Monday, April 30, 2012

Harmless Harvest Coconut Water

I am really not sold on this recent coconut water craze. I have tried quite a few different coconut water drinks at this point, and all of them have been...well, frankly, they've been bad. However, I have had several recommendations to try Harmless Harvest's coconut byproduct, so I decided to pick up one when I came across some of them this past weekend. 

I think that I can finally say without any doubt that coconut water really just isn't for me. I have a really hard time drinking the stuff, and although Harmeless Harvest's coconut water is a little bit different from the others that I have had, it is still coconut water. It does taste very fresh, and I have to say that it is a lot more palatable than other brands. This may be due largely to the fact that Harmless Harvest does not use heat to pasteurize its product. Although pasteurization is often necessary to ensure that the drinks that we buy in the store are sanitary enough for general consumer use, heat does tend to have a bad habit of altering the flavor of things. So instead, Harmless Harvest subjects its coconut water to intense pressure before bottling. This sanitizes the drink without subjecting the coconut water to external heat, thus avoiding any potential change in the liquid's chemical make-up and therefore retaining the original, raw taste of the liquid.

I can definitely taste the difference in Harmless Harvest's coconut water. It has a more natural taste, and the flavor of the actual coconut is more noticeable than in other brands. Most of the coconut waters that I have had in the past just tasted salty, and bore little resemblance to the fruit from which they originated. Although the taste is more natural and a little bit more bearable than other drinks of the type, I still found myself struggling to drink it. Each return to the bottle was an exercise in willpower, and although I did finish the entire serving in one sitting, I found myself more confused than anything else. I found the taste to be pungent and strange for the first second or two, after which the aftertaste quickly becomes sort of light and intriguing. Although I don't really mind the aftertaste (in fact, I kind of liked it this time around), I still did not think that it was worth having to fight through the initial mouthfeel of the drink. 

Overall, I don't feel like I can recommend Harmless Harvest's coconut water. I do find their alternative method of sterilization very interesting, and I do recognize that of the coconut waters that I have had, this is the best. But I think that I am now comfortable with accepting the fact that I just don't like coconut water. I have tried and tried and tried to enjoy the stuff, and I really just can't. It is too strange and salty for my tastes. However, if you do enjoy coconut water, or if you are looking for a unique and interesting new beverage experience, then this one is probably worth a shot.

Verdict: Not recommended

Purchased: Whole Foods Market [Greenville, SC]
Size: 8 fl. oz. [235mL]
Price: $2.69   

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Spindrift: Sparkling Grapefruit

Although I have only had one of their sodas so far, I think that I am already confident in saying that Spindrift makes excellent beverages. True to their claims of having "a fresh take on soda," each of Spindrift's sodas contains nothing but all natural ingredients. The juices are all comprised of freshly squeezed fruits and crushed berries (no concentrates), and the coloring comes naturally from the fruit used in each drink. The only actual additive is a little bit of cane sugar, but other than that, everything is basically straight from the fruit. This approach results in a very refreshing formula that is reminiscent of something like a light, Italian soda. 

Spindrift's grapefruit flavor is very tasty. The flavor is light and actually somewhat dilute, without being too faint to be considered a soft drink. But this mild dilution actually works very well for Spindrift Grapefruit, as it cuts out a lot of the acidity of the citrus that can sometimes make these sorts of beverages difficult to drink in larger quantities. The balance between the sparkling water and the other ingredients has obviously been very carefully engineered, and it maintains the flavor and bitterness of fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice without being overbearing or tart. The amount of added sugar was obviously also very carefully portioned, as it's actually fairly hard to tell that the drink has been sweetened beyond the natural capacity of the grapefruit. 

Everything in Spindrift's Sparkling Grapefruit just tastes like it belongs there. Striking this perfect balance may not seem like the most complicated task in the world, especially given the short list of ingredients. But maintaining simplicity can often be a deceptively complex and difficult process, as there is nothing to distract from mistakes, and any small error or imbalance is immediately apparent. Spindrift is a company that clearly understands this pitfall, and it is evident in the taste that a lot of care and attention was given to the development of their sodas. At this point, I can only speak from limited experience, but I really like the grapefruit, and I can't wait to try more of Spindrift's products.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Earth Fare [Columbia, SC]
Size: 12 fl. oz. [355mL]
Price: Somewhere around $2.00 [I'm afraid that I've lost the receipt]

