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A Complete Guide to Açaí

Even if you haven’t tried açaí before, you’ve probably seen photos of it on social media. It’s the secret ingredient that goes into tropical smoothie bowls, but these berries have a long and rich history. This article will explain everything there is to know about this purple berry.

What is açaí?
The açaí berry fruit grows on the Açaí Palm. It is grown in a few South American countries but predominantly in Brazil, deep in the Amazon rainforest. It’s been a staple of the indigenous people in Brazil for centuries and only recently has become popular in the United States and other parts of the world.

Harvesting açaí is no easy feat. These small purple berries grow on palm trees that tower 15 to 30 metres high (49 to 98 feet). Deep in the Amazon jungle, locals have been scaling these trees to pick the berries at the top for many years.

To reach the tops of the palms the harvesters loop a palm leaf around their feet to help them grip the trunk and use this as leverage to climb to the berry bunches before cutting the berries loose, then sliding back down.

Demand for açaí has exploded in recent years and as the Açaí Palm is considered a sustainable product local governments are working with local communities to grow the industry as a viable alternative to deforestation.

How is açaí consumed?
Açaí pulp is usually served chilled in Brazil and often mixed with sugar or guarana. The colour is a deep purple and capable of creating a big purple smile around your mouth. The Ribeirinhos, or river people who live in the Amazon jungle, still prepare açaí in the traditional way. They soak the fruit for hours to soften the skin and eat it with fish, game or by itself like soup.

During the ‘90s, açaí grew in popularity across Brazil and spread to the big cities where açaí bars became popular. People who were avid surfers or training in jiu jitsu would eat açaí before and after workouts to give them an energy boost. Brazilians like a thick and creamy açaí bowl, whereas overseas it tends to have more liquid, like a smoothie.

Açaí is now so popular that açaí bowls are a staple item on brunch menus and companies like Starbucks make drinks that use açaí due to its vibrant colour.

How do you make açaí bowls?
The key to a good açaí bowl is to blend it to the right consistency. It should be nice and thick, but scoopable. Invest in a powerful blender with a tamper to achieve the best results.

By itself, açaí is bitter and tart, so to make a delicious breakfast bowl, make sure you balance the açaí with honey, juice or fruit.

Example açaí base:

Start blending on low and use the tamper to push the ingredients down towards the blade. Slowly increase the speed until it’s at full power. Stop when ingredients are well blended. Scoop out into a cold bowl.

Tip: we recommend placing a bowl in the freezer overnight so it’s nice and cold.

For your açaí toppings you can use whatever takes your fancy. Here are some examples:

  • Granola
  • Fresh or frozen fruit (strawberries, blueberries, bananas, raspberries, kiwi fruit, etc)
  • Chia seeds
  • Coconut shavings
  • Honey

Place these nicely on top of the base and you’ve got an açaí bowl that’ll make your Instagram followers jealous.

Are there spirits made of açaí?
Yes, you can distill this purple berry and turn it into a spirit with unique flavours. Veev is an American company that has created this açaí berry-based spirit that showcases the fruit’s exotic taste.

Where can people get açaí-based products?
It’s not that difficult to get your hands on açaí as you can usually find açaí in the frozen aisle of your supermarket. There are now many açaí-based products available on the market, everything from skincare products to drinks.

What are the benefits of açaí? Are these proven?
Açaí berries are loaded with antioxidants, three times more in fact, than blueberries! They’re also rich in healthy fats and fibres, so plenty of benefits to eating açaí.

While I’m no scientist, I can say that açaí is a healthy option to kickstart your day. Loaded with fruit, honey, granola and anything else you want to add, açaí bowls are a great alternative to boring old toast (just don’t use too much added sugar!).

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