As you may be aware, I have a thing for coconut milk. Maybe not a well thought through thing, but definitely a thing. Basically, if something is made of coconut milk, I go “Wuh? Gimme, somma dat!”
Thus picking up Trader Joe’s Cultured Coconut Milk in blueberry and vanilla flavors was an automatic grab for me. Coconut milk yogurt, awesome, gimme sommma dat. It wasn’t until later that day, as I was unpacking my bags, when the words on the label really sank in. Cultured coconut milk. Not coconut-blueberry flavored yogurt, in fact not even yogurt at all – but a blueberry yogurt substitute made from coconut milk. A vegan, kosher alternative to your dairy product breakfast. Now this was intriguing. Obviously the world is full of human beings, many of them wonderful human beings, who elect not to eat dairy products for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, the hankering for dairy products persists – an itch that one perpetually hopes to have satisfactorily scratched by innovative new products such as this one. Not an issue I personally have, but one that intrigues me none the less.
The first question, of course, is does this stuff taste like coconut?
No it does not, not at all. No more than your pot of Dannon tastes like milk. The coconut milk base here is effective obscured and overridden by the “yogurting” process, a process that is scientifically not actually referred to as “yogurting”, but which in this case seems to involve a great deal of flavorless seaweed extracts (our old friends agar and carrageenan among them), and some industrious bacteria.
A second question arrives hot on the heels of the first – how much like regular yogurt is this cultured coconut milk? Not more than a close miss, actually. Coconut milk “yogurt” falls squarely into the imperfect facsimile camp, alongside such not-quite-there simulacra as Tofurkey, Silk, and Fakon. Simply put, you won’t mistake this cultured plant fluid for Yoplait.
That said, Trader Joe’s does score points in two important arena. One, it doesn’t violently merge two words into a terrible vegetarian pun (“cocogurt”, perhaps), and two, cultured coconut milk tastes pretty good in its own right. Taken as a dairy yogurt supplement coconut milk yogurt doesn’t quite hit the mark, but taken as a new sort of breakfast item it’s not bad at all.
Trader Joe’s Cultured Coconut Milk differs from dairy yogurt in two chief ways – it’s much looser, fluidic almost to the point that threatens to spill from your spoon. However, it’s also strangely creamier than other yogurts, with an underlying velvety smoothness that coats your tongue in pleasant way.
The strength of this yogurt substitute depends almost totally on your enjoyment of this novel texture. Taste-wise the coconut milk culture tastes fine – the blueberry tastes like yogurt blueberry and the vanilla tastes like yogurt vanilla. Not much news there. Being able to enjoy the coconut milk culture is simply a matter of being okay with a loose, velvety yogurt over a firmer, less smooth one.
I’d be a convert, honestly, if it wasn’t for one thing. Quickly scroll down and check out the protein content – a single gram. Not much protein in those coconuts, evidently.
The main reason I turn to yogurt for my sustenance in the mornings instead of, say, a bagel or muffin, is because of the aura of healthiness surrounding the concept of yogurt. There might be just as much sugar in a little pot of Yoplait (27 grams) as there is in a whole donuts but yogurt has protein, dammit! That has to count for something. Trader Joe’s Coconut Milk Culture has 20 grams of sugar in it per serving, a considerable payload in it’s own right. Take the protein out of the equation and all you’re left doing is slurping up a sweet, loose paste of dubious nutritional value.
Would I Recommend it: Tailor made form my vegan-Hasidic friend, less compelling for everyone else.
Would I Buy It Again: As an experiment for a smoothie base, maybe, but probably not.
Final Synopsis: An intriguing yogurt alternative, but no protein and plenty of sugar ultimately make it less than desirable.
Flavored vodkas, you guys. You see them up there on the billboard, looking all delicious, sparkling glasses wreathed in sweet, exotic flowers and boughs heavy with succulent berries. It makes you think, Damn, that looks delicious. So you get some and try and sip and you remember, a deep grimace crawling over your face , Oh yeah, it’s still just vodka.
Fruit infused, unsweetened tea is just the same way. You crack open a bottle, take a sip – and you grimace. Why the hell are they putting fruit in it if it isn’t sweet?, you ask, but the bottle is silent. It has no answers for you, only the tea.
Honestly, it’s beyond me as well. Same goes for fruit-infused, unsweetened water. You don’t see it quite as much as you used to in the 90’s, but it’s still out there, lurking on the highest rack of the grocery store shelves, slowly gathering dust.
These drinks fall squarely into the acquired taste category, no one ever picked up one of these drinks and fell in love with it out of the blue. Not in the America I know. Drinks like this blueberry and pomegranate green tea are the fall backs of people who, for one reason or another, simply can’t enjoy a beverage sweetened to all get out by high-fructose corn-syrup but can’t quite make a clean break of additive flavoring. Maybe it’s their health, or maybe it’s their conscience that’s got them, I don’t know.
So it’s a weird category I have to judge this bottled drink against. It’s not sweet, as advertised, but the fruit flavoring gives it a tongue-tingling taste that makes you wish it were. Blueberry is a fine taste, but I have to take umbrage here with pomegranates. I love pomegranates, they are easily in my top 5 favorite fruits of all time (FFOAT), top 3 even. There is nary a more delectable experience than splitting open a pomegranate and the leisurely plucking of it’s juicy seeds. That said, the horse has been beaten to a brutal death, long, long ago. The question I have to ask is, who was the madman who decided to start flavoring everything with it. Did he ever taste the pomegranate? Did he not realize, it’s tart as hell? Tart as shit even? Flavor something with pomegranate juice and the moment it hits your tongue it curls up and then goes dead for ten minutes. It has the same effect here – lending it’s astringent properties to the already slightly astringent green tea. The net effect? A tea that let’s you know when it’s been drunk. This is no guzzling tea, like the awesome Teajava, but a sipping tea. A tea that tells you what to do and how long to do it for. “Just a little bit,” it says, “Stop now.”
Is this a terrible thing? Not necessarily, it certainly makes the tea last, but between the tartness on the tongue and the way it leads you on without actually being sweet makes me relegate this to a highly selective drink I might enjoy once per summer, if parched on a hot day at the beach.
Would I Recommend It: Yes, but only if you’re already a buyer of unsweetened fruit-infused beverages (grandma’s, etc)
Would I But It Again: Once a year, maybe.
Final Synopsis: Good tea, but I just don’t get it.