Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I know that this is getting tiresome, but I need postpone today's review until Friday. I'm taking the GRE tomorrow, and I'm leaving town today to go stay with a friend. I know that I seem to have an infinite number of excuses for not posting the reviews on time, but such is life off an engineering student. Anyway, check back Friday evening for a double review. Thanks, - Hayden

Monday, February 27, 2012

MiO Liquid Water Enhancer: Orange Tangerine

Those of you who have been following the blog for the past year know that I have a bit of a history with MiO products. Aside from the MiO Energy line, the new orange tangerine flavor is the first new flavor to be released since the product launched last March. Additionally, this is the first flavor of MiO to be fortified with vitamins, and it includes ten percent of the daily value of vitamins B3, B6, and B12.

This is easily my favorite variety of MiO so far. I'm not exactly sure what it is about the flavor that makes it so good (although the tangerine may have a lot to do with it). It's just good. The artificial sweetener, although already very tolerable in the other MiO flavors, is barely even noticeable in the midst of the tangy citrus taste. You can taste the added vitamins a little bit in the final mixture, but I actually sort of like the taste, and I think that it adds an interesting character to the beverage. I have always been somewhat partial to citrus-flavored beverages, so perhaps my enjoyment of the new MiO is simply a bias on my part. But nevertheless, I still affirm that this is the best MiO yet, and I often find myself having to fight back the urge to add some to every single glass of water that I pour.

Also, if you decide to pick up a bottle, it's very good with club soda.

Verdict: Highly recommended

Purchased: Wal-Mart [Greenwood, SC]
Size: 1.62 fl. oz. [48 mL, 24 servings]
Price: $3.89

Friday, February 24, 2012

Foco Pomegranate Juice Drink

As some of you may remember, I tried a Foco Pennywort Drink for the first time last year and I didn't really like it. However, I recently came across a few other Foco products, and I decided to give the pomegranate juice a try.

Now, it's important that the drink in "Pomegranate Juice Drink" is emphasized here, because this is not pure pomegranate juice. I'm not entirely sure why, but I guess that I was expecting something more along the lines of Pom, or another such drink that is basically just freshly juiced fruit. Foco's drink, however, is more like a conventional, "family grocery store" juice with a consistency not unlike that of a Welch's grape juice. And that is not to imply that Foco's take on pomegranate juice is bad; it's just not what I expected.

However, there was still a sort of odd, underwhelming quality about the taste of the juice. Although there are only four ingredients in the drink (water, juice, sugar, citric acid) and it does taste very natural, the flavor is just sort of bland somehow. This is probably due to the fact that the juice used is only 30% pomegranate juice, but it is hard to hold that against the drink given how generally costly the pomegranate fruit is. The drink is still very responsibly sweetened and does have a pleasant and gentle taste, so it's hard to actually dislike it for any reason, but I think that my expectations going in sort of set me up for disappointment. 

But there is something to be said for being able to purchase a well-balanced pomegranate juice without having to surrender all of your worldly possessions at the register. Definitely try this one at least once. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Verdict: Worth a try

Purchased: Unknown Asian Food Store [Spartanburg, SC]
Size: 11.8 fl. oz. [350mL]
Price: $0.99

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dilmah Blackcurrant Ceylon Tea

I have been drinking a lot of really good teas lately, and Dilmah's Blackcurrant Ceylon tea is fairly high up on that list. I've actually had a difficult time lately finding fruit-flavored teas that aren't overbearingly fruity, and Dilmah's blackcurrant offering is a very welcome breath of fresh, aromatic air.

Dilmah is a long-standing and singularly-focused family company that is passionate about and committed to tea, and it really shows. Although I have not had a chance to try Dilmah's plain Ceylon tea, it is still terribly clear that their base tea is a cut above. It tastes very fresh, despite coming in prepackaged bags, and has a robust flavor without being overwhelming. The blackcurrant is also perfectly balanced, and is very present in the drink without overpowering the taste of the tea. Unfortunately, I have never actually had a blackcurrant (currants aren't native to this part of the world), so I can't speak to the naturalness of the flavor, but it does taste consistent with many other blackcurrant-flavored drinks that I've had in the past. However, Dilmah's blackcurrant infusion is somehow not as sweet and "berryish" as others seem to be, giving the tea a more mild flavor and pleasant aftertaste, despite its very strong fragrance while steeping. 

