In 2017, it’s still possible in coffee-saturated Seattle to open a coffee shop to great fanfare.
Bulletproof, the Bellevue, Wash.-based brand opened its first Bulletproof Cafe in the Northwest on Friday. With it comes the company’s signature line of high-performance menu items, most notably the coffee that is infused with grass-fed butter and energy-producing Brain Octane oil.
It’s more than lattes. It’s a lifestyle!
At the corner of Westlake Avenue North and Thomas Street, in the heart of Amazon’s South Lake Union Campus, about 100 people lined up outside the cafe for a ribbon cutting and official opening. There was even a car modeled after a stick of butter, called the Buttermobile, parked out front.
Bulletproof founder and CEO Dave Asprey added to the suspense by arriving a bit late after a flight from his home in Victoria, B.C.
Working his way through the crowd, posing for selfies like a rock star, Asprey pulled a samurai sword off his back and slashed through an orange ribbon in front of the cafe before inviting coffee lovers inside.
“How many times in your life do you get to cut a ribbon with a sword in front of a crowd?” Asprey said.
A longtime tech worker who used to weigh 300 pounds, Asprey credits his enthusiasm for such events to the gratitude he has for the people he works with and the mission they’re on — a mission that he says changed his life. “There are real rock stars that drink Bulletproof. I’ve been backstage with them. They’re very different than me.”
A self-described “biohacker,” Asprey is the best-selling author of two books, “Bulletproof Diet” and his latest, “Head Strong.” His company is aimed at helping people improve their lives by putting better ingredients in their bodies. Science-based information, tools and products are meant to help people perform better, increase focus, enhance energy, and live longer.
The new cafe is an extension of that belief, beyond just the products. The small space is billed as “safe, clean, toxin-free with low volatile organic compound (VOC) materials in the air.” There’s no aluminum, Bulletproof says, and it only uses stainless steel or cast iron cookware. No sponges or bleach on-site, either.
Bulletproof’s two other cafe locations are in Los Angeles. Surrounded by Amazon’s growing campus, the cafe will compete with other eateries and food trucks that seek the attention of the thousands of workers who populate the neighborhood. And Asprey thinks his products make sense here.
“I’m a computer hacker. These are my people,” he said. “People who are doing knowledge work … my last book was called “Head Strong.” It’s not about how to grow abs, right? Abs are a side effect of making the brain work better. I speak more to developers and engineers than I do to the physical culture.”
Anna Collins, COO at Bulletproof, believed in the company enough to jump ship from Amazon a year ago. She spent about six years at the tech giant, most recently as GM of Worldwide Prime Membership, and her previous office building is visible from a seat at the cafe.
“Bulletproof is about high energy and doing what works and Amazon’s culture is about doing what works,” Collins said. “It’s about data-driven, it’s about measuring, it’s about experimenting and failing, it’s about innovation. And that is so Bulletproof.”
With her 83-year-old mother seated next to her, sipping a coffee and scrolling on her smartphone, Collins gestures to her as a believer in how the products make her feel and the energy she derives from them. She’s also a believer in the Vibe machine, a small, electronic platform that users can stand on in the cafe and get a “whole body vibration” to stimulate detoxification and promote muscle strength.
So, 46 years after the first Starbucks cafe opened in Seattle, there’s clearly still an appetite for that culture and the innovation that comes with it. Even if that means a tall drip is actually something that should come with butter instead of half and half.
“Seattle is really the home of coffee, at least modern coffee in the U.S.,” Asprey said. “Starbucks introduced the idea that coffee matters, and the idea of community around coffee shops. My whole career in tech has been around disrupting, and Bulletproof is out to disrupt big food.”