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Product Review: Realbeanz Iced Coffee made with coconut water

realb 

I was looking for a sweet coffee drink and this seemed to be different than the usual bunch, so I thought I would try it.

Flavor

The flavor is very reminiscent of Starbucks Frappuccino beverage, with a strong milk flavor over a light coffee taste. The sweetness is quite subdued, no surprise considering the relatively small amount of sugar.

Although 20% of this drink is coconut water, there is little to no taste of it. To me this is a good thing since I’m not too fond of it’s taste.

To be honest, the Starbucks drink tastes better, but for the lower calories and sugar (see next section) the minor compromise in flavor is worth it.

Nutrition/Ingredients

In one bottle (281 ml), there is 70 calories, 10 from fat. There is also 9 grams of sugars and 5 of sugar alcohol. There’s 2 grams of protein as well.

When compared to a similar Starbucks drink, this one has less than half the calories and sugar, even if you include the sugar alcohol, erythritol.

Stevia is also used as a (nearly) zero-calorie sweetener. Though there have been some controversies regarding this additive, it seems that currently there are no major known health concerns with it. It may even have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory benefits.

The crypticly named ingredients at the end of the ingredient list are all vitamins. For example, niacinamide is Vitamin B3. There is 25% of the following vitamins in this product: Vitamin A, Niacin, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, Panthothenic Acid.  There are divided opinions on how healthy adding vitamins are, but for those who believe they are beneficial, this drink is a good supply of them.

Ingredients: Brewed Coffee (water, coffee solids, coffee extract, reduced fat milk, coconut water concentrate, erythritol, dried cane syrup, sodium phosphate, carrageenan, sodium bicarbonate, natural flavor, ascorbic acid, stevia rebaudiana leaf extract, di-alphatocopheryl acetate, calcium, d-pantothenate, niacinamide, vitamin a palmitate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, cyanocobalamin.

Price/Availability

I got this for only $1.99 at Whole Foods Market.

Ratings:   Flavor: 7.0   Nutrition/Ingredients: 8.5   Price: 9.0   Overall: 8.2

Summary

This product succeeds in its goal: making a product with low calories (70), low sugar, and a reasonably good taste. Add to that a little bit of coconut water and a load of different vitamins and you have a very well-rounded drink.

References

http://realbeanz.com/products

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stevia

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Product Review – Whole Foods Coffee Ice Cream

coffee

Flavor

I’ve eaten most of a carton of this product in several sittings, but each time I just can’t get past the odd texture. If you’ve read my other ice cream reviews, you’ll know I am a big fan of creamy texture (heck, who isn’t?). Unfortunately, eating this ice cream right out of the freezer, or even 5-10 minute later, gives an unappetizing rough, icy texture. I even tried to break up the cream into tiny pieces with my spoon to facilitate the melting process, but that was only partially effective. After around ~20 minutes of waiting for it to melt, I finally got one spoonful of something I’d consider partially creamy.

If this was my first taste of a coffee ice cream I might be OK with this, but I’ve had at least two others that are much, much tastier and creamier (Talenti’s Coffee Chocolate Chip and Three Sister’s Milk Coffee). The taste itself in Whole Foods coffee ice cream is only so-so, with a strong element of coffee and milk, and a weak sweetness.

I think the problems with texture, as well as taste, stem from not enough sugar being used. Though I appreciate the effort to try and reduce sugar for health reasons, this reminds me of some experimental batches of ice cream I’ve made in my time.

Nutrition/Ingredients

This ice cream has only 180 calories in a single serving (1/2 cup, 90 grams). That’s near the low end of ice creams of this type.

Sugars are only 13 grams. This is very low compared to Three Twins milk coffee, which has 17 grams. Its also lower than most other ice creams out there, by a large margin.

With only six ingredients, and no artificial flavorings or colorings, it does get much more natural and simple than this. Two differences between the Three Twin’s product and this are the order of the coffee and egg yolks (they are reversed), and the lack of vanilla extract in Whole Food’s product.Full Ingredient List: Pasteurized milk, pasteurized cream, cane sugar, egg yolks, and carob bean gum.