In a lot of ways, Dilmah's Blackcurrant Ceylon tea is quite sublime. It's difficult for me to put my finger on exactly why I like it so much. It's just good, somehow. Very good. Definitely pick up a box of this if you ever happen across it.

Verdict: Highly recommended

Purchased: Big Lots [Greenwood, SC]
Size: 20 bags
Price: $2.00 [Discounted]  

Monday, February 20, 2012

7Up Retro

As far as mainstream lemon-lime sodas are concerned, I have always been somewhat partial to 7Up. There is just something about it that I have always really liked that I've never been able to completely identify. So I was pretty excited when I heard back in early 2011 that Dr Pepper/Seven Up was joining the bandwagon and releasing a limited edition run of 7Up with natural sugar. My excitement was somewhat short-lived, however, as I was never actually able to find the stuff in my area until I came across some surplus cases at a local Big Lots a few weeks ago.  From what I understand, 7Up Retro is not currently being produced at the time of this writing, but may be released again in the future, depending on how well the limited edition (i.e. market test) run performed. 

I have one criticism about 7Up Retro that I feel needs to be addressed right up front. It's difficult to express effectively with words, so I'll just include another picture of the other side of the can.

Just a tip: if you are trying to promote a retro feel for your beverage, it is probably best to avoid slapping a giant logo for a very modern reality show on the side of the can. I know that the drink was introduced on the 2011 season of Celebrity Apprentice and all, but it really just sort of ruins the motif.

Anyway, on to the taste. Overall, 7Up Retro really isn't all that different from it's high fructose corn syrup counterpart. The taste is relatively similar, although it does have a slightly drier sweetness to it, much like most drinks sweetened with natural sugar. It still has that same tasty flavor and level of carbonation as regular 7Up, but ultimately the differences really aren't worth the effort that it would take to track down one of these now. If Dr. Pepper/Seven Up ever decides to do another run of 7Up Retro, it's definitely worth a try, but for now just save yourself some time and stick with what's readily available.

Verdict: Worth a try

Purchased: Big Lots [Greenwood, SC]
Size: 12 fl. oz. [355mL]
Price: $2.80 [6 pack, discounted]

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I'm afraid that I will have to postpone today's review until tomorrow afternoon. I have to go to Spartanburg today to help wrap up some details with my late grandfather's estate.

Apologies for the delay, and I hope to see you all here tomorrow!

Edit: I am going to have to cancel the reviews for the rest of the week. Organizing my grandfather's belongings is taking a lot longer than we originally thought. Posts will resume next Monday. Thank you for your continued patience.

- Hayden

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sambazon Lo-Cal Acai Energy Drink

My history with acai-based beverages has been a bit shaky, at best. There have been plenty of acai drinks that I have liked, and an almost equal number of those that I haven't, so I picked up Sambazon's energy drink with a sort of reserved hesitancy. But, in the end, I was glad that I gave it a try, as this one definitely falls into the "have liked" list.

Just as a preliminary note, Sambazon does offer a regular calorie version of their all-natural Amazon Energy concoction. I don't normally go for the low-calorie versions of drinks, as they almost always harness the less tasty power of artificial sweeteners or some form of Stevia. The latter is the case with Sambazon's "lo-cal" energy drink, as some of the evaporated sugar cane juice has been replaced with a Stevia extract alternative. Given my consistently poor history with Stevia, I was fairly worried about trying the low calorie version first, but it was the only option available to me at the time, so I decided to go with it anyway.

