Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Butter coffee, the world's latest wonder beverage, arrives in Chicago

Posted By on 07.01.14 at 04:29 PM

Oh, life! Oh, coffee!
I am a firm believer in the magical restorative powers of coffee. I am not quite right until I have my morning cup, preferably made from recently roasted beans, brewed in a French press, and consumed at my kitchen table, but even the preground, slightly burned stuff at the office will do. Without it, my mind is blurry. I feel headachy. It's quite possible that this has nothing to do with coffee itself but the fact that I am hopelessly addicted. Nonetheless, I continue to measure my days in coffee spoons—or, now that it is iced-coffee season, in ice-cube-tray refills.

The great thing about coffee is that people are always tinkering with it, promising new methods that will taste better and make your mind sharper, so there is always something new to drink. Pour overs, cold brews, slow drips: whenever I've had a few extra dollars to spend on a cup of coffee, I've tried them all (though, aside from the cold brew, which I can make at home, I can't afford to commit to any of them). When I heard a few months ago about butter coffee (aka Bulletproof coffee), a wondrous creation that caused its inventor, Dave Asprey, to lose 100 pounds and gain several IQ points, I was intrigued (though not enough to buy Asprey's proprietary beans online), and when I heard last week that it had finally arrived in Chicago, I knew I had to try it.

At the moment, you can get butter coffee at Beatrix in River North and Ugly Mug in West Town. I chose Ugly Mug mostly because their butter coffee is $5, as opposed to Beatrix's $9. Ugly Mug's butter coffee is not officially Bulletproof: instead of Bulletproof's Upgraded Coffee beans, they use Two Brothers.

According to the Bulletproof website, Upgraded Coffee is essential to the Bulletproof mix: regular coffee contains toxins that make you all jittery, but Upgraded Coffee, the result of a decade-long search, does not. (A canny businessman, Asprey does not divulge the origin of the beans that make up Upgraded Coffee. The website, however, describes it as well-balanced, with a full body and creamy finish, with hints of apple, cherry, and vanilla.) So maybe if I'd had my butter coffee with Upgraded Coffee beans, my leg would not be jiggling right now as I type this. (Or maybe he's full of shit, since regular coffee doesn't contain threatening levels of toxins either.)

Anyway, Asprey writes that he was inspired to put butter in his coffee during a freezing trek through Tibet, when, cold and weary, he stopped at a guesthouse to drink tea flavored with yak butter and was "literally rejuvenated." (The snotty former English major in me wants to say, "So it actually made him younger?" But who am I to question a revolution in warm beverage technology?) Butter, he writes, contains "all the benefits of healthy milk fat with none of the damaging denatured casein proteins found in cream."

Ugly Mug's butter coffee sticks pretty close to Asprey's. It contains two tablespoons of coffee, two tablespoons of unsalted butter, and coconut oil, plus agave and cinnamon for flavor, all blended together and served hot. It makes for an unusually thick and creamy cup of coffee, with lots of little fat globules floating on top, which I tried to ignore. (But right now, I feel them oozing through my digestive tract, where they will be processed and absorbed and then routed to my subcutaneous fat cells, where they will remain forever and ever, and no amount of exercise will ever be able to dislodge them.)

The coffee tasted slightly bitter, and also a little salty. Perhaps because of the cinnamon and agave, I felt no need to add any extra sweetener. (Also I was afraid of how sugar might affect its restorative powers.) It's . . . interesting. I sat at a table in the shop and sipped it slowly. I skimmed through the news on my phone, and then pulled out a book to read, but I had trouble concentrating.

When I left the coffee shop, a bus was approaching. If I'd been feeling superhuman, I would have run for it. But I didn't. (Well, it also helped that, thanks to the bus tracker, I knew another one was due in three minutes.) Now I am sitting at my desk in the office. The light in here is dim. It usually makes me drowsy. Today is no exception. I'm also starting to feel hungry. It's a couple of hours past my usual lunchtime, but it's only been three hours since I had that butter coffee.

I admit, I probably went about this all wrong. To feel the full effects of this stuff, I should have gone full-out paleo (but I won't, because I love carbs too much). And maybe have drunk it at 18,000 feet in negative ten degrees. I'll give it a shot next winter, though, if the polar vortex comes back. For now, I appreciate it as a weird-ass experiment in coffee flavoring.

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