SPRING HILL — Tommy Roberts paused with the shot glass in hand, as if skeptical of the coming assault on his taste buds.
But, no, he was savoring the aroma.
The 31-year-old customer tossed the wheat grass shot down like a professional. The shimmering green, slightly viscous liquid smelled and tasted like freshly mown grass, he said. He finished his treat with a suck on a segment of orange for a citrus chaser.
"We have people coming in here grassing," said Maritza Rios, co-owner with her husband, Juan, of Juicey's Juice Bar, which opened in June in Silverthorn Square.
"Wheat grass is becoming more popular," Rios said, ticking off its purported health benefits: aiding digestion, lowering blood pressure, detoxifying, reducing wrinkles. "It's a super food" the believer said.
"We have a 5-year-old who comes in and takes a wheat grass shot with her parents," Rios added.
The grass, grown locally, is one of a dozen boosters the bar offers as additives to its drinks, whether concocted under the menu of berry, citrus, tropical or power-up smoothies. Other boosters mimic the likes of a health store's grocery aisles: bee pollen, flax seed, echinacea, hemp seeds.
Whatever the choice among the dozens of smoothies and fresh-pressed juices — the latter ranging from beet to peppers and kale — all are natural and none have added sugar, Rios pointed out. All vegetables are purchased from Beasley Farm of Brooksville.
Rios and her husband got interested in fruit and vegetable benefits for their own better health. He suffered from diverticulitis and she from a deficient auto-immune system. Both say their health issues have diminished through a regular diet that includes the products they're now retailing.
Rios' mother, Carmen Rivera, a part-time employee, selected beverage ingredients she hopes will lower her blood pressure and stave off memory loss.
Rivera, 60, said her husband's consumption of wheat grass has staved off artery spasms.
"It's the best it's ever been," she declared.
The Rioses researched the health benefits of a myriad of foods on the Internet. She devised recipes.
"We created our (juice bar) menu at home," she said. "Our children (ages 6, 12 and 17) were testers."
The juice bar's location, adjacent to Anytime Fitness, provides a health-conscious customer base. When the final bell rings at nearby Powell Middle School each day, students often stop in for an after-school snack — a parent-pleaser, Rios noted. And sports teams come for refreshment after games.
Roberts stopped in at the bar on Monday with his wife, Amber, 29, after a workout at the gym. They don't go out of their way to eat healthy, Tommy said, but are conscious of choices they make.
Amber said the smoothies deter the couple from dropping in at a coffee bar for a sugar-loaded pumpkin spice muffin.
"(A smoothie) is kind of like a little dessert, but healthy," she said.
Compared with chain smoothie bars, the prices at Juicey's are reasonable, Amber said, from a little more than $2 to $5-plus for a 24-ounce drink.
The couple relaxed at one of the two tables in the shop, painted tangerine, raspberry and lime. A bar-counter seats a half-dozen, where dawdlers browse magazines and books on nutrition.
"We've been educating people who come in," Rios said.
The shop is hardly a new concept.
"There are so many juice bars in Tampa," Rios said. "This is just the first in Spring Hill."
Beth Gray can be reached at [email protected]