Short story is, apparently most coffees grow a mold called mycotoxins and develop chemicals called biogenic amines (histamines)--both of these can make you feel jittery and cause inflammation. To reduce the chances of getting coffee with these issues, you can drink coffee from Central America grown at very high elevations (ideal growing conditions) and from a single origin (reduces the chance of contamination from other fields). But still, often beans are picked when they're not ripe and so go bad before they ripen, often they're old, often they're mixed together so you can't even detect where the problem is coming from. The USDA has acknowledged the presences of mycotoxins but says they can't begin to test for them in all Starbucks around the world, of course, and they don't have any regulatory influence.
But, Dave Asprey did a bunch of research and found a source in Central America where he can control where and when and how the beans are picked and roasted. He created Upgraded™ Coffee, which he also tests for mycotoxins and amines. Apparently this incredible toxin-free coffee makes you feel much better than the coffees we're used to drinking.
So of course I wanted to try it! It's a little more expensive than the local roasts we've been buying (ex: Happy Cup single-origin roasts), so I never ordered any. But then, I got a bag for my birthday earlier this month and was so excited to finally try it!
So, was it any better than other coffees?We've been drinking the Upgraded™ Coffee for the past week, and I did notice some difference. It's roasted by a top quality roaster and the beans are clearly of a high quality, so the taste is of a really good, smooth, medium roast that comes out well with a drip, but is especially good with our French press. As far as the reported effects, the first day I drank it I felt a normal caffeine buzz after a few minutes, but as the morning continued I noticed a consistent, stable energy that carried me all the way until lunch. I also had noticeably less of an energy crash in the afternoon, which was a welcome and amazing feeling!
Overall, it wasn't a massive effect, but I think this has to do with the fact that I've been only drinking single origin, locally roasted beans for quite a while, so my mycotoxin intake was already pretty small compared to drinking Starbucks. I've had crappy coffee before that made me jittery and gave me a headache, but since I switched to all locally roasted, single origin beans last fall I've had that experience a lot less. So, I would definitely recommend this coffee because I do think that the guarantee against mycotoxins is well worth it, and I noticed a difference in my energy, the lack of crash, and the stable, non-jittery feeling it gave. (My wife tried some of the locally roasted organic coffee at her work this week and felt very jittery, something she hasn't felt with the Happy Cup or the Upgraded™ Coffee we've been drinking. There is a noticeable difference in both compared to MOST coffees!)
However, if you don't feel like you can afford the expense I would say you would be doing a really good job by finding a local roaster who roasts single origins in small batches, and buy in bulk from them. Single origin coffees are expensive on their own, but with the added cost of shipping the Upgraded™ Coffee it definitely costs more. (There is a 5-pound option that's a better deal, but still possibly more than a quality low-toxin option near you.) If you go the local roaster route and do the research, you'll be getting yourself most of the way there at less cost, and your chances of having mycotoxins in the beans will be limited. I can imagine a future where all coffee is tested for mycotoxins, and regulated to high degree, but at this point there's not enough understanding of these toxins or enough consumer awareness for the large roasters to make any changes to their system. Hopefully, one day, it'll be easy to walk into any corner coffee shop and guarantee that you are buying a clean cup of coffee that isn't slowly poisoning you, but for the time being we've got our local, single origin roasters to do part of the job, and Upgraded™ Coffee for a special treat!