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  • Seaweed Shakes Aren’t Actually Green, or Gross

    Seaweed shake

    Photos by secretlondon123 & majcher on Flickr

    I admit, I was a little tentative about trying a seaweed shake in Belize. But I kept hearing wonderful things – “Revitalizing!” “Hydrating!” “Invigorating!” – so I set out in search of an ideal place to have my first taste.

    I took a seat at The Shak Beach Café, a vegetarian health food hotspot on the sandy southern end of the Placencia Peninsula. In the midst of this laid-back café, while enjoying an uninterrupted view of the Caribbean on three sides of the patio, the sunshine bathing everything in warmth and light… I was still feeling apprehensive. I’m usually a diehard adventure traveler, eager to try new things, but this seaweed shake was throwing me. I pictured an electric green concoction, thick clots of briny seaweed in every sip, clogging the straw, impossible to choke down. I gagged just thinking about what I envisioned to be a sickening combination of salty algae and milky liquid.

    For all the health benefits of seaweed, I could understand why some people might force themselves to swallow down the kind of shake I was imagining. Seaweed, a vitamin-rich superfood, is actually one of the most affordable alternative medicines used in Belize, thought to be a cure for fatigue, a longevity-booster, and an aphrodisiac. Often, rum or brandy is added to supply the seaweed shake with a little extra kick. But I wasn’t thinking about being revitalized – instead I was dreading something so awful-tasting I’d be put off malteds for the rest of my life. I heard the blender whirring in the kitchen.

    When the waitress brought my seaweed shake, she delivered it with a knowing wink. I looked at the glass in front of me. The shake wasn’t green or clumpy – instead, it looked like a typical milkshake, frothy white and smooth. Nothing to be afraid of. I took one tentative sip, then a big gulp.

    My tongue savored the taste of sweet, silky milk with hints of cinnamon, spicy nutmeg, and vanilla – not a trace of bitterness or salt. Smooth, creamy, and deliciously cold, the seaweed shake slid down easy, melting away my apprehension with every pull of the straw. I made short work of the shake and sat back, waiting for the burst of vitality. The only invigorating jolt I felt seemed to come from how refreshingly icy the drink was… maybe it only works with rum?

    I learned later that Belizeans have been eating seaweed since ancient Maya times, but nobody seems to recall when seaweed shakes first became popular. They’re a particularly nutritious option among many refreshing beverages – such as Mariano Coc’s award-winning “traveler’s juice” – that can be enjoyed at cafes and bars around Belize. I recommend sampling new drinks in scenic locations like The Shak – a view of the expansive ocean or a tropical sunset is like the cherry on top!

    Nutrition Facts
    • Seaweed contains vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B6, niacin, pantothenic acid, and folic acid. This potent combination rarely occurs in land plants – look to the ocean for a nutrient cocktail in seaweed.
    • Seaweed is also high in calcium, potassium, iron, and zinc.
    • Scientists are researching a correlation between seaweed and longevity.
    • If you don’t live in a coastal area where raw seaweed is available, look for dried seaweed in Chinese markets and health food stores.
    • Seaweed is sold in sheets, capsules, or ground into powder.
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    Post by Megan L. Wood

    Megan is a travel writer and full-time free spirit. Learn more about Megan >>

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    Leave a Comment


    2 Responses

    1. Rachel Rachel Kowalczyk says:

      Lyra Spang – Thanks for bringing your informed perspective to Megan’s piece on seaweed shakes! I was exploring your blog and can tell that you seriously know your stuff. Love your article on eating ripe locally-grown fruit in the tropics
      http://riceandbeansindc.blogspot.com/2008/01/edible-stars-and-other-tropical-wonders.html
      I’ve never had a spectacular starfruit or apple-banana before, but I hope to taste them ripe and delicious when Isla Palenque’s organic farm has its first fruit harvest. Hope you’ll share your culinary and cultural expertise on The Ambler often!

    2. lyra says:

      In case you were wondering, she delivered it with a knowing wink because in Belize seaweed is considered “good for di back”. Anything that is “good for the back” is considered to confer upon the consumer increased sexual potency and performance. All genders drink seaweed both because it tastes good and because of these purported benefits. Given the many micronutrients found in seaweeds, the beverage, despite all the sugar involved, may indeed help overall health and thus physical performance of all types.

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    I admit, I was a little tentative about trying a seaweed shake in Belize. But I kept hearing wonderful things – “Revitalizing!” “Hydrating!” “Invigorating!” – so I set out in search of an ideal place to have my first taste.
    
    I took a seat at The Shak Beach Café, a vegetarian health food hotspot on the sandy southern end of the Placencia Peninsula. In the midst of this laid-back café, while enjoying an uninterrupted view of the Caribbean on three sides of the patio, the sunshine bathing everything in warmth and light… I was still feeling apprehensive. I’m usually a diehard adventure traveler, eager to try new things, but this seaweed shake was throwing me. I pictured an electric green concoction, thick clots of briny seaweed in every sip, clogging the straw, impossible to choke down. I gagged just thinking about what I envisioned to be a sickening combination of salty algae and milky liquid.
    
