Thoughts That Hurt to Think #071 – Decaf Coffee Has Caffeine In It!

I can’t say exactly how long I’ve known decaf coffee has caffeine in it, but there was definitely a time when I thought it didn’t. Maybe this is one of those things we all learn when we’re kids, and take for granted the rest of our lives; but even if that were the case, it would still qualify as a thought that hurts to think. Why the hell do we call it decaf, if the caffeine hasn’t been removed?

Good God, folks…is nothing sacred?

Alright, maybe I don’t need to be so dramatic; although I still say the name is misleading. Other food products have to be more specific, and say things like ‘reduced fat’ or ‘sugar free’ on the package. If they could get away with ‘defatted’ and ‘desugared’ or something of the sort, you can bet we’d be asking just how much got taken out.

Your typical cup of coffee has anywhere from around twenty-five milligrams of caffeine to as many as two hundred. True coffee lovers may laugh at such low numbers, and I’m chuckling a bit myself, but let’s just use a cup of diner coffee as our example. You have likely gotten the strongest cup of straight simple coffee you ever had in one diner, and the weakest cup ever in another; if you’re a coffee drinker. We’ll call the weakest twenty-five, and the strongest two hundred.

When we look at the weakest cup of decaf you can pour, the measly two milligrams of caffeine it offers may see a lot of us yawning as we drink it; but when you look at the other end of the spectrum, you realize we have a little bit of an uncomfortable crossover. The strongest decaf weighs in at twenty-seven milligrams of caffeine, which is higher than our weakest cup of regular coffee. Depending on the diner, you may end up with more caffeine in your decaf than you would drinking regular coffee elsewhere.

Even at two milligrams per cup, the decaf drinker’s caffeine levels can be altered by a variety of factors. A lot of people who switch to decaf end up drinking more cups per day, and very few people are drinking coffee in eight ounce cups anymore. Many coffee shops start their cup sizes at twelve ounces, and go up from there. They might have an extra small or kid’s size that is eight ounces, but you can bet they sell more twenty ounce beverages than eight.

Not that I’m complaining, or buying tiny cups of coffee. I always get sixteen or twenty ounces, and seldom do I acknowledge that what I’m really doing is drinking two cups of coffee; but I do know what I’m there for, so I never get decaf. I’m a longtime lover of caffeine, but the only reason I enjoy the flavor of coffee now is because I acquired the taste. It’s always been about the boost, for me; and it still is.

But if I ever wanted to switch to decaf, I couldn’t. Not really. I mean, there’s no such thing. All coffee has caffeine in it, even decaf. Not only that, the quantities are as variable per cup of coffee as personality is among people. All I would have to do is change where I got my coffee, and I could be drinking decaf that’s stronger than what I used to call regular.

This is the part in the first draft where I had something written about how maybe this isn’t that big a deal, but it definitely keeps some folks up at night. Then I got curious somewhere between writing that and writing this part, and took a trip to the internet. At the risk of damaging my fourth wall, I would like to share what I found there.

First of all, this is not no big deal; at least not according to the articles I found written about it. Several have come out in just the last few years, from publications you might think had something better to report on; they all say pretty much the same stuff as me, but they call it news for some reason. I guess a lot of people do think decaf is completely free of caffeine, and plenty of reporters pointed out that this is just the kind of thing keeping people up at night.

I mean, I get it…the joke was just kind of laying there, waiting for anyone that came along to put their own spin on it; but I refuse to throw mine on the pile, or act like this is some kind of breaking news. Honestly, I wasn’t entirely certain it belonged in the queue with some of the other thoughts that hurts to think. A lot of this stuff is pretty heavy, and the ability to choose regular or decaf should lead to anyone with the choice feeling grateful for having it; the fact that you get some caffeine either way does not really rank alongside some of the topics we’ve covered here.

Probably the biggest part of all this that bothers me is the lying. At the very least, it’s misleading. Decaf sounds like coffee without caffeine in it; it just does. ‘Lesscaf’ might not be as catchy, but it would say what it had to say in as few syllables. And who knows; maybe after decades of saying it, lesscaf would roll off the tongue as easily as decaf seems to now.

Also…it would be true.

If I paid you to debug my computer, I wouldn’t expect you to leave ten percent of them in there. Vets don’t say the best they can hope for when they deworm a dog is that they got most of them. Deburring the holes you drill doesn’t just smooth out some of the burrs…

Et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum.

Coffee is special, don’t get me wrong. When I was younger and more inclined to silliness, I used to tell people I was given a choice between this planet and another much like it; one of the few differences was that Earth had coffee and the other place didn’t. I considered that difference alone cause to deem the other place uninhabitable, at least by me; so I came to Earth.

I won’t try to convince you that’s true, or not; but I will say that is certainly the choice I would make now.

Mmmm. Coffee.

It’s special, but not special enough to get a misleading name.

For some of us, it’s like a religion. Others need to fill that part of their lives with a real god, one they can’t see or touch or please. Although more and more Christians in America are taking a less personified view on religion, we still have plenty of neighbors who think God is a short-tempered old dude who lives up in the sky. Some of them are Catholic, to be sure; but they get a category all their own. The rest of them are something else; and a lot of people join up without realizing what joining up really means.

See, if you’re Christian…you’re either Catholic, or you fall into this category. It’s a broad category, but it was all made possible by one man; so next week, we’re going to give Martin Luther his due. We’ll call it…

Most Christians are Lutheran!

Thanks for reading!

All the best,

J.K. Norry
The Secret Society of Deeper Meaning
Twitter: @JayNorry

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