The bright fuchsia crystals melt in my mouth, mellowed by a touch of organic honey and the tropical sweetness of organic coconut shavings. Delicate notes of banana and hearty granola top the little bowl in front of me, and each spoonful results in a slightly different balance of vibrant flavors. Incredibly, the concoction isn’t a “guilty pleasure” that I’ll need to pay for later on the treadmill. In fact, it’s probably the most guilt-free dish I’ll consume this month.
I’m standing outside Purple Tree Organic Açaí Blends, enjoying their classic organic açaí (pronounced ah-sigh-EE) multiberry blend bowl. The bright purple food truck pops up weekly in various Tucson locations, including Tumamoc Hill, Main Gate Square, and Heirloom Farmers’ Market at Rillito Park, to dish up healthy, organic treats like açaí bowls, fresh-pressed juice, and vegan ice cream sandwiches.
According to co-owner André Newman, the açaí bowl is far and away their star player: “People are frequently surprised that açaí bowls are actually legitimately healthy alternatives to treats like frozen yogurt or ice cream,” Newman says. “The açaí fruit is not only guilt-free, it’s a potent superfood that is extremely high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.”
The combination of açaí’s nutritional dynamism and luscious taste inspired Newman and his partner, David Krummenacker, to launch their dessert food truck concept after a trip to Hawaii in 2014: “We took a vacation in Oahu with our wives and kids, where we realized that there was a healthy smoothie or açaí bowl place located about every quarter-mile,” says Newman. “We’re both dads, and it’s really important for us to offer up healthy dessert options for our kids, since sweet desserts are sort of an offering that kids aren’t really willing to debate about. So, we were inspired, and started working on Purple Tree as soon as we returned home.”
After finding their truck on Craigslist, the pair worked with an outfitter to craft the perfect vehicle for a sustainably inspired business. Krummenacker, a former Olympic mid-distance runner, used his expertise as a solar power technician to develop an entirely solar-powered set of food appliances. “When we show up for events, there’s no air pollution, no noise pollution, and other than the engine of the truck, we have no carbon footprint,” says Newman. And after much trial-and-error, the pair developed an açaí blend using only organic ingredients.
Today, the Purple Tree menu includes açaí bowls, smoothies, fresh-pressed juice, organic ice cream concoctions—a notable customer favorite is the vegan coconut ice cream sandwich—and iced coffee made with organic Ethiopian coffee blends. Newman describes the açaí bowl: “The flavor is like a subtle, rich, chocolate-covered raspberry. We top the açaí fruit with granola, freshly chopped fruit, shaved coconut, and locally sourced honey, attempting to build the bowl as traditionally as one you might see in Brazil or Hawaii. You can also add toppings like mango, hemp seed, cacao nibs, peanut butter, or chia seeds.”
An açaí bowl from Purple Tree is a culinary experience, which is very much on purpose. “We did a pretty thorough search for the best possible ingredients we could include, and we’re really specific about using as many local sources as we can,” says Newman. “We took our time to ensure that our açaí blend would be not only healthy, but distinct from any other franchise in town.”