Monday, April 23, 2012

MiO Lemonade

(I apologize for the terrible quality of the picture above. It did not look this blurry on my camera's screen)

I realize that I have already done several MiO reviews within the past few months, but every time that I begin to think that I have caught up with the new flavors, the good people at Kraft are already adding new varieties to the line. This is in no way a bad thing, however, as I am very excited to see MiO gaining popularity as quickly as it has been over the past year or so. I always look forward to trying the new flavors, and although I don't drink MiO quite as much as I did during the latter years of my undergraduate career, it is still always a pleasure every time I return to the small, grey bottle. And I have been given a very good reason to do just that, as Kraft has recently sent me samples of the two newest MiO flavors: Lemonade and Blueberry Lemonade.

I have always been somewhat hesitant when it comes to instant lemonades, as many of them tend to be either extremely acidic and "chemically" or tooth-destroyingly sweet. I am therefore relieved to report that this is not the case with MiO's take on the drink. The plain lemonade is actually very mild, and has a light sweetness that is uncharacteristic of production lemonades, particularly those that are artificially sweetened. The taste is reminiscent of other instant lemonade prodcuts (think Country Time Lemonade), but the balance of sweetness and lemon flavor is more refined than a lot of the competition. Unlike some of the other MiO flavors that I have reviewed before, the lemonades are sweetened only with sucralose (rather than a combination of sucralose and acesulfame potassium), but it is actually very difficult to tell that it is artificial. The only real indication of artificial sweetening is in the aftertaste, and even then it is fairly remote. There is a slightly dry sensation that the drink leaves in the back of the throat, but that is common among most alternative sweeteners, particularly when combined with lemon flavorings. All in all, the lemonade is a great flavor. It's light, well-balanced, and tasty, and avoids a lot of the usual pitfalls of artificially flavored lemonades. However, it is worth noting that these qualities only hold fast when using small quantities of the MiO liquid. The first time that I made the lemonade, I used too much, and the resulting drink was very tart and extremely sweet. But I had accidentally used far more than the recommended serving size, so as long as the reccomendations are followed, this is a great instant lemonade.

The blueberry lemonade, on the other hand, is a very different drink. I will go ahead and say up front that it is very good. In fact, it is possibly my favorite MiO flavor so far (rivaled only by the previously reviewed Orange Tangerine). Much like it's plain lemonade counterpart, the blueberry variety is perfectly sweet and is full of flavor without being overbearing. The bluberry is more of an artificial "candy" taste than it is a natural representation of the fruit, but it is still quite tasty, regardless. Also, I found that portioning out the blueberry lemonade concentrate was not quite as touchy as the regular lemonade, as the taste is relatively consistent over a fairly large margin of serving size error. Again, like with the regular lemonade, the artificiality of the sweeteners is only really evident in the distant aftertaste, but the dryness found in the regular lemonade is absent in the blueberry version. However, this may be due in part to the fact that the blueberry lemonade really does not taste very much at all like lemonade. In fact, the blueberry almost completely takes over the other flavors, and I actually found myself wondering at first if there was really any lemon in the drink at all. The lemonade taste is there, but it is buried deep within the background of the drink, and you really have to be looking for it to notice it among the strong blueberry flavor. Although the lemonade may not be immediately apparent, it is present in that it alters the taste of the blueberry somewhat. But this is a sort of vague approach to the mixture, and although the resulting drink is still very good, it makes me wonder if Kraft may have just been better off making a strictly bluberry flavored MiO. I really like the blueberry lemonade, but I can see how the taste might come across as a little bit lacking if you went in expecting a perfect mixture of the two flavors.

Overall, I really like both of these new flavors, and I think that they make two more excellent additions to an already very stong line of products. These are definitely flavors that are worth the investment, especially the blueberry lemonade. I can't wait to see what's next for the brand.

Verdict: Recommended

Samples sent courtesy of Kraft Foods, Inc.

For more information about MiO, visit Kraft's website.
Or follow MiO on Facebook or Twitter

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Ginger People: Ginger Soother

As I said in this post, I have been drinking an unusually large amount of ginger-themed beverages lately. Most of them have been carbonated ginger ales, though, and I was excited to give something a little bit different a try. And I'm glad that The Ginger People's Ginger Soother is that something new, because I really like it.