Price/Availability

I got this for around $4.99 at Whole Foods Market.

Ratings:   Flavor: 5.0  Nutrition/Ingredients:  8.0  Price: 7.0   Overall:  6.67

Summary

Any points this product gets for healthiness and natural ingredients are cancelled out by a completely non-creamy texture and mediocre taste.

References

http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/products/whole-foods-market-coffee-ice-cream

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Store

benj

During my family’s recent trip to Tennessee, I had an opportunity to pass through Chattanooga and spotted a Ben & Jerry’s store there. I had never seen a stand alone Ben & Jerry’s store like this before, and as the Sweets Reporter I felt compelled to step in and try some tasty sweets.

The menu had a large selection of ice cream flavors (over 25), a few yogurt flavors, sorbet, sundays, shakes, and even smoothies. I quickly decided on having “Coffee, Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz!” flavor, which I had been wanting to try ever since spotting it on their website a few weeks back. My wife and kid shared a “Berry Nice” smoothy.

The coffee ice cream was somewhat of a disappointment. From the title I was expecting more coffee, or at least more caffeine, but found neither. This flavor is supposed to be “coffee ice cream with espresso bean fudge chunks”, but the coffee flavor wasn’t particularly prominent (coffee was 7th ingredient on the label) and the chunks, of which there were far too many, tasted like everyday  chocolate chips. It didn’t exactly taste bad but didn’t live up to my expectations either, especially considering it has such a great title. I would recommend Talenti’s Coffee Chocolate Chip (which I reviewed here) for an overall better flavor and better balance of chocolate chips.

The Berry Nice smoothy, another product with a well thought out name, was very tasty with blueberries, pomegranate, strawberries and banana mixed with sorbet. The biggest drawback was the many seeds which were cumbersome to chew, though they indicated there was a good proportion of real fruit. Having said that, I’d like to see the actual ingredient list to see if there was more sorbet than fruits.

I regret not writing down the prices (nor taking pictures since I didn’t have my camera at the time – need to buy a smaller camera), but from what I remember the ice cream was around $3.50 for a small size and the smoothy was a bit over $5 for the smaller size. Of the two I consider the smoothy, which is made from fresh fruits, a much better deal, especially since you can get the same ice cream for much cheaper by buying pints at a grocery store. The only exception is when the flavor you want to try isn’t sold near you (which happened in my case with the coffee ice cream). Still, its a great place to grab some sweet goodness with a group of friends, and the large menu assures everyone will be satisfied.

The service was very friendly and considerate as well, tolerating several children running around the place without a complaint or even a negative expression. Also when they were out of cups for the small smoothy they gave us a large sized cup and filled it up to the top, without any extra charge.

Their website has a store locator,  and it appears that there a bunch of these stores all over the country, so be sure to check if there is one in your area. If you search for “Miami” using it you’ll actually see a few Royal Caribbean cruise ships show up. If I ever sail on one of those I’ll like try one of those fruit smoothies again.
Address and contact information for this store
201 Broad Street
Chattanooga, TN 37402
Phone: 423-265-8606

References

http://scoopshops.benjerry.com/scoopshops/chattanooga/menu.aspx

http://www.benjerry.com/scoop-shops/menu

Talenti Chocolate Coffee Chocolate Chip – company response on caffeine content and natural flavors query

tal1

I had previously reviewed Talenti’s Chocolate Coffee Chocolate Chip ice cream, which maintains first place for my most loved ice cream. In that post I discussed sending an email to the company requesting more information about this product, and since I received a response from them I decided to write it up as a new post.  The original blog post is here for those interested.

I had requested two things from them: caffeine amount and detailed explanation of “natural flavors”. The former was because I had felt quite a ‘kick’ from eating this and wanted to determine whether that was from sugar, caffeine, or something else. I asked the latter from my uneasiness as to what I am actually eating. It’s apparently ‘natural’ but what is it really? Consumers who want to research more about the possible side effects and nutrition of this catch-all ingredient are at a loss.

First I’ll give an excerpt of the polite email I received from Talenti, followed by my comments on it.

===

Thank you for the inquiry.  We do understand your concerns regarding “natural flavors’ in our ingredients.

