From blue wine to rainbow coffee, it's safe to say people are tired of the typical green juice. The latest brightly-colored beverage trend hails from Melbourne, Australia's vegan cafe Matcha Mylkbar, which recently introduced a stunning blue caffeine-free latte that's taking the country by storm. We're serious.
The "Smurf Latte" — which is said to be a mix between a latte and a smoothie — gets its pastel hue from a special ingredient: blue-green algae. When combined with warm lemon, ginger agave, and coconut milk, the frothy vegan mix is sure to brighten up anyone's Instagram feed.
Tastebuds, however, are another question. We've yet to try it, but the cafe's co-owner, Mark Filippelli, told News Corp Australia it tastes like a "warm lemon, ginger, and honey tonic." On the other hand, reporter Travis Jones wasn't too keen on it: "It wasn't disgusting. The first mouthful was laced with a prominently sweet, gingery taste before the drink succumbed to a funky sourness that lingered long after the last sip," he wrote.
Whether you like the taste or not, a one-way ticket to Instagram's popular page doesn't come cheap. At $8 in Australia — about $6 in the United States — it's definitely pricier than your average cup of Joe. But Filippelli says the benefits of algae are worth every cent.
"It's such a powerful antioxidant that one gram of it every day has a huge [health] benefit," Filippelli told New Corp Australia.
Here's the Deal With Blue-Green Algae...
He might be right about that. Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria (you may have heard of one of the most common types called spirulina), are definitely full of good nutrients, including protein, antioxidants, beta-carotene, minerals, and vitamin B12. And some preliminary test tube and animal studies have suggested that spirulina does offer health benefits, such as supporting immune function, preventing allergies, and promoting eye health. But there's not much large-scale clinical evidence available to prove that eating blue-green algae actually comes with any concrete health benefits for humans.
That said, it's unlikely to harm your health (so long as you're smart about it): The Food and Drug Administration approved its use in naturally coloring food, like candy and gum, so there's a good chance you've already eaten it. But there's also a good chance you've heard about people getting sick after being exposed to algae blooms. Here's why: Some blue-green algae can produce toxins called microcystins, which can affect your liver and kidneys when you have too much of them in your body. These are the dangerous algal blooms you hear about on the news — they basically occur when there's an overgrowth of certain types of algae in bodies of water.
What's the difference between the toxic algae and the kind you can eat? The blue-green algae that goes into the Smurf Latte and other foods are contaminant-free because they're grown in a controlled environment; not just dredged out of the nearest pond.
So while we're not sure if this fancy new drink will be making its way to the United States anytime soon, if you're ever on a trip Down Under, you might as well give it a shot, if not for any other reason than to score a few extra Instagram likes.