The Ginger Soother is a simple ginger beverage with honey and lemon that is intended to soothe the stomach. The ingredients are very simple: water, honey, ginger juice, and lemon juice. There is nothing more to it than that, and this natural approach really shows through in the taste, as everything tastes very true to the source. Originally, I was a little bit concerned about the potential strength of the Ginger Soother, as there is a relatively large amount of ground ginger included in the drink. It's not that I mind the spiciness of strong, fresh ginger, but the specificity of the taste can sometimes make opening such a beverage a bit of a daunting task. 

However, unlike many other ginger drinks that contain sedimentary material, the ginger is ground into a very fine, almost powder-like substance. When shaken, the particles mix into the beverage to create a homogeneous, opaque liquid that is not nearly as spicy as I was expecting. In fact, it is quite pleasant, and the tiny solids floating in the beverage are really just barely noticeable. The sweetness of the honey cuts the bite of the ginger perfectly, and makes the Ginger Soother easy to drink without compromising the natural flavor of the ginger. Everything about this drink is just very well-balanced. All of the flavors work very well together, and the concoction is diluted just enough to give the drink a thin consistency without sacrificing the very natural taste of any of the ingredients. And, true to the stated goal of the beverage, it is very soothing and pleasant to the stomach.

In short, The Ginger People really know what's up.

Verdict: Highly recommended

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

Monday, April 16, 2012

Rieme Traditional Sparkling Limonade

There has always been something fascinating to me about colorless beverages. I'm certainly not opposed to coloring (imagine how boring a grocery store aisle full of completely clear drinks would be), but there is just something strange and other-worldly about a colorless liquid with the flavor of something that is otherwise very colorful. It is especially strange when it comes in a glass bottle; perhaps simply because it is so rare in our modern market of plastic and food coloring. But regardless of the reason, I knew upon first sight of Rieme's Limonade that I would be leaving the store with one.

Rieme is a line of all-natural, French sodas and lemonades. The traditional limonade is a very simple, carbonated lemonade that has a light and pleasantly sweet taste. The lemon flavor is very natural, and is more of an aromatic taste that settles on the back of the throat, rather than on the tongue like a more typical lemon taste. As a result of this, the flavor is not terribly sour, but it still registers in the mind as very "lemony," despite the lack of bite. The level of sweetness is also just right, as it is noticeably sweet without being heavy or thick. In fact, Rieme's Limonade might be one of the most refreshing lemonades that I have had in quite some time. It's crisp, natural, and very easy to drink, and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for Rieme's other flavors in the future.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Whole Foods Market [Greenville, SC]
Size: 11.18 fl. oz. [330mL]
Price: $1.99

Monday, April 9, 2012

Schedule change; Week of 4/9/2012

Hello all.

I just wanted to give a quick update about some changes in this week's review schedule. I will be going out of town for a few days starting tomorrow, and I will need to drop down to two reviews for this week. Today's review will be posted tomorrow, and another will be going up on Friday. 

The regular posting schedule will be resumed next week.

Thanks, and have a great day.

- Hayden

Friday, April 6, 2012

Braswell's Select Blueberry Black Tea

Although I did not review any of the others, this is not the first Braswell's tea that I have had. As is likely with most people who pick one of these up, I was originally attracted to Braswell's drink because of the unconventional packaging. Each Braswell's Tea comes packaged in a fancy, reusable glass topped with a jar-style lid, which gives the drink a very "homemade" feel. The lid is designed to be removed and thrown away, so (for those who were wondering) the glass wouldn't really function as the jam jars that it is clearly intended to emulate, but the unconventional lid does allow for a natural threadless glass design. The labels on the front and back are also made to peel straight off and don't leave any annoying adhesive mess behind, making Braswell's container perfect for reuse. 

Braswell's Blueberry Black Tea is...well, it's very fruity. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the blueberry flavor is quite natural and refreshing, but I really couldn't taste very much of the tea in this drink. I was hoping for the flavors to be more balanced, but the taste of the blueberry completely overpowers whatever hint of tea may have once been in the beverage. Although this was a little bit disappointing, I have to say that I really did still enjoy the drink. From what I've experienced, blueberry tends to be a tricky flavor, and I have had a lot of blueberry-themed drinks that were either way too strong and sweet, or too diluted to really taste. But Braswell's has found a very happy medium, as the blueberry is prominent and sweet, but still light enough to be refreshing and very easy to drink. 