And I have to admit, it's really not that bad. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the Stevia actually sort of works with this drink. There are only a few drinks about which I have been able to say that, and Sambazon seems to be one of the companies that really understands that a little bit of Stevia goes a long way. The taste of the acai is also very strong and natural, which I actually found to be very tasty and pleasant on the palette. The acai berry can be a bit strong, as it has a fairly pronounced tartness, and by itself (or when overused in a beverage) it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. Luckily, Sambazon is really on the ball when it comes to acai (as you would expect from a company that specializes in the fruit), and the mix of ingredients in Amazon Energy creates a very unique and pleasant flavor that is diverse enough to cut the tartness of the acai without detracting from the natural taste of the berry. The acai berry's unique taste is still very present in this drink, but the other ingredients make it more recommendable as a "beverage for everybody" than something like a straight acai juice that is more pure to the source. 

Overall, I think that this is a great drink, especially for those who like the taste of acai. It is strong enough to appeal to fans of the berry, while still being mild enough to appeal to those who may have not yet developed a taste for the fruit. And it's USDA certified organic, to boot. Definitely check this one out.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Big Lots [Greenwood, SC]
Size: 12 fl. oz.
Price: $0.60 [Discounted; comparative price of $6.98 for a 4-pack]

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bolthouse Farms: Vanilla Chai Tea

It is not very often that I see a drink sitting on the shelf and I confidently think to myself, "Yes, I know exactly what that is going to taste like." And it is even less common that I am completely correct, so it always a fun moment when a drink exactly matches the "taste image" that I had had in my head. Although I have seen Bolthouse Farms products all over the place, I had never actually had one until I picked up the Vanilla Chai Tea a few days ago. When I was trying to decide on which flavor to try first, something about the vanilla chai tea option just jumped out at me. Almost as though my subconscious was saying, "you know exactly what that is going to taste like, and you really want that taste right now." 

And my subconscious was right. There were no surprises about the taste of this drink, but it was an intensely satisfying beverage that I have been craving for days since I had it. As one would expect, it tastes like a spiced chai tea with hints of vanilla, but it is thicker than just a regular tea, due to the inclusion of soy milk in the drink. Each vanilla chai tea also contains 17 grams of protein (from the soy), which is a fairly significant amount, especially for a 15.2 ounce serving of something that tastes as good as this does. The drink is a bit on the thick side, as soy milk is naturally thicker than regular dairy milk. However, the viscosity was only really bothersome at the very end of the drink, making the mid-range serving size a great design choice. Overall, this is a great beverage from Bolthouse Farms, and I can't wait to try some of their other flavors.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Bi-Lo [Greenwood, SC] 
Size: 15.2 fl. oz. [450mL]
Price: $2.69

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


It has been a while since I've had a very strong English tea. I have mostly been drinking more eastern teas (jasmine, green, etc.) over the past several months, so this was a nice change of pace. Typhoo is an excellent tea. It has a strong and pronounced flavor, and it definitely does have that very "British" taste that is touted on the packaging. Although Typhoo is a bit stronger than most teas of this sort, I still think that this would make a great "everyday breakfast" sort of tea. I'm not entirely sure what sort of tea this is (the ingredients are listed simply as "tea"), but the taste lies somewhere between that of an English Breakfast tea and a Ceylon black tea. It's really very interesting, as the taste is mellow on the tongue, but has an intense, bitter aroma on the palette. 

Typhoo also takes very well to cream and sugar. I usually drink my tea straight, particularly when tasting one for the first time, as I think that cream and sugar often tends to muddle the natural flavor of the tea. But I decided to give it a try this time on the recommendation of an acquaintance of mine, and I was glad that I did. The cream (by which I secretly mean 2% milk) helped to reduce the bitter aroma and the sugar gave it a gentle sweetness without detracting much from the flavor. It just made the tea very pleasant, overall.

I like Typhoo a good bit. I don't know that I could drink it all the time, as it is a bit on the powerful side, but I still think that it's a tasty, unique tea that is definitely worth checking out.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Big Lots [Greenwood, SC]
Size: 80 bags
Price: $4.00 [discounted]

Monday, February 6, 2012

Left Hand Stranger Pale Ale

I've had several of Left Hand Brewery's beers at this point, and I have to say that they are all pretty good (especially the milk stout). I have seen Stranger several times in stores in the past, but it was not until recently that I was able to find an individual bottle. It's actually been a while since I've had a pale ale, so this was a nice change of pace from some of the lagers that I've been drinking lately. 

