Kelp iced coffee washes up in Portland

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First there was butter in coffee, now seaweed is the new “ah-ha” ingredient to rock the coffee world. As far as we know, The Sugarbird Coffee Truck in Portland, is the only one concocting this salty, bitter elixir in Maine.

“I don’t want people to think they can come to a coffee truck and just get the usual suspects,” said Sugarbird’s Justin DeWalt, who rolled out this unusual combination last month. “This is a truck that’s utilized as a vehicle to be creative.”

Grown in Casco Bay by Bangs Island Mussels, sugar kelp is an iodine-rich superfood that keeps water clean and is loaded with potassium. Some are calling it the new kale. Harvester Emily Beringer of Bangs Island and her boss Matthew Moretti are coffee lovers who love a good collaboration. They visited DeWalt’s truck, stationed outside Ocean Gateway, and an aquatic combo was born. “I have a coffee truck,” DeWalt told them. “Lets make it work.”

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Kelp and coffee over ice

Almighty caffeine teams up with sugar kelp to make this “a healthier iced coffee,” said Beringer, who is credited with the sea-to-bean blend.

What is it? An organic, Sumatra, wood-fired roast from Unrest Roasting Co. of Blue Hill, infused with cut-up kelp leaves. It’s served over ice with a strand of dark green kelp wrapped around a wooden stirrer. The garnish releases bursts of brine sip by sip. Why put seaweed in your joe?

“The truck is an outlet for community, supporters, friends and great products,” says DeWalt, who also offers a butter latte and chaga coffee. Like craft brewers, artisan coffee makers are  getting experimental. And we like it!

How does it taste? Like a rich brew thrown overboard. The yin and yang of bitter coffee meeting the saltiness of kelp triggers the same sensation as salted caramel and chocolate. At $3.50 a pop, they could toss in a few mussels.

Look for Sugarbird Coffee Truck in Portland during the week and at the Brunswick/Topsham farmer’s market on Saturdays.



Kathleen Pierce

About Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.