If you’ve noticed an eerie new food trend this summer, you’re not alone. Pitch-black foods from ice cream to breads to cocktails and smoothies are popping up on menus and on your Instagram feed in droves. The colour of these concoctions is thanks to activated charcoal, the newest (and eeriest) addition to the ever-growing roster of superfood boosters.
Activated charcoal is popular in the health food realm as it’s thought to assist in detoxification, likely because it’s frequently used if a patient is rushed to the hospital for an overdose or ingested poison. There is reason to be cautious when consuming, as its binding properties can also remove important vitamins and minerals from the body, along with the “bad.” In terms of using it as a health food supplement, the amounts are miniscule versus those used in hospitals, so you can rest easy. But don’t think of activated charcoal as a panacea – it’s a supplement and natural colourant, not a medication.
Also, don’t go searching for activated charcoal by harvesting backyard barbecue coals – they are not the same thing. Activated charcoal is a byproduct of burning plant fibres, like coconut husks. Overall, in moderation, charcoal can be a funky add-in here and there for the average, healthy adult.
So, if you’re ready to give the raven-hued trend a try, consider a playful bite of ebony pizza crust, “burnt” sourdough, inky ice cream or a sable-hued latte. Bartenders are even creating detox-retox sips using activated charcoal, like The Carbon Bar in Toronto, which created the Black Mamba Margarita with charcoal-infused Avion tequila, St. Germain, Bowmore, lime and a sea-salt rim.
The recently opened iHalo Krunch, “Toronto’s first charcoal ice cream shop,” is swirling up dreamy combinations, complete with activated charcoal cones.
And for the health nuts, to whom the activated charcoal trend in food should be attributed, find cold-pressed lemonade, vegan soft serve, almond milk lattes, sourdough breads and edible body treatments (whitening toothpastes and facemasks) to satisfy your curiosity.
While the trend has some latte-slinging baristas up in arms, as activated charcoal can leave a gritty texture and off taste when combined with coffee and milk, it is, for the most part, a visual barrier more than a physical one.
Let us know if you have or would join in the activated charcoal food movement.