Coffee vs Bulletproof Coffee, Yerba Mate vs Green tea — the great caffeine show down

TL;DR? The short answer is “IMO Yes! Bulletproof coffee works. Yet, for focus and inducing flow we can go one better by dosing through the day with teas.”

What is bulletproof coffee? 

If you have not heard of bulletproof coffee before then you are likely in for shock when you hear its’ ingredients. Lifestyle guru and biohacker Dave Asprey formulated bulletproof coffee by adding grass-fed butter and coconut oil to high quality fresh coffee. Dave has developed products to extract the nutritional elements; primarily medium-chain triglycerides(MCTs) from coconut oil. His products save you digesting the disproportionate amount of oil in order to gain the same quantity of MCTs. I’ll give you my tips and recipe below but first up does bulletproof coffee work?

Does Bulletproof coffee work – scientifically?

Critics claim it is just a bit better than a caffeine boost. In my opinion it works for more reasons than the caffeine alone. I’ll explain why:

  • First, if you believe the scientific argument Dave Asprey puts forward: our brains are mostly water and fat. If we supply the brain with high quality fats and the elements it needs to make neural connections and synapses then we are effectively oiling the brain for better cognition. For brevity, I am over simplifying; for a full explanation please read his book “Head Strong”. 
  • Secondly, for me I find the most compelling reason is that it provides a high quality energy source to keep the mind at optimal performance when in an extended period of flow. During flow we often don’t stop for hours on end, there is no stop for a snack or top up. 

Does Bulletproof coffee work in practice? Yes – more so!

  • This brings me to my third reason. Bulletproof coffee, when made correctly is keto friendly. Ketosis occurs when our bodies convert fat to energy as opposed to relying on glucose i.e. from our last meal or drink. Ketosis is associated with intermittent fasting. If you don’t eat anything from last meal in the evening until lunch time except for bulletproof coffee then you will enter ketosis in the last hours burning your fat reserves and not experiencing any hunger pangs. 
  • The forth reason is tied to the previous — interruption of eating aside, when we eat or snack we are adding more ‘stuff’ for our digestive system to process. Our digestive system uses a considerable amount of energy (up to 30% of calories consumed). This is why we can be slow and lethargic after a large lunch. By efficiently fuelling the brain and not overburdening the body by constantly keeping the digestion system loaded we get a double performance benefit.

So does Bulletproof coffee work?

In summary of the above points, there are the scientific reasons tied to fuelling the brain. Further, in my experience the most compelling reason why bulletproof coffee works to help focus and flow is that it enables you to stay focused and in flow for an extended period; that is without interruption and without depleting the brain of energy from the process of digestion. 

Yerba Mate

My first experience with Yerba Mate was in Argentina over 20 years ago. My wife is Argentine and she, her friends and family all drank Yerba daily. It is a national drink and social pass time. It is common practice that the gourd (the Mate) be ‘packed’ and prepared with boiling water and shared whilst playing a game or in conversation; each in turn sips from the straw (metal or wood ‘sombilla’) a few times until the first slurping noise, then tops up the water, let it seep and passes on to the next person. It is a sensory experience I thoroughly enjoy from the packing, the ceremony of passing through to the roasted flavour that comes through when the air mixes as the end of the last sip. 

Yerba Mate health benefits

Yerba Mate is a stimulant renowned for its’ mood lifting, hunger suppressing and cognitive boosting ability. From university students studying to truck drivers freighting through the night swear by its ability to keep the mind focused and alert. For productivity and focus, Mate stimulates production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. 

Mateine is the Caffeine equivalent in Yerba Mate. The herb has a high concentration of polyphenols also contain bitter alkaloids Theobromine and Theophylline in higher concentrations than coffee or tea. It also possesses an impressive nutrition profile including Vitamins A, B1,B2,B3 and B5, Vitamins C & E. Minerals including Magnesium and Potassium. 

Is Yerba Mate good for you?

