Poop Like a Hero

Design by Etai Smotrich-Barr

A few months ago, I came across a poster on College Street, emblazoned with the words “POOP LIKE A HERO. We will get you so regular, you’ll never HAVE to wipe. Satisfying finish every time.” On the bottom left of the poster sits the logo of Cultured Cafe. 

Walk inside this State Street-based coffee shop meets therapeutics store, and the first thing you see is a blue ceiling with fluffy cotton patches that serve as artificial clouds. Mason jars of different sizes line up along the counter. CBD products hang along the brick wall. Scattered in pots all around the cafe are the top three oxygen producing botanicals: snake plants, lilies, and devil’s ivy. 

Who would own a place like this? Alexander Angeloff. A thorough Instagram stalk reveals  videos of 30˚ swims at the beach, shirtless pictures in the sauna, images of cheese kidneys for dinner, and clips of him consuming raw liver (“it’s rich in minerals!” the caption boasts). Clearly, this man was a character of his own. I was intrigued.

I met Alex last Thursday, in his eight-month-old shop at 965½ State Street. According to him, “POOP LIKE A HERO” was only one of many catchy marketing taglines his business had been developing to attract more customers in the city. Alex could easily be called the savior of New Haven’s bowel movements: since opening in July of 2022, his shop is christened “The Healthiest Place in New Haven.” Through a wide variety of nutritious and probiotic-rich food and drink, Alex says he wants to make health “sexy and funny” again and overall “a good time.” 

It’s no secret that modern diets are bad, especially in America. The food we often eat is depleted of nutrients, grossly lacking in minerals, and absurdly high in sugar. To make things worse, we’re all “just waiting to be sick, and then treating those symptoms,” Alex explained, “rather than treating the root cause” or simply staying healthy. 

Cultured Cafe’s primary mission is to challenge existing health paradigms in favor of a more holistic approach. As I spoke with Alex, it became clear that this noble endeavor had become his life-long mission. Alex was a ‘hero’—and this hero had free-spirited, health-obsessed millennials as his damsels in distress, a uniform of man-buns and tumblr-esque mustaches as his ‘super suit.’

All heroes have their origin stories, and Alex was no different. “I had a lot of behavior issues,” he said. Coming from a long lineage of Connecticut-based pharmacists, “I had the full sampling of psychological medication. For my entire life, I was experimented on.”

Even worse than his heavy use of pharmaceutical drugs was his irrational aversion to vegetables. “I didn’t eat any vegetables until I was 23 years old, really. Ever had a hair in your mouth?” he asked. “That’s what vegetables tasted like to me—in the exact same category as hair. My tongue would just find it and eject it out.” 

Alex attributed his change in diet to a profound LSD experience. “It took me about a year and a half of gagging, meditating, relaxing my facial muscles and just chewing and just sitting with vegetables in my mouth. Eating vegetables was just a huge thing to surmount to, much more than anything else I’ve incorporated into my diet since then.”

“Ideally, food should be medicine.” Alex declared. But “almost everything that you can get from the grocery store or restaurant is essentially poisonous, laced with pesticides and heavy metals, and cooked in refined seed oils. You have to look very hard at a menu to find something that would be safe to eat, let alone actually beneficial.” 

“I think a lot of these mental disorders and health crises that we’re in are due to a poor nutritional environment.” Alex contended.

Solutions don’t come easy—not everyone can shell out a hundred dollars for expensive natural health treatments with often-uncertain results. Alex knew this, and Cultured Cafe offers tasty and accessible alternatives. “People might stumble in here,” he explained, and order something healthy simply “because it’s delicious.” 

Truly, if big pharma and big agriculture are the main villains in Alex’s story, his weapons and powers were nutritious food. “I had a piece of raw liver a half hour before.” he proudly told me. “I can eat 16 raw eggs and go run a marathon.” In fact, pasteurized eggs, raw and uncooked, are on the menu.

At a place like Cultured Cafe, the food and drink obviously extends far beyond the alpha gym-bro playbook. Alex’s specialty truly lies in serving fermented food and drink, high in probiotics—i.e. putting the “cultured” in Cultured Cafe. Daily concoctions include fruit smoothies, coffee, yogurt, and, most importantly, kombucha, all of which are rich in healthy, gut-enhancing bacteria. Even more impressive is that all of Cultured Cafe’s products are made in-house: lined up along the counter an array of mason jars containing mysterious concoctions. Just on the surface of these liquids, the bacterial cultures swarm and multiply.

Alex was kind enough to let me try a few of the cafe’s signature concoctions—one of which was a chunky homemade yogurt. Hidden behind a jelly-like texture was a milky aftertaste, which only made clear its fresh fermentation. Zesty and acidic in flavor, the bacterial cultures enlivened my taste buds. 

The best item on the menu? Probably the Cold Brewcha, a kombucha made from cold brew. It boasted the rich bitterness of coffee, but the bacteria broke down the caffeine, making it sweet but sugarless, acidic but soothing. The delicate, complex flavor landed on all edges of my taste palette. “This is probably the best thing I’ve ever drank.” I told Alex.

Just as Alex was the hippie millennial hero, his arch-nemesis was sugar. Cultured Cafe’s menu items are unequivocally not for someone with a sweet tooth. I was served the cafe’s signature Turmeric Creamsicle smoothie, made of fresh mangoes, Alex’s house-made yogurt, turmeric spice, and the absence of any and all added sugar. It was refreshing, tangy, and invigorating. My sinuses were cleared in an instant. In contrast to the likes of fruit smoothie giants like Jamba Juice, Cultured Cafe’s drinks were unapologetically sour. What else can we expect from a cafe owner who (correctly) decries added sugar as the fourth horseman of the global health apocalypse? Yet still, Turmeric Creamsicle was luscious, addicting, and exciting. Every sip was a guiltless guilty pleasure.

Alex dropped me off near the Schwarzman Center so I wouldn’t have to Uber home. Only moments after saying goodbye, my gut had already started to tickle.

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