Coffee with mind drugs in it: Fad or nah?

A new coffee trend has hit the market, promising a massive increase in cognitive function. We would be excited, but we’ve been disappointed before. I’m looking at you, Mr Avolatte.



Here at The Big Smoke, we’re what you call “coffee people”. In fact, we’d happily take it intravenously if etiquette allowed. Which it doesn’t. Moving on. Nootropic coffee is the latest trend, which is ostensibly coffee with drugs sprinkled in it. Apparently, nootropic coffee garners the drinker a boost to their cognitive functions and/or a cheap blast of adrenaline. Either/or. With many hailing it as the “future of coffee”, it is time we look back at those other groundbreaking trends that were consigned to the coffee-bin-thing of history.

First, there was the bulletproof coffee, a coffee that replaces milk with grass-fed butter, coconut oil or Brain Octane Oil, and which promised to trigger our bodies into a metabolic state (ketosis) while boosting cognitive function as well as being anti-inflammatory. The reality was, it was great for those on a keto diet but could quickly turn unhealthy with too much butter resulting in a very high-fat and hi-calories experience, which could have been better of being fuelled by protein-rich eggs.

Then hipsters give birth to the “avolatte”, an experience that was intended initially to be a joke but took off virally, that resulted in SOME PEOPLE AT THE BIG SMOKE TRYING TO MAKE IT AT HOME AND BURNING THEMSELVES, JENNA. A barista rightly called it ridiculous, saying “it’s literally coffee in a piece of rubbish”.


While the avolatte may have originated as a joke, it paved the way for other less funny jokes, such as the coffee served in an easter egg, coffee served in an ice-cream cone and even deconstructed coffee which made the whole coffee drinking experience feel just a bit Breaking Bad-ish. There was the Green Coffee extract which promised to help you lose weight and could be taken as both a brew and a pill. Research around the impact of the coffee extract also deemed it “poorly designed”.


“It’s literally coffee in a piece of rubbish.” (Image: Instagram)

There is a big difference though, between creating a menu item to be a gimmick for coffee lovers, and then creating a coffee concoction that actually promises something other than you embarrassing your kids when you order it. Nootropics are also known as smart drugs, that promise to improve cognitive function and can include both pharmaceutical drugs and also dietary supplements. A combination of caffeine with the ingredients such as Vitamin B6, for example, is supposedly shown to increase optimal performance, but the actual research on this is ambiguous.

A study that looked at the claims made by nootropic coffee fans found that the combination of ingredients was not any more effective than caffeine on its own. Anecdotal evidence suggests that nootropic compounds are highly effective and provide a greater sense of concentration – but again, this is purely anecdotal. A quick scan of the Reddit page dedicated to nootropics gives you an overview of the DIY approach coffee lovers are taking to integrating supplements with their coffee brew, including experimenting with nicotine gum. Right.

I mean, yes. You can pretty much find any research to support what you want to believe, but that doesn’t make it right. Nor does your voyage from curiosity, trying out coffee trends that are fun and harmless, to turning your kitchen into a DIY lab mixing caffeine with psychotropic drugs. You might as well just make meth.

So far, the research on the effects of nootropics is seen as uncontrolled trials, suggesting that the possible short-term gains could lead to overuse causing damage such as muscle spasms and brain fog. Which is exactly not what we drink the tripe for.

I think, for now, I will stick with my old-school espresso, and call myself a…what do you call it again?


Hang on.

…a purist! That’s it.


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