Although I did like Braswell's Blueberry Black Tea, I would be likely to recommend some of the other flavors first (I especially like the pomegranate blackberry tea) before I got around to this one. Overall, this is a great drink, but I was somewhat disappointed that the tea was not more noticeable. However, if you like blueberries, this is definitely one to try out.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Whole Foods Market [Greenville, SC]
Size: 11 fl oz [325mL]
Price: Somewhere around $2.99 [I have since lost the receipt]

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cheribundi: Cacao Cherry

Superfruit beverages certainly have been gaining a lot of popularity in the industry lately, particularly in the health foods market. It seems like every time that I go into a natural foods store, there are at least two new brands of superfruit-inspired drinks on the shelves. Cheribundi was one of the new options this time, so I decided to pick up a bottle of the cacao cherry variety.

Cheribundi is a somewhat difficult beverage to quantify; at least the cacao version is. The side of the label claims that each 8 oz. bottle contains 50 cherries, and it certainly tastes like it. The cherry juice is very tart, and although there is a bit of added sugar, it doesn't do much to take the edge away. I liked the tartness, and the cherry is very fresh and flavorful, but I am glad that it only comes in an 8 ounce serving, because I don't know that I could have handled much more than that. What makes this particular drink hard to quantify, however, is the cacao. It's certainly an interesting choice of flavors, and I do like cherry and chocolate, but they work together a little bit awkwardly in Cheribundi's drink. 

It's not so much that the cacao and cherry don't work together; it's more that they don't mesh. The drink smells almost exclusively of cacao, so much so that you would think that you were about to drink a chocolate-based beverage. But the tartness of the cherries almost entirely drowns out the cacao in the taste. It's still there, but very much in the background. It's not that this is bad or unpleasant, but it does cause a bit of sensory discord while drinking. The smell causes you to expect a stronger chocolate taste, and when you are met only with the specifically sour taste of fresh cherry juice it just feels a little bit...strange. I think that Cheribundi may do well to add a little bit more cacao to the recipe to boost the chocolate flavor a bit, but as it stands it is still very tasty. If you enjoy all-natural cherry juice and are willing to overlook the strangeness of the conflicting sensory stimuli in the interest of a slightly more interesting experience, then this one is one to check out. Otherwise, I would say just go with the regular, unflavored variety. But it is worth a look, one way or the other.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Whole Foods Market [Greenville, SC]
Size: 8 fl. oz. [240mL]
Price: $1.99

Monday, April 2, 2012

Bruce Cost Unfiltered Ginger Ale

Those of you who have been paying fairly careful attention to this blog for the past couple of years may have witnessed my gradual change in attitude towards strong ginger ales. When I first started the site, I really did not like "hard" ginger ales very much, but over time I have actually come to prefer them. So when I found Bruce Cost's unfiltered ginger ale in World Market, I was very excited to try it.

Although I have had a lot of natural and organic ginger ales (and even a few very powerful unsweetened ginger drinks) in the past, I have never had one with quite as much sedimentary material as Bruce Cost's take on the drink. But this makes a lot of sense, as I think that this is also the first unfiltered ginger ale that I have ever had. I've had plenty of ginger ales that contain ginger solids, but this one has about half an inch of finely ground ginger in the bottom of the bottle. I assumed that because of this, Bruce Cost's Ginger Ale would be extra gingery, but I was somewhat disappointed to find out that it really isn't.

This ginger ale was actually surprisingly sweet for something that contains the destroyed remnants of what appears to have once been a fairly sizable chunk of ginger root. Rather than the olfactory-shattering intensity of truly fresh ginger that I was expecting, I was met instead with a gentle, wafting flavor and a somewhat syrupy sweetness and consistency. This is not to say that it's bad; it's just not the drink that I was anticipating. As far as sweet ginger ales go, this one is pretty good. The sweetness is definitely noticeable, but still non-intrusive enough to be pleasant and easy to drink. It also has the general flavor of fresh ginger, but absolutely none of the bite, so if you like ginger but have a hard time drinking the harsher natural offerings, this may be the ginger ale for you. I much prefer ginger ales with a lot of bite, so I don't know that I would buy this one again, but I definitely think that it's worth a shot.

Verdict: Worth a try

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