Juice & Overlords

I’m obsessed with juice in Barcelona. Every day in La Boqueria, as the stalls come to life with merchants, no less than ten vendors unpack hundreds and hundreds of cups of juice. Rows upon rows of small clear plastic cups, lids tightly in place, a jar of colourful straws at the ready for each customer. Each cup costs €1-€2 depending where the stall is located – those closest to the front entrance are €2, but if you walk a few stalls back, the price drops to €1.50. And mid-afternoon, the stalls in the back drop to €1.

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The variety of flavors and colors is jaw dropping. The combination of papaya and coconut juice is sherbet orange, and ‘tutti-frutti’ is nearly fluorescent magenta. Fresh orange juice, usually one of my favorite indulgences, is drowned in a sea of more unique colors, barely visible among the cornucopia.

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I have sampled many juices in La Boqueria recently, and here is my taste rank. I love most of the juices mixed with coconut juice, especially raspberry + coconut and strawberry + coconut. I really want to like papaya but for some reason I just don’t. When mixed with coconut, the whole concoction tastes like peach hand lotion. And watermelon juice is perfect for a warm day because it’s subtle and refreshing.

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But all of this juice research has invited several burning questions for which I have yet to find answers.

  1. Where does all of this juice come from? Are there minions of people in a factory outside of town, squeezing juice all night to resell to the many vendors in La Boqueria? Or are they in the basement of La Boqueria, churning out juice on demand all day, like elves?
  2. Who decides how far back a vendor needs to be in the market to charge €1.50 instead of the premium €2? Is it a normal market economy or is there a juice kingpin overseeing it all?
  3. On the topic of an overlord, why do all the vendors have exactly the same flavours and cup style/size? Is this because they get their product from the same juice headquarters (my guess)? Does the juice kingpin have say over the fact that all vendors have matching flavours and cup design? Has anyone ever tried to buck the system only to get booted out of their stall or have an embargo imposed upon them (‘You only get orange juice now! No coconut for you!’)?
  4. Why don’t the prices vary by juice variety? You’d think that some fruits are more expensive or labor intensive or yield less juice per fruit, right?

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Despite my questions, my Barcelona juice experience has reignited my love for fresh juice and cartel politics. Now I just need to figure out how to make fresh coconut juice in my home juicer without causing an explosion.
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  • November 18, 2014
    Sabine

    Have you tried coconut water? It’s super healthy and delicious, you can buy cartons or cans in most health food stores or Asian shops. Not sure if it will give the intense coconut flavour, however, but maybe try coconut milk for this purpose?
    By the way, a question I would have seeing all these juices, is if they’re all fresh and raw. I haven’t tried them, so cannot tell by the taste yet. What do you think?

    • November 18, 2014

      Sabine – they tasted fresh to me (and they were starting to separate, which usually indicates freshness, with no stabilizers) but that’s also a good question. And yes, I have tried coconut water – all the rage here in London. I find it more watery (and clear, not opaque) than this juice was! I miss it…I’m three days sober from juice in Barcelona.

      • March 29, 2015

        Beautiful market stall shot. Brings me back to our hodlaiy in France a few weeks ago. One has to be prepared for more raw (in every sense) meat experiences in open markets.Best,Conor