I first met Leslie of Raleigh Raw at the Food Truck Rodeo in downtown Raleigh. In a sea of fried foods, pizza, ice cream, and other DELICIOUS sounding food. She was selling juice. But not just ANY juice–quite possibly the most nutritious stuff on earth.

100% organic, small batch, cold pressed juice.

(Disclaimer: I’m not as much of a health nut as this blog post will indicate. I genuinely like this business and what they are doing. And when my interest in health, science, local businesses, and food converge. Well, you get this.) I emailed Leslie as soon as I could because I knew I had to feature Raleigh Raw on the blog. Not only because I was impressed with the way Leslie and Sherif were approaching juice making, but also because many people don’t get what they are doing. As of this writing, they are only about a month old and the growth they have experienced in that short time is incredible–from about 20 juices a week to over 250. As you read this, they are probably selling more.

I met Leslie and Sherif at their apartment, aka “the business headquarters.” They were warm and inviting, which is remarkable, given that they had worked through the night to make the juice for that day. (Don’t tell them I said this, but they looked a little bit sleepy and were working on coffee when I arrived.) In case you are wondering as I did, they are “together” and the cutest couple at that. When I finally had the courage to ask the question, Leslie was quick to point out that they were not engaged. In response, Sherif ducked behind my little assistant. I couldn’t help but point out that hiding behind a baby isn’t the best way to avoid the marriage question and luckily, everyone had a good laugh. I love people who can take a good joke. First up, a Q & A based on our conversation that morning on their sunlit patio.

What makes this juice special?

Imagine if you could do better than a salad. Fresh, whole foods. Lots of greens and a nice variety of vegetables. But there’s that “I don’t really want to eat a whole salad” downside of salads, no? Enter juice. It takes all the veggies in your salad and extracts the enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients from those veggies and bottles them up. Drinking your veggies is ridiculously more tasty than eating a salad. Plus, letting your body skip having to digest all the roughage of the veggies is a great way to give your body a break and clean you out a bit. (More on “cleanses” later–that’s as crazy hippie as I get here, promise.)

What makes Raleigh Raw’s juice so special?

  1. It tastes great! Putting green things in a juice press is best left to experts. It can taste gross pretty quickly because some fruits and veggies are pretty potent in flavor. But, Leslie and Sherif are bartenders and appreciate a good cocktail. They are experts at making balanced, delicious drinks and know how to find that perfect ratio of veggies to make a great juice.
  2. It’s organic. If you’re going to consume massive amounts of veggies at once, it’s best if those veggies have never seen a pesticide, eh?
  3. It’s cold-pressed. There are lots of ways to make juice but a cold press is king and many companies skimp in this area because it’s costly and messy. However, only a cold press can fully retain the nutrition of the juice.
  4. It’s made from nearly all local produce. Lemons don’t grow in NC, but nearly everything else in the juice is so Raleigh Raw ensures they are purchasing local ingredients. They are often making juice from kale that was grown in the ground the day before. Because juice is designed to be consumed within a few days, you are getting the maximum nutrition from the produce, unlike a salad that has probably been shipped for hundreds of miles or has been sitting on a shelf for a week.

How long does it take to make a juice?

For anyone who has tried this in their kitchen, it’s time consuming. Made one bottle at a time, it took them about 8 minutes per 16oz serving at first which is relatively fast! Raleigh Raw has sped up their process in a variety of ways and can make them much faster now, if 30 per hour is fast to you…¬† I hung out with them at their kitchen one night from about 11pm-1am and I assure you, this is a slow process. I didn’t have the patience to stay all night to see all the batches of juice being made. That’s why most of the photos of the juice you see are just green!

Who cares about all this nutrient stuff?

I consider myself a fairly healthy eater. We try to stick with brown bread and integrate fresh veggies in our meals. But I love hot dogs and pizza. And I don’t ban them from our home by any means. However, I am learning that there are ways to integrate nutritious foods into my life. I add greens to smoothies. We put fruit in our oatmeal and pancakes. You get it.

Here is what you are already eating for lunch on an average day based on my Facebook poll: Chickfila. Peanut butter and jelly. Sandwich with roast/cheese with blueberries. Healthy Choice TV dinner. Veggie chili. Quesadilla. Pizza. Ham and cheese sandwich. Chocolate cupcake. Takeout Japanese. Salad. Chicken dinner. Casserole with potato chips.

Just like me, it’s a mix of both pretty good and pretty bad. And when we acknowledge what we REALLY eat, we can all find ways to improve. For me, adding smoothies and fresh juice is a nice way. I also try not to use them to wash Oreos down. After all, when your body is getting the nutrition it needs, you will be less hungry.

Sherif is so passionate about making juice after watching family members struggle with the typical diseases associated with the Western diet–issues we are likely to face personally or with family members. He’s a well studied nutritionist and just the person you want at the helm of this kind of operation. He explains it this way:

Raleigh Raw is taking out of food what everyone has added over the years so that you can feel the way nature intended you to feel.

Nature actually did better than how most of us feel day to day. But we’ve messed up food over the years and created “edible food-like products” to quote the great Michael Pollan. Raleigh Raw is helping us fix that in a way that is FAST and EASY.

How do they make this juice?

Here is a photo essay from the night I drove to meet them in their makeshift kitchen space. Note: The actual juicer is not in these photos for a few reasons. The only one that really matters is that it sprays enough that camera would get all dirty. Juicing is MESSY. First, the produce is washed and scrubbed using a few different solutions that include lemon juice, salt, and vinegar. It’s measured out to ensure the proper ratio of each item in the final mix. Next, a big juicing machine grinds up whatever fresh produce you throw in it and has an outlet for juice. The pulp is completely dry once you remove it. Pretty neat stuff.

But this whole process isn’t easy! The greatest challenge they face is refrigeration. It takes tons of produce to make juice and although the produce is usually delivered the day they juice, it has to be stored somewhere cold in the meantime. With a few strategically planned trips, they are able to get produce in place for a juicing night like this:

How can I buy juice?

Currently, juice is available from their website in three different packages: Juice Cleanse Packages, Frequent Buyer Programs, and an A La Carte Menu (3 juice minimum). Those inside the beltline will enjoy free delivery and those outside can have front door service for just $5. Most other companies that offer this product charge FedEx overnight rates so this is a steal!

Whether you want a juice tasting, a great drink mixer for a party, or a cleanse during the holidays, Raleigh Raw has you covered. I’m no expert on cleanses but I do know that it’s a great way to reset your body while still giving it the nutrition it needs. Learn more on their website.

What flavor juice can I try?

You can find the varieties below (as well as a few rotated flavors) at their website for less than you’d pay for a take out meal. And about the same price as those sugar-laden “naked” juices that are most certainly not full of vegetables.

  • KALE ME MAYBE¬† | Kale, Spinach, Cucumber, Celery, Granny Smith Apple, Parsley, Pear, Lemon, and Ginger.
  • ROCK STEADY | Beet, Lemon, Cucumber, Carrot, Celery, Apple, Parsley and Ginger.
  • TANG | Orange, Apple, Carrot, and Ginger.
  • BE NO EGO | Mint, Apple, Cucumber, Pineapple.
  • REGULATOR | Swiss Chard, Romaine, Cucumber, Celery, Apple, Lemon.

My favorite flavors are Kale Me Maybe and Be No Ego although I will personally vouch for them all!