Welcome to Decaf-a-Nation, a blog about coffee - particularly decaffeinated coffee - and the coffee shops that roast and brew great cups of decaffeinated coffee. 

You might ask, why the name Decaf-a-Nation?  Well, this blog is going to be a little different.  We’re going to focus on decaffeinated coffee (and maybe, the occasional tea), as well as the coffee shops, hovels, and other sites that are brewing great decaffeinated alternatives. 

Are we out of our mind?  Perhaps.  But we’re coffee & tea lovers who happen to drink – almost exclusively – decaffeinated coffee & tea.  And we’ve been uncaffeinated for a long time – Rob’s been that way for over 10 years!

What you can expect from us is information about decaffeinated coffee and tea, written in plain language.  While we’re aficionados who love coffee and tea, we won’t partake in the type of snobbery found in many other discussions of coffee & tea.  If either of us say there are “hints of chocolate” when discussing a coffee, then you know we’ve jumped the shark and you can stop reading. 

We believe that there are many exceptional drinks to be had, even by those of us who swear off caffeine.  It’s time to celebrate those drinks.

About the Authors

Rob Russell, co-conspirator

A relative latecomer to the joy of coffee, Rob remembers many days in college drinking the swill served during all-night study sessions.  2 years in Alabama couldn’t convince him that coffee was something you should drink every day, either.  Yet moving to the great white north of Iowa – and persevering through Iowa winters – caused him to reconsider.  Guess what?  He was hooked.  He found that he loved not only coffee, but spending time at coffee shops. 

A few years later, though, mild health concerns caused him to reconsider his growing dependence on coffee.  What was he to do?  He loved hanging out in coffee shops and spent a lot of time working there, but caffeine was causing him problems.  So, he decided to do what anyone who loves coffee – and coffee shops – does.  He made the switch to decaf. 

For over ten years, Rob has almost exclusively been drinking decaf coffees as well as decaffeinated and herbal teas.  And you know what?  He doesn’t miss the caffeine one bit. 

Favorite Coffee:  Dark roasts are my favorite roast.  As far as roasters, I don’t really have a favorite, per se.  However, some of my favorite regular places to get good decaffeinated coffees include Broadway Coffee in Kansas City, Stumptown in Portland, Intelligentsia in Chicago, and Shaw Coffee Roasters in St. Louis.  However, I’ve also had great cups of decaffeinated coffee in unexpected places such as Superior, WI, Panama City, FL, and Iowa City, IA. 

Favorite Spot for Tea: Hands down, the best tea shop I’ve ever visited is Gong Fu Tea in Des Moines, IA.  Gong Fu was a revelation the first time I visited there and has become a must-stop every time we’re in Des Moines.  Loose leaf tea, brewed in an individual brewer, makes better tea. 

Favorite Music:  Outside the world of coffee and tea, Rob is an avid music fan.  He wrote a dissertation on alternative country music and still follows the remnants of Uncle Tupelo.  He still loves The Replacements and REM and wishes he were old enough to have caught them in their 80s heyday.  Some contemporary acts that are providing an earworm include Jason Isbell, Calexico, and Neko Case. 

Best places for BBQ:  While he didn’t develop an appreciation for coffee until moving to Iowa, two years of living in Alabama cemented a love of BBQ.  While living in Tuscaloosa, he always found his way to Archibald’s BBQ.  Now that he lives in Missouri, he enjoys Bogart’s & Pappy’s in St. Louis and Jack Stack & Q39 in Kansas City.  And, a recent visit to Memphis resulted in 2 trips to Central BBQ to enjoy some of the best BBQ on the planet.  For something completely different, L&L Hawaiian BBQ is a mid-Pacific delicacy as well. 

Travel wish-list:  Besides trips to find coffee, some of the places that are on Rob’s list destinations include 1) New Zealand; 2) Cape Town, South Africa; 3) India; 4) Buenos Aires, Argentina; and 5) St. Maarten.


Laura Russell, co-conspirator

I grew up watching my working-class parents drink pre-ground coffee from a red, metal container. In my experience, coffee was how adults began their day and I dutifully followed suit. It was only when I met Rob did I learn that coffee could be something other than a tolerated necessity. The early days of our relationship were spent sipping coffees while writing papers and getting through academic semesters. 

Like Rob, I also drink decaf... mostly. As a mother to a small child there are days when caution is thrown to the wind and alertness is more important than caffeine twinges. Other times I don't have time to wait for a decaf Americano and the lack of brewed decaf steers me toward the caffeinated options.

Favorite Coffee Rule:  I have a theory that one can tell the quality of a coffee shop's coffee by their coffee branding. If a coffee shop believes in brewing and serving the best possible coffee they will serve that coffee in a cup that will remind their customer where they got that amazing cup of coffee. If they don't care about their coffee then they won't care about their cups. Anyone can disagree with me, of course, but in my experience my not-so-scientific theory has held up.

Other Favorites: I have varied interests and they tend to run the spectrum. I have a hard time committing to "favorites" but some things I enjoy are (furry) animals, including our two cats, any dog I see outside, creatures I come upon while running on nature trails, and the plethora of animals showcased on Instagram. I also love independent book stores, St. Louis, mushrooms, and gourmet grocery stores.

Travel wish-list:  My love for travel pales in comparison to Rob's... although I do enjoy it once I'm there.  I'm also okay with just staying home. However, if I were to pick, my list of desired destinations include 1) the Netherlands; 2) New Zealand; 3) United Kingdom; 4) Uruguay; and 5) Galapagos Islands.