There's a reason that Mt. Pleasant start-up Blue Barn Juice Co. keeps their juices at a consistent, chilly 38 degrees. From their Primal Energy (cucumber, celery, kale, romaine, spinach, collards, beet greens, apple, chia seeds, lemon, and ginger) to the orange-hued Gut Check (carrot, apple, pineapple, papaya, and turmeric), Blue Barn's concoctions are a far cry from the pasteurized juices readily available at the grocery store. And that means they can turn in three to five days. The first step of Blue Barn's seven-part cleanse instructions: "Refrigerate immediately!"
But whereas pasteurization typically uses heat to kill pathogens and things like E. coli in juice, Blue Barn's juice is cold pressed. There are two primary types of non-pasteurized juicers used to draw the nectar from fruits and vegetables: centrifugal and masticating (cold press). The former is most common in homes, and the process is simple. A rotating shredder-type wheel turns produce to pulp, leaving behind fiber while juice flows out the bottom. In a cold press machine, fruits are smashed inside a cheesecloth-type bag, with juice flowing out like wringing a towel. Cell walls are not broken apart like they are in centrifigual so the juice doesn't oxidize and then brown quite as quickly. Many juice proponents tout that cold pressing retains more nutrients. While MUSC registered dietitian nutritionist Debbie Petitpain confirms this is true, she says, "The amount isn't very significant. But it's all about perspective."
Juice, produced in either manner, is enjoying a renaissance across the Lowcountry. While New Yorkers might argue that juice was 2013's trend, it's reaching a new peak in Charleston this fall, with the emergence of Blue Barn, the growing presence of Huriyali juices at local farmer's markets, and the bustling business done at dedicated juice shops and restaurants adding machines to their kitchens and bars.
At The Daily on Upper King Street, both centrifugal and cold press options are offered each day, from a Fresh Beets juice (centrifugal) that combines earthy roots with the kick of jalapeños to cold press options with subtle nuances like lemongrass and infused lavender.
The Daily's staff juice expert, Rachel Smith, moved to Charleston after helping New York businessman Danny Meyer open 11 stores in his Creative Juice chain. To understand the pros and cons of juicing methods, says Smith, it's important to first understand the difference between juicing and blending.
"If you make a green smoothie, you're basically putting an entire salad in a blender and then you're eating it," Smith explains. "There's not really a lot of room left over in your stomach after all that fiber to get the other nutrients you need, whereas juicing strips out the fiber that fills you up and allows you to take in more of the nutrients (from the produce) a lot faster."
More nutrients and potentially more calories. Petitpain cautions that while juicing is a great way to get a helping of veggies and fruit, serving size is still important. "There are an enormous amount of calories in a small serving of juice," she says. "A 60 calorie glass of juice doesn't give the same amount of fullness of eating, say, an apple." In fact, Petitpain, who works with many clients looking to maintain weight balance, says a 12-16 oz. serving of juice made with lots of fruit has so many natural sugars, it can be like drinking a soda. "Understanding the difference is important," she says.
Because juices remove fiber and thus don't require the same intensive digestive action by a body as solid food, they're often used as a cleansing method. The cleansing aspect is also huge selling point for Blue Barn, who sells their 10 flavors both as individual bottles and in specific bundles of six, marketed as cleanses. That said, Petitpain says juicers should remember the body has natural ways of cleansing. Increased fiber, or ruffage, can actually be very helpful in that process. But, she agrees that for many cleansing is important from a religious aspect and for those who have had a poor diet and want to get back on track. "There is a place for it," she says.
Blue Barn co-founder Amy Parr also touts the importance of water intake during a cleanse.
At Blue Barn, all produce, bottles and caps are rinsed in alkaline water produced by a Kangen filter. One of their juice flavors, Daily Detox, is even a play on the classic lemon/cayenne/maple-syrup fast, using a simple recipe of alkaline water, lemon, cayenne, and Stevia.
The focal point of the Blue Barn kitchen is the massive cold press machine, with a chute big enough to eat entire pineapples and papayas—skin, seeds and all.
Because juices often include tropical fruits like pineapple, and most juice drinkers value organic over all else, the trend hasn't completely jived with the local movement yet. At Blue Barn, 90 percent of the produce used is organic, but only a small portion is sourced locally for obvious reasons. Smaller companies like Johns Island-based juice cart Huriyali are trying to bridge the gap by sourcing from area farms, but their flavor options are then limited, especially for year-round offerings. Local and organic are both key components to look for, Petitpain says. "Allowing fruit or vegetables to ripen on the vine increases the nutritional value," Petitpain says. "The farther produce travels — most food in the U.S. travels 2,000 miles — the more the nutrition breaks down in a truck."
In the U.S. juice has become a $3.4 billion industry, according to a 2013 DailyFinance.com report. And Blue Barn is hoping to compete with national juice distributors like BluePrint Juice and JuicePress, shipping chilled coolers of liquid around the country to people seeking a cold press cleanse. Since opening on Sept. 1, Blue Barn already has customers ordering juice from Texas, Colorado, and Washington, D.C., thanks both to local recommendations and pricing ($8.50 for a 16-ounce bottle) that slightly beats out their New York and California-based competitors. By early October, Blue Barn was making and selling 1,000 bottles each week, including to local customers who either purchase directly at the kitchen's walk-up window or schedule a delivery, available from Kiawah to Isle of Palms (Huriyali also delivers to James and Johns Islands and downtown).
"We want to be the local milkman for juice," says Blue Barn's Parr, who also touts their vending machines, equipped with credit card machines, at local yoga studios and gyms such as downtown's Exhale Pilates Studio and Savannah Highway's Orangetheory Fitness. Because the juices are unpasteurized and raw, DHEC doesn't allow them to be re-sold, so all purchases must be made directly from Blue Barn (hence the credit card swiper).
Although cold press bottled juice, sold on-site and delivered, is a new development for Charleston, the real revolution in local eating habits, juicers believe, will occur at restaurants and conventional shops who realize the value that a juice machine can bring their business. Three Little Birds Café in West Ashley juices standard items like apples, pears, and carrots, and also offers a 50 cent addition of beet juice to any combination. At Queen Street Grocery, raw food chef Callie Baxter cold presses juice for her Organic Giraffe label twice a week, and customers follow the store's Instagram to hurry over and grab a bottle off the shelf before it's gone.
Restaurants like The Sprout in Mt. Pleasant have offered fresh juice for several years, and are now enjoying the growing popularity of their cleanse offerings as stand-alone juice spots appear around town, including Dellz Vibez on King Street, the Main Squeeze in Belle Hall, and the Juice Joint, with locations at the Gold's Gym on James Island and a mobile trailer on Folly Beach. Even Bert's Market on Folly — famous for 75-cent hot dogs — is pressing kale and beets in a cold press machine.
Just three years ago, the notion of pulling over in a Charleston suburb for a quick beet, carrot, and kale juice would have been unthinkable. Now it's commonplace.
"For anyone who eats the way most Southerners do — a fairly monochromatic, starch-ridden plate — if you add fresh juice to your diet, you will start feeling a lot more energy," says The Daily's Smith, pointing out that it takes a full gallon of packed-down kale to produce just six ounces of juice.
The labor and raw produce required to bring juice to the masses translates to prices that may raise eyebrows (a 16-ounce cold pressed juice at The Daily costs $10), but the fast emergence of juice across the city seems to demonstrate that Charleston is willing to pay a premium for our food — even when it doesn't require chewing.