Deep within the misty Amazon jungle, there grows a berry fabled for its extraordinary health benefits and singular flavor. In Brazil, they call it açaí, and whether you’re aware or not, it’s already here, cedilla and all.
Many states claim to have been the first to appreciate açaí. Of these, both Hawaii and California say they were the first in the U.S. to blend the fruit into a smoothie, put that smoothie in a bowl, dress it up like a yogurt parfait and call it simply, the açaí bowl.
No one will ever know for sure whose claim is legitimate, but if widespread popularity of the snack is any indication, it was probably California.
Adam Boyar, manager of Beaming: Superfood, Vitality and Juice Bar in Del Mar, Calif., an establishment that makes a particularly tasty version of the frozen treat, estimates that his state’s craving for açaí bowls goes back as far as 2005.
“That’s when the first big boom hit,” he said.
He attributes the sudden demand for the fruit and all its blended iterations to its “superfood” qualities.
“It’s loaded with antioxidants, it opens your cells for oxygen intake —and it’s really good for your hair, skin and nails,” he said.
Since its discovery by the health-conscious, the açaí bowl has made an effortless leap to almost universal appreciation in the state. Surfers, businessmen and anyone else willing to shell out $7 to $10 for the relatively pricy, but surprisingly filling breakfast favorite has been unable to resist coming back for more.
When asked about the peak of the açaí bowl’s California popularity, Boyar said, “I think we’re still in the middle of it.”
Açaí enthusiast Evelyn Nabicht is proof of this. She didn’t have her first bowl until she moved to San Diego less than a year ago, and now she said she’s hooked.
“I like the refreshing taste, and that it’s a guilt-free indulgence,” she said.
To say açaí bowls are a big deal to our neighbors to the west is an understatement, but like yoga, longboards and civilization, has it made the journey across the border and into our beloved Arizona?
It would seem, with its inherent qualities like temperature and flavor, that the açaí bowl would be a natural fit for our terrarium-like environment. Surprisingly though, finding one is not easy.
Luckily, Thrive! Açaí Bowls & Smoothies, exists. Located on Southern Avenue and McClintock Drive, it is only a short distance from ASU’s Tempe campus.
Here they sell multiple varieties of açaí bowls, ranging from “Original,” topped with granola, strawberries, banana, blueberries and honey, to the sumptuous “Chocolate Coconut,” which is more along the lines of a dessert than anything else.
Frequent Thrive! customer and family and human development senior at ASU, Jinger Fire, appreciates having such a place within a reasonable distance.
“This is the only place that I know of around here that’s specifically for açaí bowls,” she said.
Even though it is taking a little longer than past fads, Fire said, “Açaí bowls are definitely trending in Arizona. Typically everything trends in California, then the rest of the states tend to follow.”
With this assurance, and sustained California interest, we can step out into summer knowing that at least we have the açaí bowl somewhere, and it will undoubtedly continue to grow in popularity. And if you have yet to try it, well then, you deserve (a)h-(sigh)-ee.
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