“So where’s the butter? I asked the barista at 7Kickstart. Whether out of shame or or plain boredom, he shrugged and replied,”In the coffee.” Perhaps he wondered why he had to be Captain Obvious. I should have been more specific and asked how the butter had been incorporated in the coffee.
“At the bottom.” he replied to further prodding, before returning to chat with his fellow barista.
There wasn’t a sliver of yellow in sight. “Perhaps they didn’t put the butter in?” said A who had very wisely chosen a tea for herself. Well, the espresso itself had a rounder-than-usual taste but not having sampled the unadulterated coffee, could not tell how much to attribute to the presence of butter.
The internets say the genesis of the butter espresso (or butter coffee) trend can be found in a recipe for Bulletproof® Coffee, itself a hack of yak butter tea. That progenitor recipe suggested blending coffee with grass-fed unsalted butter, and something called Brain Octane, with the aim of boosting personal performance. Other (later?) recipes recommend MCT (multi-chain triglyceride) oil as an alternative to the proprietary product.
In London one or two years ago, before hearing of this trend in the U.S. or Singapore (the U.K. being quite impervious to all sorts of newfangled things), I used to add butter to coffee for a far sadder reason: to make instant coffee more palatable to others. The leftover butter from breakfast gave the drink a little more body and the sweetness and creaminess headed off some of the bitter and sour notes.
However, neither I nor the Bulletproof® Coffee guy were the first to hit upon such an idea. It seems the pyjama-clad coffeeman at the Heap Seng Leong coffeeshop in Singapore has been doing this since at least the 1970s.
There is nothing new under the sun.