Yerba Mate is a natural but powerful ‘smart drug’, the favourite of Tim Ferriss bestselling author and biohacker. However, If like me you experience disturbed sleep by having coffee after 4pm beware! you’ll be likely wide awake if you have Yerba. It has less caffeine than coffee (by weight) yet its’ chemical concoction affects people differently than caffeine alone so it is important to experiment to maximise the benefits without side effects. Tim Ferriss (who has tried pretty much everything!) chooses Yerba Mate over coffee and smart drugs – he claims it is non-addictive and there is no downside .  My only caution here is how much you consume. Which I’ll get to in last section of this write up. 

Green Tea

Having British heritage I grew up with a pot of tea on the table most afternoons. I never gave tea any real merit other than a warm drink that I’d occasionally drink in winter. The first time I truely enjoyed tea and experienced any cognitive affects was when travelling in Hangzhou China. We were guests representing Australia in an international FinTech pitching competition(kind of China vs the Rest of the World). 

Perfect Longjing tea

On a day off, our translator and guide took us to the iconic West Lake in Zhejiang Provence. On the way we travelled through what felt like endless tea fields as we left the city. In the markets along side the lake the tea merchants laid out in baskets their wares. It was striking how perfect and intact each leaf was. Although dried when the leaf touches hot water it expands back to to original larger form. These were the sweetest, handpicked high quality Longjing tea leaves. A stark contrast to the rubbish barely recognisable dust we buy on our shelves in supermarkets. On sampling and experiencing the amazing flavour we bought what we could make room for in our luggage. 

The calming affect of tea 

Apart from superior flavour I began to notice the tea had a profound calming affect on my mind. I began taking the tea medicinally, that is on days where I felt I had a lot on my plate or serotonin levels high I’d prepare the tea and in a short time I’d experience clearer thinking and deeper concentration. 

Quality is important

Since our initial supply ran out, I have struggled to find anything near the quality of this origin sourced tea. In Australia and I imagine most of the western world the Longjing tea is known as Dragon Well tea yet quality and freshness is hard to obtain. I have resorted to buying from local Chinese markets to obtain anything resembling the quality. Although nothing like the presentation, sweetness of what we took back the calming affect is still evident. I cannot emphasis enough that you are wasting your time and money on tea unless you are drinking a good quality Longjing. 

So which is the best tea or coffee to induce flow and improved focus?

We know to achieve flow we must first achieve focus (I wrote about that here). Focus requires heightened attention, lowering of distractions. To induce the flow state we must both calm the mind yet fuel its’ excited state with both energy and stimulation. 

Using the DayNinja Method to measure my performance over some years of experiments I have come to the following combination of beverages for peak performance. 

On wake – water only

Drink a whole glass of water. You need to hydrate after a nights sleep and lay a clean foundation in your stomach. You don’t need anything else really for at least an hour so. Go exercise and or enjoy the sunrise. Your brain has enough stimulation from serotonin and other waking up chemicals to kick off the day.

Morning coffee — bulletproof style

Start a focus session with Bulletproof coffee, this will provide the stimulation and energy whilst you are in flow. Have prepared and sip slowly over the next hour or so pure Longjing tea infused with Yerba Mate. 

Work companion — Green tea with Yerba Mate

I prepare my tea with near boiling water to toss in enough leaves to cover the surface and let them soak and fall. When they fall, I drop in a teaspoon sized wire basket of Yerba mate, top up water and leave seeping for about 3 minutes, remove the basket then take to my desk. 

Afternoon delight — straight espresso coffee

Only after lunch do I prepare another coffee. I don’t find it necessary to have another tea or coffee this will last me to evening meal time. But each of us are different so try for yourself, you may be able to have more Yerba Mate or another coffee but personally I know this will affect the depth of my sleep. 

Final notes on quality

As with the need for tea to be of great quality, Coffee must too and be fresh. If you are not seeing the caramel coloured oils expressing from your coffee (this is the extraction that makes the crema on the top of your cappuccino) then you are not getting the benefit of the polyphenols from the coffee. Find yourself a local roaster that has a high turnover so your beans are no longer than a week old when you buy them.

Final important note: I am not a doctor. I am just communicating what has worked for me and yields the best results from my own experiments. Consult a doctor if you have any heath issues before making big changes to dietary intake.