Is butter coffee the next must-have menu trend?
Butter coffee made at Picnik. Source: Chris Dowell
Editor's note: This is part 1 in a two-part series exploring the trend of butter coffee.
Like many working moms, I run mostly on caffeine and endorphins. I get the caffeine from several daily coffee treats, while the endorphins result from spending my lunch hour punching and kicking things at the gym or powering through a sweaty yoga session.
Needless to say, I was curious when I heard other caffeine-and-gym addicted working mommies touting the benefits of butter coffee — a blend of organic coffee, grass-fed butter and MCT oil.
With a name like "butter," it sounds unhealthy, but according to the mommies and Dr. Google, the ingredients work together to keep energy levels high without the usual afternoon coffee crash.
Some fans say it boosts cognitive function, supports fat burn, balances mood and hormone levels and reduces hunger. People love the stuff; you could easily say the coffee concoction has gained a cult following, which, of course, made me wonder if I'd be seeing it pop up on fast casual menus across the country.
I had to try it.
The only problem is I live in Kansas City — where the trend hasn't yet caught on, so my options were to make my own (yeah right) or wait until I was in another city.
Enter my trip to Austin.
Part of my job as editor of FastCasual is to stay on top of trends, which is why I had been following Austin's small fast casual eatery, Picnik.
Owner Naomi Seifter opened it as a trailer a couple years ago but has since added a second (larger) unit. Both locations specialize in butter coffee and other extremely healthy (and trendy) menu items, i.e. bone broth.
While in Austin on another assignment, I stopped at Picnik to have my first butter coffee experience. I ordered a latte flavored with maple syrup; it was surprisingly delicious, and I could easily see myself replacing my usual coffee habit with butter coffee — if only I had the option in my hometown.
That begs the question: Should other fast casual brands and coffee chains embrace the buttery trend?
Picnik's Seifter, who spent a few minutes chatting with me about the popularity of the buttery treat, obviously sees the benefit.
"(It) gained an almost cult following across the country and led to the creation of our brick-and-mortar restaurant and now our line of ready-to-drink bottled butter coffee," she said. The bottled creations are available at Picnik or online sold by the case, which comes with six 10-ounce butter coffees for $35.
Seifter said customers love the coffee because of its health halo — the combination of healthy fats assist with caffeine absorption, helping them digest the caffeine at an even rate to help reduce the jitters and the crash that caffeine on its own can sometimes induce.
"Additionally, grass-fed butter has a different genetic makeup than conventional butter, so it's actually a healthy fat similar to an avocado," she said. "Grass-fed butter is a good source of essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and other vitamins and minerals. MCT oil can help kick start your metabolism, aid in digestion, and in combination with a well-balanced diet, can encourage weight loss.
Some varieties, however, are sweetened with maple syrup or include other natural ingredients to create different flavor profiles.
"Some might be considered slightly more on the indulgent side. However, we always use all natural, unrefined, high-quality ingredients, most of which have additional health benefits," Seifter said.
Another small fast casual concept serving butter coffee is Denver's newly opened Just Be Kitchen. It offers a completely gluten-free and Paleo-friendly menu. Bristas make "Bullet Coffees" featuring coffee from the city's local roasters, Method Roasters and Copper Door Roasters. Like Picnik, they add organic, grass-fed butter and MCT oil, said Founder Jennifer Peters.
"We love the slow release of energy it offers. Rather than feeling a jolt, you have a long-lasting boost of energy," she said about the Bullet Coffee served at her 3-week old cafe. "Being a Paleo and gluten-free restaurant, our customers enjoy the high healthy fat content, and it’s milk-free."
While numbers are still in the early stages, Peters said customers are ordering the Bullet Coffees at about a 2-to-1 ratio.
"It (seems) to be more of an addition to any meal versus just a morning drink," she said.
Part 2 of this series will include interviews with David Asprey, the founder of Bulletproof Coffee, and trend experts who will discuss whether fast casual operators should add butter coffee to the menu.
Before joining Networld Media Group as director of Editorial, where she oversees Networld Media Group's nine B2B publications, Cherryh Cansler served as Content Specialist at Barkley ad agency in Kansas City. Throughout her 17-year career as a journalist, she's written about a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry and technology to health and fitness. Her byline has appeared in a number of newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine. She also serves as the managing editor for FastCasual.com.www