If you've peeped the colorful Instagram feed of Tres Palmas Acai, you may not guess guess that a 24-year-old surfer was behind the picturesque acai bowls that are sweeping the Lowcountry. But with the help of his mom and Wando High School English teacher Simon Schatmeyer, Wyatt Morris is creating smoothie bowls that Charleston residents in the know crave daily. Sure, the bowls are photogenic, but by sourcing acai directly from Hawaii, Tres Palmas is setting themselves apart with a product that's just as nutritious as it is delicious.
Morris spent time working with the couple originally behind local smoothie bowl shop Brava Bowls while attending the College of Charleston, and he quickly began to develop a passion for the food that has gained a cult following in recent years. Morris explains that he would have happily continued working there, but a change in ownership led him to move to North Carolina's Outer Banks, where he contemplated his future. Aware of the frequency in which acai bowl shops use a watered down or over-sweetened product, Morris developed a vision for Brazilian-style bowls, purchased a trailer, and parked it in the I'On neighborhood he grew up in for the very first time on March 17, 2018.
The pure acai berry is 80 percent seed and only grows in the Amazon rainforest, making it difficult to source a high quality blend. Struggling at first, Morris eventually found a distributor who owns a shop called Tropical Tribe located on the main drag of Waikiki in Honolulu. The counter-service cafe was given the coveted title of best acai bowl in Hawaii, and Morris knew why after tasting the acai he received, which he explains "actually has a bitter, earthy flavor in its natural state."
In fact, Morris likes it so much that he orders 300 kilograms of it every five weeks. Utilizing this pure acai allows him to control the sweetness of his bowls, much like a chef aims to manage the amount of salt added to each dish. For his main acai base, Morris uses two parts acai, one part banana, and honey to taste. During a research trip to Rio de Janeiro, the smoothie bowl aficionado noticed that some shops serve this puree by itself, offering granola at the table as a topping. Morris loves the simple approach, but he wanted to feature a wide variety of nutritious toppings at Tres Palmas. Guests can finish their bowls with hemp hearts, bee pollen, organic granola, cacao nibs, nut butter, fresh fruit, and more.
- Ruta Smith
- Morris orders 300 kilograms of acai from Hawaii a week
The roving smoothie bowl trailer gained a huge following almost instantly, and while Morris was quick to give a nod to fellow food truck owners like Rebel Taqueria and Root Note, he decided that the daily grind on the trailer wasn't his long term goal. "I would compare it to taking out your boat every single day," says Morris. "You have to make your checklist, and if you forget one little thing it could mean that the day's operation isn't going to work out."
With this in mind, he decided to move to a brick and mortar location at 700 South Shelmore Blvd. in May, allowing him to focus on serving customers while continuing to expand his menu. You can of course find acai bowls at the Mt. Pleasant shop, but Tres Palmas also offers other bowl bases, from the Sunrise (frozen banana and mango) to the Pitaya (dragon fruit, pineapple, and banana). These bowls transform into smoothies with the addition of liquid; some get nut milk, while others get more fruit juice.
- Ruta Smith
- Tuna Poke is new on the menu
The dedicated Tres Palmas followers are surely wondering if there is anything new to keep an eye out for at the shop — and there is. During a trip to Hawaii, Morris tried his faire share of poke, and he's decided to bring the simple, stripped-down version he experienced there back to Charleston. Morris has also started making his own nut butters and milks, and he plans to add in hot coffee to complement the Counter Culture cold brew he currently serves at the shop.
Morris is fortunate to have local support, but he also recognizes another person that has been essential to his early success. "I've been so lucky to have my mom helping me out since day one," he says. "She's logged countless hours for me, and I definitely have a debt racked up with her that I will never be able to repay."
Serving the neighborhood he grew up in makes owning Tres Palmas a full circle endeavor for Morris, who can be found inside the shop each day cutting fruit or operating the high powered blender. It's not only that signature Hawaiian acai that's making things click; Morris and his company's passionate approach are showing up in every bowl that's served at Tres Palmas.