31 May 2024

First ever acai machine in Griffith set up at Station 4 Cafe as niche health food craze grows

| Oliver Jacques
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Acai machine with waitress

Station 4 Cafe and Bar waitress Jorja Heffer shows off the new acai machine. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

A machine that makes a popular health food sorbet from purple Amazonian rainforest berries has made its debut on the Griffith culinary scene.

Acai (pronounced ah-sigh-EE) are small grape-sized berries grown on palm trees native to Central and South America.

Over the past few years, acai bowls have become a popular health food dish served in cafes across our major cities. The bowls include a smoothie made from acai berries topped with items such as fruit, granola, nuts, seeds and sweet sauces.

“We’ve been trying to get an acai machine for at least 12 months,” Station 4 Cafe and Bar owner Anthony Vecchio said.

“It’s taken off in Melbourne and Sydney. So, I thought I’d bring it to the country.”

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After many delays and false starts, he finally set up the machine behind his counter this week.

“It’s come from the Berry Brothers, who are based in Newcastle. We served acai before, but we had to buy the packets of acai frozen and we had to blend it through the blender,” Mr Veccio said.

“With the machine, it’s more convenient, it’s quicker and the product is still fantastic.”

Acai bowl

Acai can be healthy, but it depends on your toppings. Photo: Station 4 Cafe.

As an investment, it wasn’t cheap.

“Between the machine, the product and the sauce heater, it cost around $10,000,” he said.

“There are other places in Griffith that do acai, but nobody else has the machine.”

Consumers of acai are quick to stress the health benefits, saying the berries are rich in antioxidants and a less fattening alternative to rival products such as gelatos and frozen yogurt. Its base ingredient is also gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan friendly.

But it can be decadent as well, with Station 4 giving diners the option of topping their bowls with peanut butter, pistachio, Biscoff or Nutella.

The acai craze has been fuelled by social media, where people have shared photos and videos of their exotic toppings.

“People come in just for the acai,” Mr Veccio said.

“You can have it for breakfast, lunch or as a snack. We do a lot more on the weekends; it’ll sell a bit better in the warmer months. Hopefully it will take off.”

Mr Vecchio is well known in the Riverina cafe scene, having worked in hospitality for the past 35 years. He was previously an owner of Wagga’s Italian restaurant Il Corso, which closed its doors in 2021. He was also involved with Griffith’s Giuseppe’s Restaurant and Bar before starting his newest venture three years ago.

He’s been thinking of opening Station 4 up of dinner, but it may be a bridge too far.

“I would have to get a whole new staff and work even more; I already work six days and do about 80 to 90 hours per week,” he said.

Station 4 Cafe and Bar is at 252 Banna Ave. It’s open from 7 am to 2 pm Tuesday to Sunday.

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