Sometimes referred to as "blue matcha," this ingredient is the key to making some of the most vibrantly beautiful drinks and snacks you'll ever see.

By Tiffany Stevens
January 14, 2021
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In the culinary arts, as in most of life, color just makes things better. And the nice thing, for those who are wary of the use of artificial dyes in food, is that coloring dishes and drinks with natural ingredients can be a relatively easy affair. Cherry and orange juice can provide a sunrise themed drink, and spinach can lend a green hue to healthy smoothies. There's a few colors, however, that the artistic eater might struggle to represent on their plate. In particular: a true blue. 

To be fair, you can use red cabbage as a dye to achieve a purplish hue. But for a true, royal blue, most shoppers might understandably turn to artificial dyes or curacao syrup. There's a third option, however, that frequenters of milk tea and boba shops are likely already aware of: butterfly pea powder.

What Is Butterfly Pea Powder?

Butterfly pea powder is made from the butterfly pea plant, a beautiful flowering vine native to Thailand, Burma and other parts of Southeast Asia. It's bright indigo flowers have been used for centuries to dye foods various shades of blue. For example, the flowers provide the bright blue rice in pulut tai tai, a sweet rice dessert created by Chinese migrants that's popular in Malaysia. 

In the US, you're most likely to find butterfly pea powder used to color various specialty drinks; it's particularly become popular among cocktail creators because it changes colors when added to drinks with different pH levels, meaning it can go from deep blue to a pastel pink with the right combination of ingredients. A number of food bloggers (like Dini of The Flavor Blender) have also figured out how to use butterfly pea powder to make color changing lemonades and slushies. 

But Is It Good For You?

As U.S. News points out, butterfly pea powder has been subject to a lot of claims about its supposed health benefits, such as the idea that it can help with stress relief, depression, skin health or even diabetes. However, there's no real scientific evidence to back up those claims. 

Butterfly pea powder does contain anthocyanins, antioxidants which have been linked to things like improved cardiovascular health and lower risk of cancer. Still, you'd have to ingest quite a lot of powder to see any real benefit. So if you're looking for anthocyanins, you're probably better off filling your plate with other purple and blue foods, like eggplant, red cabbage, cherries, blueberries and blackberries.

Where Can I Buy Butterfly Pea Powder?

For those looking to make some magically blue or color changing drinks of their own, butterfly pea powder can be easily obtained through online vendors. It can also be found in some tea shops or health food stores. And if you find yourself enamored with butterfly pea powder, you can always branch out to buying the dried flowers, which can often be found at the same venues. Those flowers can be steeped to draw out their bright color; and that liquid can then be used to create a host of colorful dishes, or simply made into the prettiest pitcher of tea you've ever put together. So if you're looking for ways to add more color to your cup, then try adding butterfly pea powder to your cupboard. It will be another great addition to your culinary palette.