A few years ago, a friend and I did a short stint at a café in Auroville. A café that served wholesome food using local and seasonal ingredients. Popular on the menu were an array of fruit and flower concentrates (which we would serve with plain or soda water) : sarsaparilla, hibiscus, kumquat, ginger, and butterfly pea flower (which they called ‘Radha Consciousness.) I’ve been meaning to make my own Radha Consciousness ever since, and I even had the plant growing in my balcony garden at one point. But finally, here goes!
You’d never associate anything blue with being good for you. Not blueberry blue. I’m talking neon-fluorescent-technicolour blue. Same reason why I would never drink anything that has blue curaçao in it. The part about it not being good for you aside, I get this god awful feeling that it’s coating my innards blue whilst I’m drinking it. An insipid drink from Café Coffee Day (Cool Blue, was it?) or from anywhere for that matter is not worth that kind of trauma. So no Blue Lagoon, or Blue Hawaiian and suchlike for me, thank you. I’ll pass. It’s also slightly unsettling that they sound like names on deodorants.
This purple tea however, I can get behind. Butterfly pea flower, also known as Clitoria Ternatea—since it resembles female genitalia—is a flower common to the Asian tropics. In ancient Ayurveda, these flowers were used to lower stress and anxiety levels and believed to be a potent source of antioxidants. Apart from their medicinal and herbal properties, they’ve been used extensively as a natural food dye: Nasi Kerabu or ‘blue rice’ in Malaysia – a popular dish eaten with a side of fried meat and salad, in Thailand they’re mixed into bubble teas, dumplings and sweet rice cakes, and in some parts of Burma, the fresh flowers are even batter-fried and eaten as a snack. The main reason it’s so popular, especially in drinks, is because the addition of acid (lemon/lime in most cases), alters the pH levels in the drink which make it go from this deep indigo blue to the most vibrant purple. Magic!
Now available the world over (aka, on amazon), it’s used in everything from smoothie bowls, cakes, popsicles, and this, I find quite ridiculous – fried chicken and potato mash! Although I personally don’t see the allure of food dyed in colors that least resemble their own, at least it’s not achieved with chemicals that come out of a jar. Here it’s with an ingredient that’s actually even good for you. For this, I’m happy.