Wednesday, December 8, 2010

On the Road - Maranhão (Pt. 9) - Fresh Cupuaçu Juice Taste Test

Back in July, Flavors of Brazil discussed a fruit from the northern reaches of the Brazil called cupuaçu. You can read those posts by clicking here and here and here. Although I was familiar with this cousin-of-chocolate through a variety of processed foods made from cupuaçu, like ice cream and frozen fruit pulp, I had never had the opportunity to taste the fresh fruit itself. Until the blog's recent trip to São Luis, Maranhão, that is.

Brazilian cities and towns are full of fresh fruit-juice bars serving freshly blended fruit juice along with a variety of sandwiches and snacks. The selection of available fruits is always large, and sometimes overwhelmingly enormous. Some of the fruits are universally available throughout the country and all year round - for example, mango or papaya or pineapple. Others are restricted by availability either by season or region. Many of the Amazonian fruits are available in southern Brazil, if available at all, only in the form of frozen fruit pulp blended with water.

So it was a pleasure to find that almost all the fruit-juice bars in São Luis listed many Amazonian fruits on their juice menus, and a quick question to the bar-boys confirmed that fresh fruit was used rather than frozen pulp. During a mid-afternoon walk along the main pedestrian street in downtown São Luis, in the 90F (32C) sun, it seemed like a prudent and pleasant thing to sample a glass of fruit juice. Having eaten cupuaçu ice cream in Fortaleza, and having really liked it, I decided to have a glass to compare the flavor of frozen juice and the fresh-made variety. The cost for a 300 ml glass was R$2.50, about USD $1.40.

When the bar-boy poured the juice from the blender into a glass, the thick, creamy texture of the juice was evident. It looked and poured like a milk-shake. The color was almost white, just tinged with light green. The aroma was sweet, and there was a very faint hint of acetone (nail-polish remover). Drunk through a straw, the drink first offered up a rich and almost buttery mouth-feel. It was immediately clear that this juice had a significant amount of vegetable fat. The initial taste was clearly tutti-frutti, the taste we associate with bubble gum, but that was followed with the taste of white chocolate. Given the close botanical relationship between cupuaçu and cacau that made perfect sense.

The drink was delicious and refreshing. I enjoyed it immensely. However, because of the high fat content of cupuaçu, you really couldn't call the juice thirst-quenching. The sensation was similar to that of eating ice cream - it cools you off but it doesn't deal with your thirst. I asked for, and received, a glass of ice water which topped of my taste-test perfectly.

It's unfortunate that fresh cupuaçu is extremely perishable and thus one needs to travel to northen Brazil to sample it. Or, rather, considering its high caloric value, it's probably fortunate for me that it's not available here in Fortaleza. I'd definitely be going back for more if it were!

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