    For all the health benefits of seaweed, I could understand why some people might force themselves to swallow down the kind of shake I was imagining. Seaweed, a vitamin-rich superfood, is actually one of the most affordable alternative medicines used in Belize, thought to be a cure for fatigue, a longevity-booster, and an aphrodisiac. Often, rum or brandy is added to supply the seaweed shake with a little extra kick. But I wasn’t thinking about being revitalized – instead I was dreading something so awful-tasting I’d be put off malteds for the rest of my life. I heard the blender whirring in the kitchen.
    
    When the waitress brought my seaweed shake, she delivered it with a knowing wink. I looked at the glass in front of me. The shake wasn’t green or clumpy – instead, it looked like a typical milkshake, frothy white and smooth. Nothing to be afraid of. I took one tentative sip, then a big gulp.
    
    My tongue savored the taste of sweet, silky milk with hints of cinnamon, spicy nutmeg, and vanilla – not a trace of bitterness or salt. Smooth, creamy, and deliciously cold, the seaweed shake slid down easy, melting away my apprehension with every pull of the straw. I made short work of the shake and sat back, waiting for the burst of vitality. The only invigorating jolt I felt seemed to come from how refreshingly icy the drink was… maybe it only works with rum?
    
    I learned later that Belizeans have been eating seaweed since ancient Maya times, but nobody seems to recall when seaweed shakes first became popular. They’re a particularly nutritious option among many refreshing beverages - such as Mariano Coc’s award-winning “traveler’s juice” - that can be enjoyed at cafes and bars around Belize. I recommend sampling new drinks in scenic locations like The Shak – a view of the expansive ocean or a tropical sunset is like the cherry on top!
    
    Nutrition Facts
    • Seaweed contains vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B6, niacin, pantothenic acid, and folic acid. This potent combination rarely occurs in land plants – look to the ocean for a nutrient cocktail in seaweed.
    • Seaweed is also high in calcium, potassium, iron, and zinc.
    • Scientists are researching a correlation between seaweed and longevity.
    • If you don’t live in a coastal area where raw seaweed is available, look for dried seaweed in Chinese markets and health food stores.
    • Seaweed is sold in sheets, capsules, or ground into powder.
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I admit, I was a little tentative about trying a seaweed shake in Belize. But I kept hearing wonderful things – “Revitalizing!” “Hydrating!” “Invigorating!” – so I set out in search of an ideal place to have my first taste.

I took a seat at The Shak Beach Café, a vegetarian health food hotspot on the sandy southern end of the Placencia Peninsula. In the midst of this laid-back café, while enjoying an uninterrupted view of the Caribbean on three sides of the patio, the sunshine bathing everything in warmth and light… I was still feeling apprehensive. I’m usually a diehard adventure traveler, eager to try new things, but this seaweed shake was throwing me. I pictured an electric green concoction, thick clots of briny seaweed in every sip, clogging the straw, impossible to choke down. I gagged just thinking about what I envisioned to be a sickening combination of salty algae and milky liquid.

For all the health benefits of seaweed, I could understand why some people might force themselves to swallow down the kind of shake I was imagining. Seaweed, a vitamin-rich superfood, is actually one of the most affordable alternative medicines used in Belize, thought to be a cure for fatigue, a longevity-booster, and an aphrodisiac. Often, rum or brandy is added to supply the seaweed shake with a little extra kick. But I wasn’t thinking about being revitalized – instead I was dreading something so awful-tasting I’d be put off malteds for the rest of my life. I heard the blender whirring in the kitchen.

When the waitress brought my seaweed shake, she delivered it with a knowing wink. I looked at the glass in front of me. The shake wasn’t green or clumpy – instead, it looked like a typical milkshake, frothy white and smooth. Nothing to be afraid of. I took one tentative sip, then a big gulp.

My tongue savored the taste of sweet, silky milk with hints of cinnamon, spicy nutmeg, and vanilla – not a trace of bitterness or salt. Smooth, creamy, and deliciously cold, the seaweed shake slid down easy, melting away my apprehension with every pull of the straw. I made short work of the shake and sat back, waiting for the burst of vitality. The only invigorating jolt I felt seemed to come from how refreshingly icy the drink was… maybe it only works with rum?

I learned later that Belizeans have been eating seaweed since ancient Maya times, but nobody seems to recall when seaweed shakes first became popular. They’re a particularly nutritious option among many refreshing beverages - such as Mariano Coc’s award-winning “traveler’s juice” - that can be enjoyed at cafes and bars around Belize. I recommend sampling new drinks in scenic locations like The Shak – a view of the expansive ocean or a tropical sunset is like the cherry on top!
Nutrition Facts
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