When I talk to people about the latest foodie trend of adding butter to your coffee, I inevitably get that look: a blank and over-polite expression, while clearly questioning my sanity at the same time.
For most people, the image that immediately springs to mind is their beloved morning cuppa defiled by a greasy dollop of butter, and having to ingest an oily mixture first thing in the morning – so receiving that look is understandable.
The carb-phobic devotees of the Tim Noakes or Paleo diets however, will probably be salivating at the prospect of adding even more fat content to the start of their day, which is where the idea of butter coffee origionated.
The whole fat versus carb debate seems to have reached new heights this year, polarizing families and ensuring that hosting a dinner party has become as complicated as resolving the Middle East crisis. Try inviting a vegan and a carb-phobe evangelist to the same dinner and you’ll see what I mean. New food fads are popping up more frequently as the debate rages on, like the current obsession with cauliflower – but that’s an entirely separate column.
The concept of butter coffee was invented, or rather pioneered, in 2010 by Dave Asprey, an entrepreneur from Silicone Valley, in California (why does that not surprise me). He was served some yak butter tea whilst hiking in Tibet (as one does) in freezing conditions and at high altitude. After drinking this tea he felt completely rejuvenated and energised, so on his return to America set out to replicate the beverage, but used coffee instead of tea.
Aspery always enjoyed coffee but felt that the caffeine gave him an instant rush, after which his energy level would crash. These extreme energy highs and lows are what sugar and refined carbohydrates also do to your system, and what the high fat/no carb diets are supposed to counter.
Asprey eventually launched Bulletproof® coffee, a brand of coffee beans that is free of the toxins usually found in mass produced coffee. This brand of toxin-free coffee is essential to making butter coffee, not to mention a shrewd business model when kick-starting a trend.
Making butter coffee is more complex than you would think: not the actual process but the three key ingredients, which you have to have – 1 cup Bulletproof coffee (or mycotoxin free coffee), 1 to 2 tbsp unsalted grass fed butter and 1 to 2 tbsp MYC oil (which stands for medium chain triglycerides and contains the fat from coconut/palm kernel oil). All three ingredients are then blended for about 20 seconds until frothy. The result is said to be similar to a latte, not oily, but rather a creamy textured coffee.
The purity of the oil and butter ingredients is crucial. The MYC oil is an easily metabolised form of energy and Asprey is adamant that it will boost your brain’s focus. The butter HAS to be from grain fed cows. Today, most cows are corn or soy fed, which is cheap and filling, but as it is not what they naturally eat, they don’t digest it properly and as a result their milk produces the kinds of additional fats you don’t want in your body.
So what can butter coffee do for you?
I have not had the pleasure, but fans of the beverage say it does allow you to have a coffee buzz without the jitters or acidity in the stomach, provides greater mental clarity, sustains your energy over a longer period of time (up to six hours) and keeps hunger at bay because the fat content keeps you full, which can then lead to weight loss.
In terms of health, grass-fed butter has the best ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids and is a source of vitamin K, both of which are able to reduce body fat and the risk of heart disease. MCT oil can also help regulate cholesterol levels, but – and with all new food fads and diets, there is always a “but” – the types oils that MCT is extracted from often contain dangerous levels of trans and saturated fats, which are bad for you, so finding the right ingredient is not only tricky, but is inevitably going to be expensive.
As a drink on its own, and if the ingredients are pure, butter coffee will do all it promises. Like the high protein/no carb diet it’s the fat content that keeps you full, and as a result you’re less likely to get hungry and therefore you eat less. It’s simple science, not a magic weight loss elixir.
So be warned. A tablespoon of both grass-fed butter and MCT oil will add an extra 200-300 calories to your daily intake, so butter coffee has to replace some food or caloric beverage otherwise you could gain an extra 10kgs in a year, just by having a mug per day. So a breakfast of maple syrup pancakes washed down with a mug of butter coffee, is simply not a good idea.
Watch how to make butter coffee (aka Bulletproof coffee)
By: Dion Chang
Image credit: http://www.marco.org/2013/02/12/buttered-coffee