Before Bulletproof Coffee, There Was Yak Butter Tea

Butter and Coffee

Some people are just not breakfast people. No matter how many times they might hear, “It’s the most important meal of the day,” it’s hard to sit down and eat almost anything so early. To those folks, Bulletproof Coffee, a concept developed by inventor and self-proclaimed “biohacker” Dave Asprey in 2009, may come as a welcome solution.

The basic concept is quite simple. On one hand, there is a stimulant: caffeine. On the other hand, there is a satiating element: fat. This comes in the form of butter and something called medium triglyceride (MCT) oil, which we’ll get to shortly.

To a brew of “Upgraded Coffee,” the consumer adds a tablespoon of specially developed MCT oil (composed of fatty acids with between 6 and 12 carbon chains) and two tablespoons of grass-fed butter. After using a hot water kettle, a pour over coffee kit, a blender and two branded products, you have a 460-calorie beverage meant to promote mental clarity and facilitate weight loss.

As it turns out, the idea of mixing something fatty into a hot beverage to start off a hard day’s work is not so new. In fact, the inspiration for Bulletproof Coffee came to Asprey during a 2005 trip to the Himalayas. In Tibet, yak butter tea is often called the national drink, with some individuals consuming up to 60 cups per day.

Looking back to 800 B.C., we see the domestication of yaks—a resilient animal that can get by on a diet of shrubs and grasses at high altitudes. As far as the tea component, according to authors Mary Lou and Robert Heiss of The Story of Tea, the marriage between a Chinese princess during the Tang dynasty (618-907 A.D.) and the King of Tibet opened up the tea trade between the two countries. While it’s unclear when yak butter was first added to tea, it’s mostly just common sense. The mixture of butter, milk, salt and tea (usually Pu-erh or Pemagul black) provides sustenance for everyday life in extreme conditions and also slows dehydration.

The nomadic Tibetans, or drokpas, that Asprey encountered in his travels were not concerned about impressing their coworkers with a savvy PowerPoint Presentation. They were concerned about having the energy to survive. With all the clicking and swiping we do on our electronic devices, it seems natural to reach back to an earlier, simpler and healthier time. I don’t doubt that sitting in front of a computer all day isn’t hard work, but herding animals above 10,000 feet seems to be a little bit more of a justification for drinking a frothy beverage full of saturated fat.

Picture: fastcompany


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