A cup of coffee before your nine o’clock class, another before your first conversation, two more to keep you going till noon… and before you know it, all your lunch money has been wasted on Starbucks. Ah, Starbucks, where everybody knows your name.

Believe it or not, despite caffeine addicts’ understanding that they’re addicted (the first step to recovery, at least), they don’t believe that coffee consumption is bad for them, though several studies prove otherwise.

Health Canada’s statement on coffee in the Food Guide explains that although for healthy adults, a small amount of caffeine may have positive effects, such as increased alertness or ability to concentrate, those more sensitive to caffeine could experience insomnia, headaches, irritability, and nervousness.

As I stood in coffee shop lines around campus, only Han, a first-year management and psychology major, was well-informed on the negative effects of coffee consumption. Citing his lessons from psychology class, he told me that too much coffee can “harm the brain and tamper with memory”. I nodded as I breathed in the bittersweet fumes emanating from Tim Hortons.

The other students and staff I badgered identified themselves as coffee-drinkers, consuming three to five cups a day.

I asked Vian, a fourth-year business major Starbucks barista, what he thought. When I asked how many people this location serves per day, he let out a long exhale, suggesting that the number is impossible to calculate. He told me that on summer days, when business is at its lowest, they usually rake in about $1,000 in profits, equivalent to about 200 customers.

He also provided a harsh view on coffee, divulging that one of his customers came in demanding his “caffeine fix”. This makes me remember being in the library at 11 p.m., thankful to catch the last call at Starbucks. My arm twitched every couple of minutes as I dug through Plato and Heroditus.

Vian also believes coffee to be an addiction equivalent to smoking.

“It even turns your teeth yellow,” he says. Still, even Vian has a cup or two once in a while to “stay wired”.

Some of us just can’t wait to grab our next cup. Those admitting an addiction do so jokingly, like Mike, one of our Campus Police officers. I received a quick “yes” through laughter as he rushed over to the next available cashier at Tim Hortons.

So how much coffee is too much? At what point do we start experiencing the eye-twitching?

Canada’s Food Guide states that for “the general population of healthy adults, the long-standing advice still applies of no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day, the equivalent of about three eight-ounce (237 ml) cups of brewed coffee”.

This doesn’t sound so bad, but beware the variable definitions of “cup” on campus. Starbucks and Tim Hortons both offer an eight-ounce cup: the Starbucks’ “short” and Tim Hortons’ new “extra small” cups. However, Stabucks has 160 mg of caffeine in its cup as opposed to Tim Hortons’ 80 mg.

This means that Health Canada would limit you to either two and a half cups of brewed coffee from Starbucks or five cups of coffee from Tim Hortons, provided that you order the smallest sizes possible.

Next time you’re standing in line at Starbucks, ask yourself whether the guaranteed wide-eyed alertness is worth the possible brain damage, arm jitters, and memory failure. Then again, it may already be too late. You probably used this article as a coaster for your coffee.

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