Unfortunately, the natural flavor(s) in our ingredients are considered a trade secret and is proprietary information. I can tell you the consist of juice, juice concentrates, essences, essential oils, and extractives.
 
Also, the amount of caffeine in our product is less that 2 one hundredths of one percent.  Our Coffee Chocolate Chip gelato has 5 – 8% per serving.
 
I hope this helps and apologize for not being at liberty to share more information with you.
 
Please feel free to contact us if you have any further questions or concerns. We wish you all the best,
 
===
According to the response, caffeine is only 5-8% per serving, which means only 5 to 8 milligrams per 102 gram serving. I typically eat half a pint (two servings) which translates to at most 16 mg of caffeine, far from enough to feel anything for anyone with a moderate caffeine tolerance. This leaves the cause of the buzz I was feeling to come from sugar or something else in the product.
Because of competitive reasons Talenti gave me practically no information on what is contained within “Natural Flavors”, only that it consists of “juice, juice concentrates” (which I am generally OK with), as well as “essences, essential oils, and extractives”. This latter group is still quite vague and could be practically anything. The only consolation we have is that since this ingredient is listed 10th on the label, we know there is no more than 10% of it present in the product (see here for a post on where I got this number from).
I don’t think it will do much good to push Talenti for more information at this stage, but I haven’t given up on exposing what is really in our foods.
Part of me wonders how much more can be discovered by doing a lab analysis of the product, but surely there is a high cost there so I’ll put that off until another time.
I really enjoy learning more about sweet treats directly from the producer, and hope to continue to provide this type of information in this blog.

Talenti Coffee Chocolate Chip Gelato- Product Review

tal

Introduction

For Sweets Reporter’s 20th post, I didn’t want to review just any product. It had to be something extra special and extra delicious.

I decided on using Talenti’s Coffee Chocolate Chip Gelato – my current favorite ice cream, hands down. You may have noticed I just mixed terms – is this a gelato or an ice cream?

Gelato is supposed to have several major differences compared to ice cream: Less fat, higher serving temperature, more sugar, and slower churning. But this ‘gelato’ has nearly the same amount of fat, if not more, than many ice cream products. I eat it at the same temperature, and the amount of sugar is comparable to ice cream. I can’t speak on how fast it was churned, but without a clear distinction between what makes a ‘gelato’ and an ‘ice cream’, I’ll continue to group these together. After all, ‘gelato’ simply means ice cream in Italian.

Anyway, lets get to the meat of this review. I’m looking forward to writing this and I hope you are looking forward to reading it.

Flavor

This is a product that I’ve eaten so many times and just learned to enjoy in sort of a zen state. Rather than thinking about the flavor too much,  I simply savor the experience as time seems to slow down. So its a little difficult to give an objective description for someone who is new to this gelato, but I’ll do my best.

From far away, things don’t look too different than run-of-the-mill chocolate ice cream. But as you dig in a spoon the texture is somehow thicker and more dense.

As I mentioned in previous posts, ice creams generally taste better when partially melted into a half-liquid state, so the creaminess can be felt along the length of the tongue. This product is no different. In fact I’d say the effect is even more pronounced, and this is in line with the recommendation that gelatos are served at a higher temperature than ice cream.

Several sensations come as your tongue makes contact with this delightful desert. There is a very strong sweetness, backed by evenly balanced flavors of chocolate and coffee. There is also a rich, savory flavor that is difficult to describe in words, but many associate with butter, meat, or cheese. On a historical note, a Japanese chemist was the first to discover this taste which he called “umami” (tastiness) and attributed to it glutamate. He was also the inventor of the (in)famous food additive MSG.

Fortunately, the savory taste in this product comes from a much more natural and healthy source, eggs. I don’t know of another gelato/ice cream with the same taste, and I think this is one of the reasons I’ve fallen for this product.

Awhile back actually tried to replicate this ice cream myself, and after a few batches with successively more eggs I realized those were what was giving such a great flavor. I never did quite get the right taste (or texture, for that matter), but I plan to try again someday.

