We drink coffee to give us the will to start our day; wine to recover from it. We turn to wellness drinks for any number of other supposed benefits: endurance or soothed muscles, hangover relief or beauty, to name a few. Such drinks are generally pretty — dazzling swirls of fuchsia and algae-like blue-green — and pretty confusing. (Surely bentonite clay belongs in the ground, not in our cups?) The most popular kinds trade alcohol, caffeine and sugar for a recipe that’s more natural and, the logic goes, healthy. Whether these drinks live up to their claims, however, is mostly anecdotal. Here’s a look at the promises and ingredients poured into five local options:
This trendy drink is a totally natural, striking shade of magenta, a color it owes to the pigment betacyanin. So, benefit No. 1: pleasing to the eye. The latte is made by blending freeze-dried beetroot powder with steamed almond milk and topping it with a dash of cacao powder. The beet taste is subtle, akin to “a hint of earthiness,” says Georgia Goldsbrough-Reardon, the Australian-inspired cafe’s education director. She describes the latte’s health benefits as extensive: The high nitrate content in beets, for example, is linked with lowered blood pressure and a healthy digestive system. Plus, it’s a caffeine-free shot of energy. Another popular option at the cafe is the “golden” latte: turmeric powder, cinnamon, ginger and black pepper, designed to help detox the body and reduce inflammation.
$5 (additional $1 for iced). Multiple locations in the District.
Grab a stool at the (juice) bar and choose from an array of options that are cold-pressed in small batches each day — which means there’s no heat involved in the juicing process. “Heat kills nutrition,” says CEO Amir Mostafavi. “Our juice is raw and unpasteurized, so it has a very short shelf life.” The forest-green detox juice is a blend of, well, almost the whole produce aisle: cucumber, apple, kale, spinach, celery, parsley, lemon and ginger. Those who prefer a thicker consistency might opt for the brightly hued Mermaid smoothie, which blends pineapple juice, Blue Majik (extracted from the algae Arthrospira platensis), bananas and mangoes. The local chain says the drink promotes healthy joints, better flexibility and increased energy and endurance.
$9. Multiple locations in the District and Virginia.
On weekend mornings at Greenheart, demand rises for the tart tonic that customers have come to rely on as a hangover cure. “It’s really funny to see,” says co-owner Alicia Swanstrom, adding that the beverage also helps soothe stomach distress after, say, a greasy dinner. The “activated” lemonade is made out of a couple of basic ingredients — cold-pressed lemon juice, coconut nectar that adds a slight sweetness — and two that require explanation. Activated charcoal is charcoal that’s been processed at high temperatures to become safe for consumption and is typically sold in capsules or as powders; advocates say it traps toxins in the gut and prevents them from becoming absorbed by the rest of the body. And bentonite clay is a detoxifying agent that’s well-mixed into the drink, so only a faint hint of texture can be detected. Greenheart’s flagship locations are in Leesburg and Aldie, Va., but its products are sold at a few local markets, including in Foggy Bottom and Ballston.
$11. Multiple locations in the District and Virginia.
“I travel a lot and get inspired, and West Coast and Hawaiian vibes turned me onto wellness lattes,” says celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn, whose latest venture is Vim & Victor, located at the St. James health and wellness complex in Springfield. He’s particularly fond of turmeric, which is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and matcha — green tea ground into powder, which Mendelsohn lauds for it detoxifying benefits. The restaurant’s matcha latte is a frothy blend of matcha, raw honey and almond milk. “It gives you focus without the jitters,” he says. Assorted flavors of Mendelsohn’s line of CBD-infused PLNT waters are also available at Vim & Victor. (CBD, or cannabidiol — derived from cannabis or, in this case, hemp — does not cause a high and is anecdotally linked with such benefits as reduced pain and anxiety.)
$6. 6805 Industrial Rd., Springfield.
“Juicers are not a machine,” declare the menus at this hip Danish chain. Indeed. The juicers are the cheerful staffers squeezing fresh fruits and vegetables to deliver such healthful drinks as the herb tonic, which combines two anti-inflammatory ingredients: turmeric and ginger. The drink is designed to help ease inflammation and muscle and joint pain. Another popular option is “young blood,” which fuses celery, lemon and apple. Celery helps blood vessels expand and contract, improving blood flow, and the folate it offers — combined with vitamin C from the lemon — supports the production of new blood cells, says Emilie Louise, the company’s juicer turned social media executive. The “rebuild” shake, made with collagen powder, is thought to improve hair, skin, nail and joint health. Whole-body benefits, one 12-ounce cup at a time.
$10.50. Multiple locations in the District and Maryland.