Açai is, quite simply, the breakfast of champions. A favourite discovery of any visit to Rio, the Amazon's famous power-food berry (or Euterpe oleracea to the Latin scholars) is beginning to take over the world. One mention by Oprah and bang, US$100 million sales in the US.
Açai grows on the fronds of palm trees, hanging down in an inviting bunch, a magnet for parrots and toucans. The actual fruit around the seed is like the thin atmosphere around the Earth, but bursting with calorific goodness (182.4 kcals per 100 gramme serving) and rich in iron, calcium, vitamins B1, B2, B3 and C.
Further south, the popularity of the pulp became an unstoppable wave thanks to carioca surfers (served chilled, the trick is to hold it in your mouth to avoid the dastardly head freeze), whereas in the northeast, you can also find it fresh, salted and served with fish.
Indeed the state of Pará is swimming in an ocean of the purpley stuff, responsible for ninety per cent of national production in a market estimated at an eye-popping US$1.8 billion a year. Unstoppable and unbeatable, all hail the amazing Amazonian açai.
The best açaís in the city:
- Amazonia Soul - The store on Praça General Osório takes its açaí pretty seriously, as is reflected in the price. But what you get for the money is virgin-press fruit and genuine Amazonian additions like manioc flour and tapioca (300ml, R$10).
- Tacacá do Norte - An understated diner in Flamengo, the fruit pulp served up inside is also direct from Pará, meaning a purer, smoother cup and huge bowlfuls (R$14) that will keep you going for the whole day (300ml, R$9).
- Polis Sucos - Something of a carioca classic, the post-beach juice bar of choice doesn't get that kind of reputation without serving up a premium cup (300ml, R$6.50).
- BB Sucos - Not to be confused with BiBi Sucos, the frozen goodness literally towers out of the cup in pleasing folds of purple power (300ml, R$6.50).