Darien High grad opens organic, plant-based Barvida cafe
DARIEN — A passion for health and good-tasting healthy food—as well as a desire to share that passion with his hometown—inspired a Darien High School graduate to create Barvida at 879 Boston Post Road.
On Saturday, Brennan Branca, a 2013 graduate and former captain of the varsity soccer team, held the official opening of his new 100-percent organic, 100-percent plant-based café.
“I always thought juice bars were the coolest things ever,” said Branca, who now lives in New York City after having attended Columbia University.
At the same time, he said, sometimes the healthiest foods sacrifice flavor for nutrition. This is something he’s hoping to change.
Along with fresh juices, his new establishment also features acai bowls, smoothies, salad, wraps and wellness shots, among other food items.
“I love Darien and I really wanted to bring health and wellness back to my hometown,” Branca said. “I thought that Darien was lacking in healthy food and I really wanted to make that change.”
Along with serving healthy, good-tasting food, Branca is also striving to create a go-to café that offers a calming and healing environment for visitors who can experience the sort of “neighborhood health hug” he sees in some favorite places in New York City.
“The atmosphere plays into it,” explained his girlfriend and unofficial partner, Tara Schreiber—a dedicated vegan and environmentalist who helped create and develop the idea for BARVIDA with Branca.
“You want to feel comfortable,” she said. “You want to feel welcome. And you want to feel almost like the place is a safe haven.”
She explained how visits to some so-called healthy establishments can leave you feeling more stressed than when you arrived, owing to loud music or a frenetic operation.
“People don’t understand the effect that has on people health-wise,” Schreiber said, for though the food offerings may be healthy for you, “it’s not a healthy environment.”
As part of that, the couple has worked to instill their values in the operation—sourcing ingredients they believe in, keeping conscious of environmental care and also striving to educate their consumers about what they’re eating.
“We provide a level of information and education on all aspects of the menu that none of our competitors are doing,” Branca said. “Every ingredient on the menu has been meticulously thought out.”
“We source ingredients from all over the world to ensure that our menu items are the cleanest and healthiest they can possibly be,” he said, including cacao from Guatemala, mushrooms from Japan and Siberia, and organic açaí from the Amazon Rain Forest in Brazil.
“It’s not only healthy, but it’s delicious,” said Kallie Hapgood of Darien, one of the first customers to try to new café.
“It’s delicious and it’s something I would never take the time to make in my own kitchen,” she said, noting that with issues around quarantine impending it was good to have a new healthy go-to place.
“We are very eco-friendly,” Branca added. “We only serve in reusable glass bottles or plant-based packaging.”
“In fact, as soon as more Covid restrictions are lifted, we will be implementing our reusable bottle program where people can return their glass bottles for an additional percentage off their next drink,” he said.
“I’m just happy to support a local family start-up,” said Sherry Ramsay of Darien. “I like to see retail space full again and not empty.”
Ironically, Branca said that he sees the issues around the pandemic as an opportunity for a new business such as theirs.
“The pandemic only really heightens that need,” he said, for healthy food and a safe, calming environment to visit.
“At the end of the day … that’s really our mission,” he said.