Black-colored foods in the world are few and far between: black beans, black sesame, black garlic, squid ink pasta. But in recent years, a whole host of other foods in striking black and gray hues—ice cream, lattés, pizza, tea, juice, and more—have taken over Instagram.
The culprit? Activated charcoal, made from burnt coconut shells processed with steam at a high temperature. The ingredient adsorbs harmful substances in the stomach before they can pass into your system, making it a common treatment for poisoning or drug overdose.
Meanwhile, the juice cleansers of the world have taken to including it in their regimen with the idea that it will bind to toxins throughout the body and flush them out. Similarly, Bidwell chef John Mooney, who incorporates activated charcoal into his pizza dough, stands by the ingredient’s medicinal ability to neutralize things that might be tough on the stomach, like whiskey and spicy foods.
When it comes to eating and drinking it, though, doctors aren’t necessarily convinced by claims that it provides a healthy detox—even though it’s sold in supplement pill form on Amazon. They say the charcoal could bind to the good stuff, too, including the components of medications, which you wouldn’t want to flush.
At the very least, though, it looks neat. Carlie Steiner, the beverage director and co-owner at Himitsu, says she uses it only for the “eerie, cool, black look” it provides (and claims no health benefit). For Steiner, the best part is that people don’t know what to expect flavor-wise when they see a black cocktail. “They expected something deep and dark with lots of nutty characteristics or something, but instead, it was refreshing and citrusy. It was a bit of a mind game,” she says.
Healthy or not, activated charcoal has made its (dark) mark on the food scene across the country. And in the amount that it’s normally used, while it’s not likely to help you, it’s also not going to harm you either (everything in moderation). So here are several spots where you can drink and eat activated charcoal in the DC area.
Drink: Black Magic
Ingredients: lemon, ginger, activated charcoal, cayenne pepper, alkaline water, hint of agave
2. Greenheart Juice Shop
Drink: Activated Lemonade
Ingredients: lemon, coconut nectar, activated charcoal, bentonite clay
Drink: Black Magic (clearly a popular name)
Ingredients: activated charcoal, aloe vera water, grape, apple, lemon
4. South Block
Drink: Activate (in the Original Cleanse program)
Price: Included as part of a 6-drink cleanse for $55
Ingredients: apple, activated charcoal, aloe, lemon
Drink: Charcoal Limeade
Price: $7.00/8 oz. or $12.00/16 oz.
Ingredients: lime, pineapple, activated charcoal water, ginger
Drink: Islands in the Storm
Ingredients: fino sherry, coconut water, lime, activated charcoal
Food: Various types of pizza (made with activated charcoal dough)