO. And now I can't. Because I'm shaky, and my fingers are going all over the place, and it's taken me about half an hour more than it should to type this. And my mind is racing, as is my dinner, which clearly wants OUT of my stomach.

Damn you, Trader Joe's. There goes my night. And there goes a just-opened can of what had been a pretty nice, mellow cuppa joe...before it decided to try to kill me. And also, there goes another addition to my mental list of 'don't believe it when they say it's decaf.'


Green said...

I never drink coffee, but hot chocolate, and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is my favorite chain coffee store for it.

What you need is a coffee-anti-venom. Sorry you got so sick.

Anonymous said...

Was searching and found this post. I too noticed that their French Roast spiked my heart and heart & sweat glands. It obviously has way more caffeine that "decaf" normally has.

Anonymous said...

Found your article while trying to find any info on Trader Joee's instant decaf coffee. I too have an extreme sensitivity to caffeine... Along with an accompanying rare disease and heart arrhythmia. After a cup of this stuff, based on my reaction, Im convinced this product has way more caffeine than should be allowed in a product labeled 'decaf'. This has completely destroyed my tiptoe back into the realm of coffee. Forget it. I'm going back to my morning cup of Camomile tea.

Mom of Four said...

just to clarify. i worked at tj's and they never had decaf breakfast blend. i still shop there every week. are you sure you got decaf? on another note my wife and i have noticed caf in the decaf in the organic decaf french roast.

Mom of Four said...

just to clarify. i worked at tj's and they never had decaf breakfast blend. i still shop there every week. are you sure you got decaf? on another note my wife and i have noticed caf in the decaf in the organic decaf french roast.

Unknown said...

I stumbled upon this today when trying to see how much caffeine might be in Trader Joe's Decaf French Roast. I, like you, don't tolerate caffeine at all. I used to drink lots of it 30 or 40 years ago but now it really does make me sick. For some reason I was in the mood for a cup yesterday morning. I made a pot of the French Roast I'd had in my fridge. I drank 2 huge mugs of it throughout the day. By nighttime I could feel an anxiety attack coming on and didn't make the connection at first. This is one way that caffeine affects me. Today I have a headache. I hardly ever get a headache. And I've been on the edge of anxiety still. I absolutely love Trader Joe's but I h ave a feeling that coffee is anything but decaffeinated.

Anonymous said...


CAVEAT EMPTOR: “decaffeinated” does not mean 100% caffeine free. In fact a decaf coffee only needs to be 97% caffeine free according to the USDA. That means that an average 12 oz. cup of decaffeinated coffee, which originally might have been packed with 180 mg of caffeine, now only would contain 5.4 mg of caffeine.