Taste test: Melbourne's blue algae latte

Yep, it's blue: Matcha Mylkbar co-owner Zoe Annabel with a blue algae latte.
Yep, it's blue: Matcha Mylkbar co-owner Zoe Annabel with a blue algae latte. Photo: Simon Schluter

First they deconstructed the latte. Then they took out the milk. Then they replaced the actual coffee with ground turmeric to create a golden latte. 

Now, in the relentless pursuit of the next wave of "coffee", novelty-seeking drinkers can order a blue algae latte. 

The striking concoction is brewed by slowly combining active blue algae, converted into a light blue powder, with ginger and lemon, then dousing the brew with frothy coconut milk and finishing with a decorative yellow flower.

Nic Davidson, owner of St Kilda vegan cafe Matcha Mylkbar, said the inspiration for what he calls a "smurf" latte came from where it always does, the cafe's ethos of sustainability and its focus on superfoods.

"When we heard of the blue algae and the health benefits … we thought we could make something pretty cool."

Fairfax Media queued up for a taste of the smurf, images of which are running riot over Instagram as the latest instalment in Melbourne's increasingly bizarre cafe culture.

It wasn't disgusting. The first mouthful was laced with a prominently sweet, gingery taste before the drink succumbed to a funky sourness that lingered long after the last sip. 

For those willing to forgo the usual Melbourne cafe experience, the kind with coffee and warm milk, it provides a break from the standard.

"Obviously you wouldn't want to be scoffing down blue algae straight, quite an acquired taste, but the drink is really interesting," Mr Davidson says.


In addition to the smurf, Mylkbar serves several health-focused lattes, from the immune strengthening mushroom latte to the invigorating matcha, which is just a traditional Japanese green tea.

While the mushroom latte tastes like a sour, congealed vegetable soup with an unpleasant smack of coconut, the turmeric latte is a weirdly pleasant Indian chai, and old-fashioned matcha provides a refreshing hit of green tea.

"A lot of people think we don't have coffee but we do," says co-owner Zoe Annabel. "We just don't have cow's milk." 

Says Mr Davidson: "We like our food and the fact that it's fun and different and it builds people up to try different things, and that's what we are all about."

He concedes the approach isn't for everyone.

"Look, haters gonna hate … it's not everyone's cup of tea of course."