butterfly pea toronto

Butterfly pea is Toronto's new favourite thing to drink

So long goth lattes, hello colour-changing tea. 

The past few years have seen beverage trends bounce back and forth, between cutesy and dark, from sprinkly unicorn milkshakes (gross) to activated charcoal everything (yawn).

Recently, however, an ingredient has been making waves in Toronto that somehow strikes the perfect balance. It's pretty, but not cloying; witchy, but not emo; magical, but doesn't involve ingesting actual rocks or ashes.

That ingredient is butterfly pea — a Southeast Asian flower with chemical properties that prompt it to change colours in the presence of an acidic liquid, such as lemon juice.

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Whether in cocktails, iced beverages, or hot tea, dried butterfly pea (Clitoria ternatea) flowers lend a deep indigo blue colour to whatever they're steeped in.

Adding even a splash of something citrus will turn that liquid, which is also sometimes called Asian pigeonwing tea, into a bright violet colour.

It's got a subtle, earthy flavour, like green tea, and is said to be chock full of antioxidants — but, more importantly, this stuff is like a magical potion or science experiment you can actually drink.

The tea is already popular in Thailand, Australia, and in some U.S. cities like New York and L.A., but it hasn't picked up too much traction locally. That was, until this summer, when butterfly pea flower tea started turning heads in and around Toronto at the Night It Up! food market...

Taste of Lawrence...

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And at local cafes like Jimmy's Coffee...

And Cool N2 Nitrogen Ice Cream.

A Toronto market vendor called NAM WAN (Thai sips n' sweets) has been instrumental in popularizing the drink on Instagram with its unique straw-and-bag presentation.

Of course, there are mixologists in the city who've been working with this stuff for years — but so too were there restaurants adding charcoal to stuff before "goth ice cream" even entered our lexicon.

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Based on how the trend has evolved in other cities, it might not be long before we see butterfly pea flower powder showing up in food stuff, too — like bread, cake and noodles.

Purple is the new black, friends; you heard it here first. Maybe.

Lead photo by

toastedbao


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