Six Shots of Espresso Please: Caffeine Addiction at Dartmouth

Students discuss the drawbacks of college coffee culture.

by Hannah Shariff | 5/4/22 2:10am

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by Aspen Anderson / The Dartmouth

Every morning between the 10 and 11 class periods, sleep-deprived students line up at Dartmouth Dining Services’ cafe locations across campus. While the wait can be torturous, many students withstand it to get their fix: a cup of coffee that will help them stay awake for the rest of the day. 

While not being able to survive without coffee can seem hyperbolic, about 89% of Americans drink coffee daily, most likely due to benefits that include boosts in energy and concentration. Dartmouth students don’t seem to be an exception, and with caffeine consumption ingrained into our college culture, surely reliance is soon to follow. How prevalent is caffeine addiction on our campus?

While no statistical data has been published on the quantity of caffeine consumed by Dartmouth students specifically, caffeine consumption seems to be almost ubiquitous. 

For Tanzil Mohamed ’23, a student manager at Ramekin, coffee has become an everyday part of her routine before attending class. 

“I built a habit of having [a cup] in my hand when entering longer classes, especially my 10A or 2A classes. It’s become more of a necessity for me,” she said. 

Clara Goulding ’25 noticed that many of her friends drink or consume caffeine on a regular basis.  

“I have friends that drink a lot of tea and coffee to keep going. Other friends will even take caffeine pills to stay awake,” Goulding said. 

Daniela Diaz ’25, a student worker at Novack Cafe, noted that many of the drinks she makes are caffeinated. 

“Some people will ask for more shots in their drink, and others will just ask for straight shots of espresso,” Diaz said. “Someone once just ordered four shots of espressos without milk — they were definitely going through it.” 

There also seems to be an uptick in caffeine consumption during busy periods like final exams, according to Mohamed. 

“At Ramekin during the midterm season, we’ll see that the line is generally longer and also see drinks with extra shots of espresso in them. It’s very correlative to busy times throughout the term,” Mohamed said. 

The everyday usage of caffeine at Dartmouth acts as an avenue for students to get through the 10-week term, in which balancing schoolwork and extracurriculars at a nonstop pace can lead to many late nights. Some freshmen in particular have noticed an increase in their consumption of caffeine after beginning college, with students claiming that drinking coffee every day is the only way to keep up with their work. 

Dilhan Flores ’25 said that drinking caffeine feels like the only method available to stay ahead.

“It keeps you awake. If you’re out late for whatever reason and you have to wake up early to get stuff done, you just can’t focus without caffeine. It gets you through the day,” he said. 

Diaz said that without a drastic increase in her caffeine intake, she would be unable to get through her classes.

“At home, I’d have at maximum four shots of espresso a day, but when I got here it increased. At one point I was taking six to eight shots of espresso a day because it was just so exhausting to keep up with all the work that has to be done,” Diaz said. “The workload at Dartmouth as well as the culture of doing everything all the time creates this really toxic caffeine culture.”

In addition to the work-hard, play-hard mentality, there is also a variety of caffeinated products offered at nearly every snack bar and cafe on campus. 

At a location like Novack, options not only include a menu full of coffees and teas but also fridge cases full of energy drinks. If students don’t like consuming their caffeine in a liquid form, there are also caffeinated Awake chocolate bars, which contain 101 milligrams of caffeine. For those truly in a bind, a last resort option can come in the form of Five-Hour Energy drinks — pure energy shots that can cause side effects ranging from heart palpitations to kidney injury. 

Flores believes that these offerings promote caffeine, referencing an energy drink sale during the winter quarter, which led him to start drinking cans of Monster, a common energy drink brand. 

“I think that having Monsters at a discounted price not only encouraged students to drink caffeine but to try out energy drinks, which are way worse for you than coffee is,” Flores said. “That’s what got me: I had a habit of pulling lots of all-nighters, and during the winter I would especially drink Monsters during the night to keep me awake.”

After trying  energy drinks, Flores would sometimes consume two Monsters and two cups of coffee in a 24-hour period, and he quickly began experiencing symptoms of caffeine addiction. 

“If I didn’t have coffee one day, by 2 p.m. I started getting withdrawal headaches,” Flores said.  “At one point I went to Dick’s House and mentioned my caffeine intake. The nurse was shocked. That was a bit of a wake-up call.”

This situation is not uncommon for students, and asking questions about the number of milligrams of caffeine present in a venti or grande leads to blank faces. 

Mohamed backed this up, noting that many of her customers at Ramekin don’t know exactly how many shots of espresso are in their drinks. 

“A lot of people order based on taste, and some people just want a lot after a rough night, to the point where they may be asking for a couple of extra shots in a drink that already has four shots to begin with,” Mohamed said. “People may be having six shots of espresso in their drink and not even understand what that means.”

While giving students information on caffeine consumption can be helpful, researchers have also reported that developing a consistent sleep schedule can help decrease reliance on caffeine. 

In Flores’s case, realizing that his erratic sleep schedule was influencing his relationship with caffeine led him to change. 

“I realized that staying up all night just wasn’t worth it,” Flores said “My mental health has gotten way better and I’ve been way more productive. Now I only drink two or three cups of coffee a day, which is less than what I consumed before.”

The difference between loving coffee and needing it is a thin line. Next time you’re waiting in an especially long Novack line, maybe think twice about adding that extra shot of espresso. 

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