A new cafe in Gowanus is offering a way to drink the famously polluted Gowanus Canal — and be healthy. A cafe within event space Mirror in the Woods at 575 Union St., Mirror Tea House created a drink called “Gowanus Canal” in reference to the Superfund site. Not only is it named for the trash-littered water, it’s a blue, red, and purple-ish color that “looks like poison,” says owner Fumio Tashiro. “But it’s really good for you and for your body,” he says.
The base of the $5 beverage is bright red ginger hibiscus tea, followed up with a blended whole banana, a little bit of milk, and some butterfly pea flower tea to lend a natural blue hue. It ends up tasting like a slightly banana-flavored version of a spiced hibiscus tea, except with very bold colors, Tashiro says.
Drinking actual Gowanus Canal water would be horribly dangerous. Magazine Popular Science took a long look at what might happen if people drank it and ultimately found that although the answer’s unclear, “Nothing good. And probably diarrhea,” is the most probable response.
But the combination of ingredients in Gowanus Canal, the drink, can be quite beneficial. Hibiscus tea is thought to lower blood pressure and be packed with vitamin C and antioxidants. Butterfly pea flower tea has been used in Southeast Asia for centuries to help battle depression. And bananas, of course, are packed with potassium and great for digestion.
Tashiro used to run the cafe at a Park Slope event space where he created an addictive drink called banana milk coffee. Now that he’s out with his own arts space and cafe, he’s similarly experimenting with different kinds of non-alcoholic beverages. Other drinks on his menu include that banana milk coffee, a cold brew topped with a milk-and-banana blend, and a banana milk matcha, a matcha tea topped with the same milk-and-banana blend.
The impetus to create a drink inspired by the canal came from wanting his cafe and event space to be distinctly associated with the neighborhood around it, Tashiro says. The drink is mostly just a fun way to do it.
“Mirror Tea House is about reflecting the neighbors, what’s happening here now,” he says. “I was thinking ‘What is Gowanus?’ People think Gowanus Canal.”