A Peek Inside The World's First Bulletproof Coffee Shop
As I stood on the patio of the flagship Bulletproof Coffee Shop on Santa Monica's Main Street—opening Saturday morning, at 7 a.m.—I couldn't help but notice the delicious irony that literally across the street was another health drink store calling itself Gunpowder.
Bulletproof founder Dave Asprey—entrepreneur and self-described "biohacker"—finds the juxtaposition "hilarious" but denies there was any intent on his part. "It was intentional that it was in Santa Monica, the home of physical culture," he tells me. "It's right underneath Arnold Schwarzenegger's office. It's two blocks from Gold's Gym. This is where people started taking control of their bodies in a new way that wasn't medical."
"It was about lifestyle. It seemed fitting."
If you haven't been keeping up with your New York Times trendpieces, Bulletproof is Asprey's self-devised lifestyle and diet that claims to help you lose weight, cut down on hunger and cravings, and also increase brain function. "Bulletproof is about taking control of the environment around you and inside yourself so you have control of your biology," Asprey tells me. Guests can expect not just Bulletproof Diet-friendly food, but also an electro-engineered physical environment (more on that later). It's an all-encompassing regimen, but it has become mainly known for its trademarked coffee recipe, inspired by Tibetan tea, which famously uses butter.
Being the regular coffee drinker I am, I arrived at Bulletproof's pre-opening reception with an open palate and the requisite skepticism that came with preferring one's coffee just black. Not only did Bulletproof Coffee come with a gob of butter from grass-fed cows, but also with a teaspoon or two of "Brain Octane"—basically pure saturated fat. Asprey says he also prefers his coffee black, but he touts his concoction's ability to sharpen your mind and curb your hunger and says he starts each day with a cup.
It was already evening when I got my first sip of the Bulletproof Coffee and food was plentiful at the event, so I could only ostensibly give it a taste test and not experience the supposed effects. I was pleasantly surprised at how rather ordinary it seemed. The combination of rich dairy with coffee made it taste like any other latte or cappuccino that has sat around long enough for the foamed milk to settle in. There was also a mocha option that also tasted a little better—but chocolate will do that to almost anything. Bulletproof Coffee, just as a drink alone, was perfectly fine.
Soaking in the furnishings of the coffeeshop's space, I couldn't help but notice their peculiarity. Lightboxes around the entrance doorway adjust their brightness and color depending on the time of day in order to synchronize with the human circadian rhythm, "so that you'll want to go to sleep at night instead of being kept awake by bright lights," Asprey explains. There's a sizable communal dining table with a natural wood finish but with large metal nodes running through the tabletop. "We have surfaces that are electrically grounded to help discharge static in your body," he adds. "The whole environment and space is built to hack the human body for better performance and living longer." Even a pair of armchairs on the other side of the space are electrically grounded—but it was what was next to them that was peak-Bulletproof.
Just a 15-minute spin on the Whole Body Vibration Plate is said to get your lymph nodes churning and stimulate your muscles and brain. Guests can opt to buy their own Vibration Plate for $1,500 to reap the benefits in their own home. I took my own ride on the plate and it was pretty fun. I imagine it's what the Flex Belt is like, but for your whole body.
Bulletproof Coffee Shop will also be providing a sizable menu of food designed to fit the regimen, which forgoes dairy and grain like the Paleo diet, but is even richer in fats. Expect lots of grass-fed beef. "The most important tool is high-quality food made out of the right kinds of fats, right kinds of proteins, with tons of vegetables. When you get that right everything changes in your life," Asprey says.
All of the hors d'oeuvres at the event were made in accordance with the Bulletproof Diet (and mostly tasty, I should add), but only the roasted lamb bone broth would be available as a menu item once it opened. The broth tastes like what one would expect from lamb broth, but without being too rich. Anyone who enjoys the savory taste of lamb would find it quite enjoyable.
As far Bulletproof's supposed health benefits go, I remain heavily skeptical. I defer to the experts as somebody who is not qualified to make their own judgment on such matters. Bulletproof was kind enough to provide me with their own coffee blend to take home—they claim it's processed in a way that removes harmful toxins—along with a bottle of Brain Octane so I could start each day with Bulletproof, but I substituted the grass-fed butter with generic Trader Joe's butter and lacked the blender used in the recipe to whip it all together (I used a chopstick to stir it instead). It was already a faulty experiment from the start.
After a few days my own special blend of Bulletproof Coffee didn't do anything to curb my appetite or make me feel any sharper, but I'll admit to not being a practitioner of the most healthy lifestyle to pair with the beverage. I decided to put a quick end to the experiment since I decided my diet didn't need the additional 21 grams of saturated fat I was drinking in the morning.
To bail on the Bulletproof lifestyle so early was probably inevitable given my own mental inertia. I'm sure Asprey would encourage me to keep it up.
"It's about making small changes that are better. You don't have to be perfect. You just need to know what direction to make the changes in. It's about having simple tools that make you feel amazing."
Maybe sometime further down the road. I still have a lot of that Brain Octane sitting around.
Bulletproof Coffee Shop opens Saturday, July 25 and located at 3110 Main Street #116 in Santa Monica, near Venice.