A big, bright-purple, solar-powered truck stands alone on a plain slab of concrete on the corner of North Park Avenue and East South Campus Drive. A line of college students waits at the window, each leaving with a colorful bowl of fruits and granola. This is the Purple Tree Organic Açai Blends food truck.
Co-owner of the truck André Newman, known campus-wide as the “Açai Man,” is just as popular as the product he sells. His warm personality makes students at the University of Arizona feel welcome.
“The Açai Man is probably one of the most genuine workers I’ve ever encountered,” said Brooke Haliburton, a double major in English and journalism.
Being a college student, some days are harder than others, according to Haliburton, and “having someone to just ask you how your day was or how you were doing can really brighten your day.”
Haliburton hadn’t heard about the “Açai Man” until a friend kept raving about how delicious his products were. She had to find out for herself how great this truck was.
The idea started when Newman was on a capoeira tour in Brazil in the summer of 1999. There, he tried açai, the purple fruit, for the first time.
He immediately fell in love with the bright berry blend, as it was also part of the limited array of healthy food options for a vegetarian.
Later, he was reintroduced to the berry February 2014 in Oahu, Hawaii while motor biking. This is where he got the idea to bring the special fruit to Tucson.
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The main seller of this truck is in the name: açai. Açai berries are a South American purple fruit that is known to be a “super fruit” because of its great amounts of amino acids, fibers, antioxidants and protein. The açai tastes somewhat similar to raspberries and chocolate, according to Newman.
“With some experience in the solar industry, business partners along with assistance from Technicians for Sustainability actualized Tucson’s only solar/electric-powered açai, smoothie, coffee, juice and ice cream truck,” Newman said.
Newman uses Tucson’s sunny atmosphere to his advantage, and because the UA experiences the warm sun for majority of the school year, his chilled and healthy snacks are a great go-to.
Being in college can mean the stereotype of gaining the “freshman 15” that most dread, according to Haliburton.
The health variable of the truck is enticing for those looking for a “healthier food option” on campus and is also quick and right in front of Main Gate, so students “can grab a healthy snack or meal on the go,” Haliburton said.
Other than the UA, the truck goes to local events, such as the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, Heirloom Farmer’s Market (on Sundays at the Rillito River), as well as personal events like birthday parties, weddings and even sororities and fraternities.
“My first experience visiting the truck was enough to make me feel like a close friend,” said Jade Rushing, a political science major.
Newman’s warm personality is part of what keeps the students going back, according to Haliburton.
“He not only remembers who I am but is always careful to make sure my order is right,” Haliburton said. “Being a person who has a severe food allergy, the fact that he always is sure to make my order right, as well as how I’m doing, is very meaningful to me.”
Students enjoy the food and the process Newman takes to prepare it with such caution and care.
“After sampling his fresh and fruity creations, I was hooked — great food, great people, great service,” Rushing said.
Besides the popular açai blend, on the menu are also green smoothies, fruit juices, coffee and fruit smoothies. If you’re looking for more sugar, there are also fruity ice creams and organic strawberry yogurt.
Purple Tree blends are vegan and are entirely free of wheat, soy and artificial sweeteners.
The top seller of the truck, the açai bowl, is made of pureed organic açai fruits with topping of granola, fruits and locally sourced honey.
The Purple Tree Organic food truck is Tucson Foodie-approved and is popular in Tucson, according to Newman.
The truck is open Monday through Friday 10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. For more information, you can visit the Facebook page at Purple Tree Organic Açai Blends.
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