Embedded throughout the ice cream base is a storm of chocolate pieces, little treasures hiding here and there. The company has referred to them as “a ribbon of chocolate”, but its really just tiny chocolate chips, and I enjoy their sweet, chocolate flavor much more than “chocolate flakes” I’ve had in another product.

That reminds me of a funny story. This gelato used to be called simply “Cappuccino” and lacked  chocolate chips, but sometime last year they changed the name to “Coffee Chocolate Chip” and added in the chips. At that time I was outraged. I even wrote an email to Talenti demanding my Cappuccino back, and went as far as saying that the chocolate chips destroyed the smooth, creamy texture and overpowered the coffee flavor.

Now it’s over a year later and I have gotten used to these things. Having said that, I wish I could taste that classic flavor one more time. Maybe I would still like it better.

Ingredients / Nutrition

Per a single 1/2 cup (102 gram) serving, there is 240 calories. I would say this is near the average for ice creams I have eaten.

As you would expect from the taste, this product has a good helping of sugar – 24 grams per serving. While this is higher than I am normally comfortable with, because of the great taste I make an exception. There are ice creams with much high sugar content, such as Argentine Caramel, made by the same company, with 33 grams per serving.

For an ice cream with such a complex flavor the ingredient count isn’t too high (13). Eggs, which give the characteristic savory taste and also enhance the thick creamy texture, are in very high proportion (they are the 3rd ingredient). I don’t know of any other ice cream or gelato for which this can be said of.

Because of the high egg content, there is a moderate amount of protein (6 grams per serving). But more than that, the cholesterol value is off the charts, providing over half (57%) of your daily amount in a single serving. Until recently this would have been regarded as extremely unhealthy, but some recent research shows that the cholesterol in eggs can actually be good for you. See link in references section below for more information.

Besides the massive amount of eggs, the ingredients are pretty typical. My pet-peeve “natural flavor” is present, and I have sent out an email to Talenti to get further detail on what is really in there.

Here is the full ingredient list:

Milk, sugar, eggs, cream, chocolate, dextrose, oil (coconut soybean), coffee, carob gum, natural flavor, soy lechitin, vanilla.

One warning for those who aren’t frequent coffee drinkers. I don’t have any specific figures on caffeine present but based on my experience I can say there is a hefty amount in this product, coming from both coffee and chocolate. Add a sugar high to the caffeine buzz and you’ll be bouncing around for quite a while.

Price and Availability

This sells for around $5 in Publix and other grocery stores, though I have seen it for nearly $8 online. It is a bit pricey but at Publix it occasionally goes on sale for one dollar off, and rarely for half price. Whole foods also carries Talenti gelatos, but I have never seen this flavor there for some reason.

Ratings

Flavor: 9.5

Ingredients/Nutrition: 7.5

Price:7.5

Overall: 8.16

 

Summary

A heavenly mix of sweet chocolate and coffee, enhanced by the lush, savory taste of eggs. Except for a few minor issues such as “natural flavor” and high sugar content, its practically the perfect ice cream (or gelato). As my current favorite, I recommend it to anyone who enjoys sweets, chocolate, or coffee.

References

https://talentigelato.com/our-products/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gelato

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/28/ice-cream-vs-gelato_n_3333016.html

http://sweets.seriouseats.com/2012/07/whats-the-difference-between-gelato-and-ice-cream.html

http://www.livescience.com/39353-eggs-dont-deserve-bad-reputation.html

Three Twins Organic Ice Cream, Milk Coffee (Free Trade!)

3twins

Intro

I tried this for the first time several months ago while on a coffee ice cream kick. It’s my favorite of the healthy coffee ice creams, so I thought I would review it. I’ll report on my favorite less-healthy coffee ice cream later.

Flavor

The flavor is much what you would expect from the product name – sweetened milk and coffee. There isn’t any unexpected flavors or toppings mixed in. Compared to other coffee ice creams I’ve had, everything is a little toned down, and the dominant flavor and texture is that of milk, rather than coffee. It brings back memories of when I used to drink iced milk as a boy and the milk would crystallize around the cubes.

This cream tastes significantly better when eaten in a half-melted state, bringing out extra flavor and texture. Carving out chunks of frozen cream with a spoon and popping in your mouth to chew just doesn’t give quite the same satisfaction as running your tongue across cold coffee-infused milk.

