Berrista brings miracle berry to Irving Park

Barista Caitlyn Rowe (right) makes a French press coffee for Tim Van Asselt at Berrista’s Dec. 12 grand opening. Photo by Todd M. Freimuth | EXTRA

[dropcap]B[/dropcap]y using a berry that can change sour and bitter flavors into sweet, a new café in Irving Park is changing the way that consumers snack on treats and approach sweeteners like sugar. Berrista, located at 4219 W. Irving Park Road, is part of a restaurant trend spearheaded by Chicago Chef Homaru Cantu that features the miracle berry.

“Say you bite into a lemon, it’ll taste like lemonade,” said Berrista Executive Chef and business partner, Azeez Yusuf.

According to Yusuf, the Western African berry works by masking taste receptors that register bitter and sour flavors by way of a glycol protein substance known as miraculin.

Berrista offers the berry to clientele in several different ways. Cooks dehydrate the berry and make it into a powder that has several implications for food. Berrista uses the powder as a natural sweetener on top of cookies and also presses the powder into a pill.

Pop the pill, eat some food and it will stay sweet without adding sugar or other chemical sweeteners, said Yusuf. Berrista also juices the berries, serves them natural and makes frozen miracle berry cubes for customers to use.

“I didn’t actually try the berry, but the staff was really nice and the place looked good,” said customer Tim Van Asselt. “I’m not a black coffee drinker, but I could have made it through the whole cup.” Van Asselt said that he would try the berry next time he went.

Yusuf acknowledges that some people may be reluctant to try the berry opposed to using regular sugar and sweeteners, which are also offered.

“Anything new, people will always be a little nervous to try,” said Yusuf.

Despite the oddity and newness of the berry, Yusuf said business has been good. During the café’s soft opening, the staff served more than 600 people and by 3 p.m. on their Dec. 12 grand opening, they served more than 400.

Berrista is open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturdayand Sunday from 6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. For more information, visit

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