March 24, 2008

Best Fruit Juice in the World
Miami Beach, United States

Roosh, a regular reader and commenter of this site (who recently launched his South America travel guides after returning from a six-month jaunt in the continent), e-mailed and asked to contribute an article. I approached him with a similar request a month or two ago (trying to find a home for some content written that seemed more in line with the audience of his site), and I'm more than happy to do the same for him.

The Best Juice in the World

One of the pleasures of traveling through South America was the constant availability of fresh juice, especially in Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil. There the cafes have more juice selection than actual coffee drinks, and if you grab a fixed lunch at a restaurant (almuerzo), chances are it will come with a glass of juice. Ask the waiter what juice is being served and he'll look up and rattle off names as if they were on the wall in front of him, sort of like asking an American waiter what beer is on tap.

Before I get to the best juice in the world, I have to share the worst. It's papaya, a fruit grown in the tropics of the Americas. If you are walking in a Lima supermarket and get hit by an offensive dirty feet stench, chances are you passed by a stack of ripe papayas. Unfortunately papaya tastes just like it smells, a cross between my dad's feet and vomit pools I unload when infected with whatever parasite I'm currently dealing with. It gets worse: after drinking a glass of papaya juice it takes only a couple hours for the smell to start coming out of your pores. Don't experiment with papaya on a weekend.

A cup full of condensed açaí

With that behind us, the best juice in the world is… açaí, found in Brazil. Technically I didn't taste it in juice form but a dark purple slurpee paste, composed of powdered sugar, ice, açaí berry fruit (grown in tropical Brazil), and guarana, a tarty fruit naturally loaded with caffeine. Each juice shop varies their amounts of ingredients so it's worth it to sample different juice bars when deciding the açaí variation that suits you best (I like it light on the guarana and heavy on the sugar).

The drink is a relatively new creation that appeared in Brazil in the 90's, giving new life to the açaí growing industry. Because it is heavily caloric, you will see far more men than women consuming this pleasure (local lore has it that drinking a shake after a workout will do wonders for your musculature).

Chances are you haven't heard of açaí, but I'm confident you'll come across it again because of one reason: it is one of the most antioxidant dense foods in the world. As health-conscious Western consumers search for ways to act healthy while still eating fatty and processed foods, look for entrepreneurs to develop an açaí trend similar to what we have seen with pomegranate juice. As for me, I ended up spending a month in Brazil and I'm not sure what I miss more: the women or açaí.

My Thoughts on Fruit Juices and Shakes

Roosh is right, açaí (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) is wonderfully delicious stuff. I was fortunate enough to indulge in several highly concentrated helpings whilst in Manaus. The stuff doesn't get any better than when you're eating it in the middle of the Amazon jungle, only kilometers from the source. You can read my blub on it in the travelogue entry Piranha for Dinner.

Fruit juice drinks in Bolivia

But when I think about the best and worst juice drinks in the world, my thoughts touch on the colorful, wildly inexpensive glasses of juice found on streets of Potosí, Bolivia—where a tall glass sells for only US$0.06! And then I start thinking about SE Asia, where I think I really found the home of the fruit juices I learned love and loathe.

Cambodia takes the number one spot in my heart for juice drinks. Banana-mango smoothies were more than a mild addition of mine in this place, with the street vendors regularly tossing in a raw egg, a cup of condensed milk, sugar, and a load of ice into the blender (along with a hefty helping of the fruits). Never before have I consistently eaten so many shakes as I did in Cambodia and the Philippines (who comes in a strong second for top-quality fruit shakes).

Pile of durian in Thailand

Also of note is the fresh strawberry juice from the strawberry farms in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia—a drink that Tatiana was especially keen on last year.

Sadly, it's also in SE Asia that the vilest fruit I've ever known happily thrives. Most countries in the region make no attempt to hide their love for foul-smelling fruit called durian. The stench is so penetrating that its presence is banned in many hotels and public transport systems, but is somehow appreciated as a delicacy. In Cambodia, ripened durians and papayas sit alongside the fruit shake vendors, waiting to be used for shakes. The stench of the two combined together was usually enough to ensure that I always got my drink in a takeaway plastic bag.

Comments:

Canada

Jen/YVR

March 25th, 2008

Amen, Roosh. Finally, someone else who shares my thoughts on papaya. When I was living in Ecuador, all the Canadians I was there with were in awe of how cheap and large they were (about $0.35 for a watermelon-sized fruit, as opposed to the sometimes $5.00 for a large mango-sized ones here in the Great White North). The smell assaulted me first thing in the morning when they were eaten with relish at breakfast, everyone sitting around the table, still in disbelief at their good fortune to have such a wonderful fruit in front of them every, single morning…they filled the baskets brought home from the market…*shudder*…
I always thought I was the only one turned off by their smell and taste, but apparently you are a kindred spirit, Roosh!

Acai is actually starting to turn up here - it's the next big thing in the pre-made smoothie department at the grocery stores here in Vancouver. So much for eating locally….

The United States

Roosh

March 26th, 2008

Jen I love you

The United States

Wade

March 26th, 2008

Haha, I remember my first bit of travel in Ecuador that I could not get away from those stinkin papayas . . . I arrived at the notion that anyone who says that they like them are just trying to put on a show `cultural relativity`because they are awful.

I have since grown to terms with them through regular exposure, but I still remember the face of an Ecuadorian friend who now lives in Florida when he said something to the effect of a papaya being nothing other than a rotten cantalope. He then shuddered and said that he could not eat them. I quickly agreed and referred to them as rotten cantalopes ever since haha.

Canada

Jen/YVR

March 26th, 2008

Papaya Haters, UNITE!

Rotten cantaloupes they are! I will never refer to them as papayas again. Though the term 'rotten cantaloupe' doesn't quite capture the baby-diaper-tinged frangrance, but it will do.

Roosh, I just might love you too.

The United States

Roosh

April 13th, 2008

Jen: Send pics to roosh @ rooshv . com

Peru

Julius

December 1st, 2009

Hi there! I am Peruvian and I have to say I do not share the comments about the papaya but I do with your thoughts about Acai (great fruit). We, in Peru, are very used to find almost any fruit at any time of the year at a very reasonable (and cheap) price. Papaya is a very common one, if not the most common and cheapest. I do not think it smells as strong as you describe. It is true that some papayas smeel more than other and it depends on how mature the fruit is and there are also a lot of varieties.. somo more expensive are smaller, have no smell, and they are even sweeter. I advice if you plan to drink a papaya juice, mix it with orange or bananas or strawberries and you will have an excellent drink for your stomach. And what you say about that the ppapaya smell comes out of your pores is a lie, hahah, that doesnt happen.
As yu say, here in Peru we are used to finf great fruit at very low cost taht'`s why when we travel to the US or Europe, the prices for fresh fruit are so fricking expensive that we can understand why some people consume sodas more than water.
If you come here to Lima, try to ask for a granadilla- mandarine mix juice. That is my favorite one, it tastes sooo good, light, fresh and even better than the Acai. Best regards.
(sorry for my English if you cannot understand what I mean sometimes!)

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