A drink — any drink — just so long as it’s green. We chart the rise of the vegetable-juice obsessives and asks, how far can you go?
You may know the type. She eats only one solid meal a day, preferring to juice at all other times. She takes her protein from nut milks, and dinner-party chat will be about the joys of fresh turmeric and the single glass of biodynamic red wine she drinks every month.
Or there’s the one who dances the entire weekend away (“Such a good break for the digestive tract,” ignoring the overtime for the liver), then spends the following week necking vitamin B and 5-HTP and cold-pressing kale.
The juice bores — they’re everywhere. It feels as though every celebrity is at it, even ex-Atomic Kittens. They’ve all watched Joe Cross’s Fat Sick & Nearly Dead film — the one where he rebuilds himself via liquid carrot and kale — and can tell you if their home juicer is a masticator, centrifugal or vertical flow (juicing methods — do keep up). They know the exact temperature at which enzymes are destroyed — 48C — hence the need for “cold press” juice machines (the Norwalk 280, £1,470, is the gold standard).
Juicing: it’s practically a religion. As the Ibiza-based DJ and producer Chris Barratt says, “Everyone thinks I’m bonkers with the juices, but I’ve converted so many friends, and it really does change your life. I’m either on a three-day bender or juicing everything I can get my hands on. No middle ground.”
Juicing 2014 is a long way from those Innocent days of sugar-laden banana and strawberry smoothies. The new juicing is not about fun or even nice tastes; it eschews sweetness and anything that is not derived from plants. Beetroot, kale, spinach, celery, romaine, even swiss chard are the key ingredients, and, when people will pay £6 for a 250ml bottle, you can understand why juice brands are sprouting up everywhere. Imbibery, Bobo’s Juicery, Juicality, 42 Juice, Roots & Bulbs, Raw to Door, Juice Tonic and Lovage are just some of the cold-pressed ventures that are opening everywhere from London to Manchester to that little-known haven of the LA lifestyle, Ipswich.
Will Ricker, one of the first restaurateurs to court low-carb-loving female diners with restaurants such as E&O, has just opened the Juice Well in Soho. He produces a bottle where breakfast should be — his Hunger Buster is black, not with blueberries, but charcoal. He rails against big pharma, big food and big, obese people. Ricker has what he calls “self-inflicted diabetes” and claims juicing has cleared the symptoms: “Plant food makes up just 7% of the average diet. Harvard Medical School says it should be more like 50%.” He raves about the 3,000 phytonutrients on top of the vitamins and minerals in plants. His family love juices and he and his wife make “disgusting smoothies loaded with every antioxidant and anti-inflammatory known: maca, goji, you name it. In NY and LA this is a way of life, and I love it.”
Of course juicing swept in here on the same American health wave as coconut water, the same one that turned kale from cow chow to the rock-star vegetable. Coconut water and kale would have sounded like the tipple of a madman a few years ago. Actually, it is Gwyneth Paltrow’s favourite drink.
Juicing is not just religious — it’s political. As every juice fanatic will tell you: fruit and veg aren’t as nutritious as they used to be, we should actually be eating 10+ portions (mostly veg) a day, meat consumption will strangle the earth. Cold-pressed juicing doesn’t need a marketing campaign, what’s getting the message out there is evangelism. People have real faith in it.
It sits well with fashion too, as, for all its undoubted health benefits, juicing is also a good way of staying thin. No surprise, then, that Stella McCartney and Sienna Miller are regulars. Consequently, every self-respecting hyphenate (model-actress-whatever) wants to open a juice business, from the model Arizona Muse to the stylist Pippa Vosper.
“Not all juice is created equal,” says Amy Terry, the cool 27-year-old “fifth-generation California girl” whose brand, Canyon, has just opened in a corner of the Notting Hill fashion boutique Joseph. She calls some of her rivals’ recipes “immature and novel”. She describes one with its “75% pineapple juice content” with audible disgust. “I only use fruit to make it more palatable,” she says.
At Roots & Bulbs in Marylebone (where the coffee is cold-brewed to make it more healthy and green juices are number graded by how bitter they are), the resident nutritionist, Ian Marber, looks kindly on those who like a sweeter fruit-based juice. He describes how fructose is in everything, even spinach, but explains: “Fructose is potentially problematic when separated from its fibre.” The solution is “choosing mostly vegetable juice or eating a small handful of nuts at the same time”.
With the arrival of a new no-heat method of giving cold-pressed juice a commercial shelf life (called HPP), the juice passion is set to go global. HPP marks the arrival of big money: Starbucks recently bought out Evolution Fresh juices. Plenish, founded by Kara Rosen (ex of Condé Nast in New York), uses HPP and is the only British juice brand to have attracted substantial investment so far. She says: “It makes a raw product more food safe.” Although other juicers claim it reduces the nutritional value, too.
There are, however, some juice naysayers. Dr David Agus, the so-called “billionaire’s cancer doctor”, says in his book A Short Guide to a Long Life that it’s wholefoods and not juicing that are the key to health. He warns that excessive quantities of that sainted brassica, kale, can affect thyroid function.
He is something of a lone voice, though, among many more noisy ones who think drinking plants is going to save the world. I would drink to that with a “bottoms up”, but that’s one aspect of juicing that no one wants to discuss.