When Nick Maxfield found himself laid up with an exercise injury, he thought he'd use the time to try out the keto diet. But he was already soy- and dairy-free, which limited his options greatly, especially when it came to the keto trend of Bulletproof coffee. So he decided to make his own version of the butter-rich breakfast drink, only substituting cacao butter. Maxfield's home experiments eventually led to him launching his own human-powered coffee cart, Cabu Latte (taking the "ca" and "bu" from cacao butter).
Bulletproof coffee is a high-calorie beverage commonly used by those on keto or paleo diets to replace breakfast. Typically it comprises coffee, pastured butter (from grass-fed cows) and MCT oil mixed in a blender and served hot. Maxfield makes his version, which he serves cold, by blending cold brew coffee (a blend of Coda and Dazbog coffees) with dates, cacao butter, a small amount of vanilla and pink sea salt, so the drink doesn't contain soy or dairy. (The dates make it non-keto, but we won't tell if that's your only cheat of the day.)
Maxfield, whose background is primarily in real estate and property management, got to a point where he perfected his recipe and shared it with friends and family. "It’s kind of unique, because everybody knows about coffee and chocolate and how great they are together, but this is another side to each of those ingredients," he explains. "You get a clear and bright flavor profile with cold brew, and using the fatty part of the cacao bean gives it a rich and smooth texture so it doesn’t have the bitterness of cacao powder."
To his surprise, everyone enjoyed the drink. "'I guess we put it in bottles and start selling it nationwide,'" he remembers thinking. "But it turns out that it’s actually really difficult to do that." So he shifted gears and set his sights on producing and slinging the drink on the local market.
He teamed up with his dad for legal advice, his brother for accounting help and his cousin for social media expertise to figure out how to bring Cabu to the masses. After months of research, they decided on an adult-sized tricycle for the mode and Commons Park for the location. The custom tricycle-mounted cart, made by a London-based company, can hold up to four small kegs of batched lattes at a time, which Maxfield makes at a commissary kitchen in Lakewood. As a bonus, Maxfield lives near Commons Park, along the Platte River Trail, making for a convenient commute.
Learning how to make his cacao butter latte in large quantities was tricky. "I had to scale it from making it in small 32-ounce batches at home to working in twelve-gallon volumes," Maxfield notes. "There were nine or ten really small things I had to figure out and change...but it was downright undrinkable for a while."
He relied on feedback from colleagues at the commissary kitchen and cacao connoisseurs to help him adapt his recipe for bulk production, but eventually he hit the unsweetened spot. After a few supply-chain setbacks and equipment malfunctions, he was finally ready to roll, and September 7 marked Cabu's official launch.
Although the wheels were in motion before the pandemic, the Cabu Latte tricycle was made for COVID times. Other than a small amount of shelter provided by an umbrella, it's a completely open-air operation, allowing for easy social distancing and air circulation. The tiny cart has very few surfaces to clean, and Cabu relies on touchless payments to operate.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Opening a business during a pandemic comes with its own set of challenges, however. “When we decided this was the spot last summer, there was continuous heavy foot traffic all day long," Maxfield points out. "Now it’s nowhere near selling out the capacity of the trike, and it’s also maybe 20 to 25 percent of the foot traffic that was in Commons Park pre-COVID."
And now he finds himself adapting once again, to cooler temperatures. The kegs he uses are capable of keeping the liquid inside hot or cold for an extended period of time, so his goal is to develop a hot version of Cabu for chillier days. "I assumed that if I took what I had and put it in a pot and heated it up, it’d be good...but that was not the case. It’s gross. But I think that we’re close to making it very good when it’s hot," he adds. That will allow him to sell drinks through the winter, including a pumpkin spice Cabu latte that he's working on.
You can find Maxfield and Cabu Latte where the Platte River Bridge (just off 16th and Platte streets) meets Commons Park, rain or shine, from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m. Tuesday thru Friday and 7:30 a.m. until noon on Saturdays and Sundays. Follow the Cabu Latte Instagram for updates and more cute pup pics.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story mentioned that Cabu's lattes are keto-friendly, but dates are not part of the standard keto diet, according to owner Nick Maxfield.