By now, you should know what an açai bowl is. I mean, how can you miss it. They are everywhere. Well, almost everywhere. If you live in California, Florida, Texas, or the Northeast, there are most likely several stores that make açai bowls in your neighborhood. But you can still find places all over the country that have added açai bowls to their menus.
Let’s step back for a minute, just in case you don’t know what açai is or how to pronounce it. Açai is a berry that grows on the top of a tall slender palm tree. Then açai palm grows wild in the Amazon Rainforest in South America. The best açai berries come from a region of the Amazon near the city of Belem in northern Brazil. There in Belem, they consume Açai on a daily basis. It has been said that more açai puree is consumed than milk in that region. Acai is a staple of the amazonian diet because it is high in healthy fats and is very filling. The deep purple berry is also high in anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are a type of flavonoid, a class of compounds with antioxidant effects. In the south of Brazil in cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, açai is consumed frozen. It is necessary to freeze açai for transport because it oxidizes quickly. So, unless you live in the Amazon Rainforest, you cannot find fresh açai berries. The good thing is that açai is delicious and refreshing in a frozen state.
Okay, so now that you know a little bit about the açai berry and where it comes from, let’s make sure that you know how to pronounce it correctly. The most common way “açai” is pronounced in the U.S. is “akai” or “akahe”. Actually, the “ç” makes an “s” sound in Portuguese. And, by the way, many Americans don’t know that Brazilians speak Portuguese rather than Spanish. The way we pronounce açai is like “ahh-sigh-ee”. So, repeat after me; ahh, sigh, ee. Three syllables. Now you have it.
Açai made it to the United States around the turn of the century but was virtually unknown until around 2005 when a doctor by the name of Nicholas Perricone called açai the number one superfood in his bestselling book, The Perricone Promise. Around that same time, Oprah Winfrey mentioned the benefits of açai on her show and it started a buzz. The problem was that açai was being introduced as a weight-loss gimmick with unethical selling programs. It wasn’t until around 2010 that authentic açai started to gain traction in the American market. The açai bowl concept started to catch on and as the juice bar craze started, and açai bowls were a perfect fit with heathy juices.
The funny thing is that açai bowls in the U.S. took on its own identity much different than in Brazil. The açai bowls in Brazil were traditionally just açai puree blended with guarana syrup and topped with banana and granola. I had açai exactly like this in Rio de Janeiro in 2001. I was hooked immediately. But in the U.S., açai bowls got way more creative and healthy. The list of ingredients and toppings is as long as you can imagine but some of the most popular are; hemp seeds, chia seeds, shredded coconut, and all types of fruits.
Now, let get to what makes a good açai bowl and obviously this is a subjective opinion. But in my 18 years of experience with açai, I think I have a pretty good understanding of what goes into making a good açai bowl. Let me get right to the issue that I see as the problem with most businesses that are making açai bowls. In my opinion, many of the açai bowls I have tried across America do not taste like açai. That is because the businesses are not using enough acai in the base and blending it with too many other fruits. From my experience dealing with shop owners over the years, I have found that customers will rave over the açai bowls if they actually can taste açai. They may get away with blending a lot of frozen strawberry and blueberry with a small amount of açai for a while but sooner or later the customer will learn that they are not getting a true açai bowl. I recommend a minimum of 200 grams of açai in the base of the açai bowl.
Another important consideration in making a good açai bowl is the amount of sugar that is added to the finished product. The point of eating açai is that you are eating something that is uniquely healthy so I feel it defeats the purpose to add a lot of extra ingredients that increase the sugar content.
There are a lot of cafes and restaurants that make incredible açai bowls with an almost endless variety of toppings. But if you can’t find one in your area, you always have the option of making your own at home. It’s pretty simple and just takes a little planning and preparation. You can find everything you need at your local Whole Foods Market. And if that is not an option, you can order online and we deliver to your door in dry ice through FedEx.
So, now you probably know a lot about the açai berry than you did before. Here is my plug for Nativo Açai. We source the highest quality organic açai from the richest region of the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest. Our açai is wild-harvested by the natives that live along the river banks. We harvest the berries at their peak maturity to make sure they have the best flavor and nutritional value. We have been Whole Foods Market in Florida for over 10 years. You can also purchase our products online through our website and we will deliver directly to you from our frozen fulfillment center. We take a lot of pride in our products and we think you will find that our açai is a great addition to your healthy lifestyle.