Food Trends 101: Activated Charcoal

Just when we thought floral and colourful foods were the latest craze in the food and beverage world, here comes the activated charcoal trend that will bring your favorite meals to the dark side.



You may have noticed the influx of black macarons, soft serve ice cream, pizzas and lattes on the food and beverage scene. If you're wondering how they get this wild hue then puzzle no more - it's charcoal - Activated Charcoal to be precise.   

Yup, eating activated charcoal is the IT thing right now. Why? You may also well be asking. Charcoal is said to have a number of health benefits and many claim that it can detoxify your system - as long, of course, as it’s ‘activated’ and considered safe for consumption! Acting like a sponge, some argue that it traps toxins and chemicals in its pores to help remove them from your body.

"It's 'activated charcoal' that has made its way into the health media, with many claiming that it detoxifies the body," says Australian nutritionist Pip Reed. "Activated charcoal is made by burning a source of carbon such as wood or coconut shells. The high temperature removes all the oxygen and activates it with gases like steam. What is left is a highly absorbent material with millions of tiny pores that capture, bind and remove heavy metals, chemicals and poisons."

Here in Australia, there are already a few restaurants and cafes experimenting with Activated Charcoal. One of them is the Engine Room Cafe in Toowoomba, which is serving the darkest beverage around: the charcoal latte. It’s made with activated charcoal powder and frothed milk, and can be served with flavours like white chocolate and vanilla.

charcoal-latteEngine Room Cafe's charcoal latte

"The charcoal is tasteless so you can make it whatever flavour you like," says Josie Downey, the cafe’s manager. "The idea is that it is actually good for you. There are a range of health benefits without the yucky taste you might expect."

Then there is the popular Pressed Juices, which is the home to Black Lemonade. Made with activated coconut charcoal, lemon, cayenne, and alkaline water, the drink claims to boost metabolism and remove toxins from the body.

black-lemonadePressed Juices' Black Lemonade

“Activated coconut charcoal holds its pore structure and all of its absorption characteristics until it is put in contact with compounds that can be absorbed,” explains Natarlia Hansen, a nutritionist at Pressed Juices. "It assists with lowering cholesterol, bloating, liver and kidney issues, nausea and vomiting and helps to eliminate the body of toxins, heavy metals, pesticides, nicotine and alcohol.”

Further afield in Los Angeles an artisanal soft-serve shop called Little Damage is making a name for itself with its charcoal-dyed soft serve cones.

According to founder Jenny Damage, they wanted to try something new and unique in their soft serve product range so looked to the natural ingredient to achieve a black ice cream.

“We put small amounts of activated charcoal that is mixed in well with our other ingredients, so for us, the taste of charcoal in our ice cream is pretty much transparent,” she says.

little-damageLittle Damage's charcoal-dyed soft serve cones

In NYC, meanwhile, several bars are serving activated charcoal cocktails. One of the most popular is Goodnight Sonny’s ‘Ashes To Ashes’, which mixes gin, fresh lemon juice, rose syrup, organic aqua fava, and activated charcoal.

Then there is ‘Fade To Black’ at David Burke Kitchen. The cocktail is made by dissolving powdered activated charcoal in a bottle of Starr Ultra Superior Light rum. Then it is mixed with ginger syrup, and lime and lemon juices.

fade-to-blackDavid Burke Kitchen's Fade To Black charcoal cocktail

The activated charcoal trend has well and truly taken the food and beverage scene by storm.  Not only because of it’s popular health claims but also because let's face it, it’s completely Insta-worthy. So if you're thinking of hopping on this black bandwagon and incorporating this new "super-powder" in to your product range then get experimenting before you miss the opportunity! 

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