• Picnik, a specialty coffee retailer based in Austin, Texas, is bringing a first-of-its-kind bottled, buttered coffee to market.
• Butter Coffee will roll out to nearly 400 Whole Foods stores nationwide in August.
• The drink taps into a Silicon Valley diet craze that has techies eating lots of fat.
"How do you take your coffee: with milk, sugar, or butter?"
You won't hear baristas asking that question in San Francisco coffee shops just yet — but a growing number of tech workers are drinking coffee with butter for a unique kind of jolt. They say the creamy blend gives them a boost in energy and productivity, among other perks.
Picnik, a specialty coffee retailer based in Austin, Texas, is capitalizing on the trend by introducing a bottled version of its "butter coffee" to Whole Foods stores nationwide, starting in August. The drink comes in three flavors: Mocha Latte, Cappuccino, and Dirty Chai.
In 2013, when Naomi Seifter, founder and CEO of Picnik, first started serving buttered coffee out of a shipping container she had converted into a coffee kiosk, she got a lot of questions.
"I had to stand behind the counter every day and say, 'I know this sounds scary and it seems super weird, but just give it a shot,'" Seifter told Business Insider.
For the first year, she gave free upgrades on black coffee so customers could try it. Back then, the coffee was blended with a Cadbury Egg-like truffle of butter. Over time, buttered coffee became a bestseller.
Seifter has since changed up the recipe to include whey protein, MCT oil (a high-fat concentrate derived from coconut oil), and grass-fed butter — no blender required.
"But how does it taste?"
First, I tried the most plain flavor: Cappuccino. It only has one gram of sugar.
It tasted like watered down coffee. I preferred my regular iced coffee.
A few days later, I tried the Mocha Latte — the sweetest flavor thanks to a dose of organic maple syrup. It has 21 grams of sugar, which makes it off-limits for anyone watching their sugar intake. The drink tasted more like Nesquik chocolate milk than coffee, and I downed a bottle in minutes. It was delicious. But I don't know that it made me any more alert or focused.
Some people working in Silicon Valley take their coffee with butter as a way to inject more fat into their diet. A recent diet craze, known as the ketogenic diet, has techies cutting carbs and filling up on fat as a way to improve focus and avoid sugar crashes. Studies suggest a high-fat diet may also promote weight loss, dull hunger, and stave off age-related diseases.
Picnik's iteration of buttered coffee might be more indulgence than weight-loss secret.
The science behind buttered coffee is spotty, and it has drawn public skepticism from doctors. There are no studies showing this combination of ingredients is safe, and eating too much saturated fat could present risks for people with elevated cholesterol levels.
There's also no evidence that a pat of butter in your coffee achieves the same effect as a diet made up of 80% healthy fats. A bottle of Picnik's flavored, buttered coffee contains 21 grams of sugar, which is nearly a day's allowance of carbohydrates on the ketogenic diet.
But for some, that's all right. I tried the keto diet for two months last spring and fending off cravings was the hardest part. A sugary drink that packs in the benefits of fat might be a worthwhile "cheat."
Picnik isn't the first to tap the buttered coffee market. Dave Asprey, a cloud computing executive turned biohacking guru, has built a multimillion-dollar empire around his ideas — the most famous of which is Bulletproof Coffee.
Made with grass-fed butter and a proprietary "Brain Octane" oil, Bulletproof Coffee claims to give drinkers a "mental edge," satiate hunger for hours, and promote weight loss. The company, which sells the Bulletproof ingredients online, said it sold 48 million "cups of coffee" in 2016.
Picnik's Butter Coffee arrives in nearly 400 Whole Foods stores in August. It sells for $4.99.
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