Caffeine consumption part of students’ daily lives

Of 55 students polled, this graph illustrates the percentage that voted for each form of caffeine.

Of 55 students polled, this graph illustrates the percentage that voted for each form of caffeine.

“[I drink] two cups of coffee in the morning and two or three in the afternoon.”

Senior Quinn Bernal is just one of many students who consume caffeine on a daily basis. It’s no surprise that Starbucks cups and tea bags are common items on the CHS campus. Caffeine fads have definitely found their place among high schoolers, and CHS students are no exception.

In fact, caffeine has become so popular that on-campus coffee is now available for access to students. History teacher Marc Stafford, for instance, keeps both a hot pot and Keurig machine in the back of his classroom at all times for students who wish to brew coffee or steep tea. Stafford comments that while only two or three people use the coffee machine each week, hot water for tea is used much more frequently.

The cafeteria has also caught on to the growing trend. Back in November, the cafeteria menu began to feature coffee as the only caffeinated item available for sale.

“We just started selling it because a couple [of] kids asked for it,” food service supervisor Denise McGregor notes.

But the fact of the matter seems to be that students still prefer off-campus caffeine. Junior and Carmel Valley Roasting Company employee Kristen Bown along with the help of coworker Zena Schiff estimate that 70 high school students purchase caffeinated items each week from the Ocean Avenue location, with mochas and lattes being the two most popular items.

Starbucks coffee still seems to be more popular, as Starbucks employee Mikaela Coffelt approximates that the Crossroads store witnesses between 500 and 700 high-school customers each week, with most ordering frappuccinos or chai lattes.

Sophomore Molly Wolf, for instance, starts each morning with three shots of espresso in a latte, which she mobile orders from Starbucks at 6:30 a.m. and picks up at 6:45 a.m. Wolf began her caffeine consumption habits in eighth grade with two cups of coffee daily for two years, only recently having transitioned to a triple shot of espresso.

“If I don’t drink it before 7, I get really bad headaches,” Wolf comments. She also experiences fogginess and difficulty with concentration.

Surely, Wolf is not alone. Bernal notes that without afternoon coffee, she suffers spaciness and tiredness.

School nurse Susan Pierszalowski warns that caffeine is not always all it’s cracked up to be. A central nervous system stimulant, caffeine can cause anxiety, nervousness and muscle tremors. It also disrupts sleeping patterns and can alter the brain’s development during a time of critical growth.

Pierszalowski also notes that caffeine consumption is growing exponentially and has become a more prominent ingredient in a wider variety of products, having even become a gum additive. But the recommended caffeine dosage for teenagers is substantially lower than the dosage actually consumed.

“The amount of caffeine that’s suggested for teenagers is 100 milligrams [a day],” Pierszalowski elaborates.

However, a venti Starbucks coffee (20 fluid ounces) contains 415 milligrams of caffeine, according to a caffeine content chart published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest in November 2014.

“If you’re exhausted and drinking caffeine to stay awake, it’s like beating a dead horse,” Pierszalowski jokes, meaning that consuming caffeine to finish homework in the early hours of the morning only does additional damage to the body.

Some students have found ways to pull away from caffeine dependency. Junior Rachael Schroeder, for example, used to suffer a more severe case of caffeine addiction.

“Freshman and sophomore [years]…I would take over-the-counter caffeine pills that my friend would give me,” Schroeder recalls. “It made it hard to sleep at night, but without it I couldn’t stay awake during school.”

Now, however, Schroeder limits herself to two or three cups of green tea each day, which contain only small traces of caffeine.

Evidently, caffeine plays an important role in the lives of CHS students. While many students experience similar side effects, tolerance varies in each individual.

-Melissa Pavloff