Left Hand's Stranger pale ale is pretty good. It has a strong, dry taste and a bitterness that is almost more like an IPA than a more traditional pale ale, although without the note of citrus in the finish. I generally tend to like beers with a heavy bitterness in the taste, so this is great for me, but the bitterness would definitely be strong enough to put off those who prefer more malty ales.  Stranger also has a harsh but flavorful finish, and the aroma lingers fairly strongly in the aftertaste. Again, this is great for those who like strong pale ales, but is probably not a good fit for those who don't.

Overall, I think that Stranger is a very solid pale ale. I would definitely recommend it, but not without first warning the recommendee of its strength. It's certainly not a beer that I would drink regularly, but I can definitely see myself craving this one again in the future. Also, the art on the label is some of the best that I have ever seen. The sides of the label are significantly cut off in the picture about, so if you ever pass by one of these in a store, definitely take the time to stop and give it a look.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Whole Foods Market [Greenville, SC]
Size: 12 fl. oz. [355mL]
Price: $1.99

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mamma Chia

Every so often, I stumble across a drink that is so demanding of my attention that I have no choice but to purchase it, regardless of price or taste appeal. Mamma Chia was one of those drinks, as it's not particularly common that I find drinks that are filled to the brim with tiny seeds. When I noticed it sitting on the shelf among the other organic drinks at a nearby Whole Foods Market, I found it to be quite odd that the seeds were just sitting perfectly suspended in the liquid, rather than sinking to the bottom. At first, I thought that maybe it was due to the sheer number of seeds in the drink, but upon closer inspection I realized that there was actually a good deal of space between each seed; too much space for that to be the answer.

So, I picked the drink up off of the shelf to take a closer look. I had expected the seeds to swirl around in the beverage upon picking it up, much like ink dispersing through disrupted water. However, rather than floating around freely in the fluid, the seeds simply lurched around with the liquid and promptly stopped in place when I stopped moving the bottle. The liquid didn't seem especially viscous, and my second hypothesis was that the seeds were extremely non-dense and that the effect of Pascal's Law (which states that any point in a confined incompressible fluid is subjected to equal forces in every direction due to the pressure of the surrounding fluid) was enough to overcome both gravity and buoyancy and hold the seeds in place. But I was still not entirely correct.

After doing a bit of research, I learned that chia seeds, when mixed with water, react to create a somewhat gelatinous substance. The resulting liquid is more dense than water, but still flows freely like a more conventional beverage, thus explaining the tendency of the seeds to remain fixed in place. This satisfied my curiosity about the strange behavior of the seeds, but I'm afraid that it caused problems when it came time to actually taste the drink.

I am sincerely at a loss for what to think about this drink. To start with the positive, the blackberry hibiscus juice was very good. Exceptionally good, in fact. The flavor is very light and natural and hits just the perfect amount of sweetness. Honestly, this may be one of the best juices that I have recently. However, the chia seeds give the drink one of the strangest consistencies that I have ever experienced. There are a lot of seeds in each Mamma Chia. So many seeds, in fact, that it is hard to tell that there is actually any liquid in there at all. Each seed has a sort of gelatinous "husk" around it that causes the seeds to slide around and bounce off of each other in your mouth, and each sip of the drink is reminiscent of the sensation caused by sucking squished up jello off of a spoon. The seeds themselves don't really taste like anything, but the sensation is just too weird and distracting for me. 

Like I said above, I really like the juice used in Mamma Chia. But the seeds - while they are an interesting concept - just get in my way of enjoying the beverage as a whole. Chia seeds do have several health benefits such as high protein, fiber, and essential mineral content, but the consistency is really just too odd for me to tolerate. However, if you don't think that the gelatinous nature of the seeds will not bother you, or you think that the health benefits are worth the added texture, then this is definitely one to try out. The experience itself is worth having at least once, anyway.

Verdict: Worth a try

Purchased: Whole Foods Market [Greenville, SC]
Size: 10 fl. oz. [296mL]
Price: Unfortunately, I forgot to write the price down. It was somewhere between 2 and 3 dollars, I believe.