Nutrition / Ingredients

Both the sugar and calorie count is a less than similar ice creams in the same class, with 200 calories and 17 grams sugar in a 85 gram serving. There’s 4 servings per container.

All seven ingredients are organic, with three of them Fair Trade. In fact, according to a March 2013 press release by the company, this is the first Fair Trade organic ice cream, and I haven’t found any evidence to the contrary. For those unfamiliar with Free Trade, I’ll briefly quote Wikipedia’s entry on this (see references section at bottom for link):

“Fair trade is an organized social movement that aims to help producers in developing countries to make better trading conditions and promote sustainability.”

As always, the ingredients speak for themselves, listed here in the order of highest concentration first: whole milk, cream, evaporated cane juice, nonfat milk, egg yolks, coffee, and vanilla extract. As you can see, three of the top four ingredients are diary related, which explains the dominant milk taste.

Price and Availability

This product is available at Whole Foods Market for $4.69, an excellent price considering the delicious taste and natural ingredients. Its also available at The Fresh Market and a few other places in South Florida.

Ratings

Flavor:7.0

Nutrition/Ingredients:8.0

Price:8.5

Total: 7.8

Summary

Nothing revolutionary here, simply a handful of natural ingredients put together with a great milk coffee taste and mild sweetness. Definitely recommended for coffee-flavored ice cream lovers.

References

I was not able to find the nutritional and ingredient information listed online, but have sent an email to the company requesting this. Will update back when I get more information.

http://www.threetwinsicecream.com/blog/2013/03/three-twins-ice-cream-launches-first-horsemeat-free-ice-cream-at-expo-west-2013-at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_trade

Starbucks Java Chip Frappuccino Blended Beverage – a true love/hate relationship

javachip

Intro

There is almost no sweets from my college days that I still enjoy now in my 30s. Our subject this time, a sugary chilled drink, is one of the few that has passed the test of time and taste. It’s also very high on my list of guilty, unhealthy pleasures to quit. In that way I have a true love/hate relationship with this drink.

For those easily-addicted types with a sweet tooth, I highly recommend stopping here and moving on to my next report. It will save you innumerable calories and pounds.

Flavor

Chocolate chips, coffee, and milk, blended smoothly with ice, topped off with a very generous spray of whip cream, further layered with a criss cross of chocolate syrup. This is a good objective summary of the basic ingredients and flavor of this decadent dessert-lovers dessert.

Being a long time Java Chip junkie, I perceive things more as  succession of sensations and stimuli. First, the welcome chill as near-freezing liquid passes through a wide straw, into my mouth, through my esophagus into into my stomach. In passing, the sugar gives my taste buds a jolt and I start to feel the high coming on. Not long after the caffeine kicks in, sending me to a state of near-enlightenment – a true altered state of consciousness (*). Occasionally I use my straw as a spoon, scooping up swaths of fluffy whipped cream for a mild dairy intermission, or snipe up gobs of rich dark syrup for a burst of extra sweetness.

Alas, things aren’t always this blissful. A combination of badly trained employees and differing recipes makes this drink more like a roulette wheel of chance. The amount of caffeine, chocolate, ice, and mostly importantly how well blended the beverage is, varies considerably even within a single store. Around 20% of time it’s a perfect ten, and in rare cases the drink will get totally botched.

This reminds me of the time I glanced at the cafe counter and caught sight of a snowy white drink which had just been placed there. A moment later the barista said my Java Chip was ready. My eyes blinked in disbelief. When I asked the barista if he put coffee the drink, his returned answer put me in a state of shock.

“There is no coffee in Java Chip Frappuccino”.

Nutrition

A “grande” (medium) size is 16 ounces and, with whipped cream added, has the following key nutrition facts: 460 calories, 66 grams of sugar, and 110 mg of caffeine. The calorie count is comparable to two servings of ice cream, if not less, but the sugar concentration is a bit extreme. The caffeine is roughly equivalent to two shots of espresso.

Sometimes the problem nutritionally with foods is not with what they do contain, but rather than what they lack. It’s true that chocolate, coffee, and milk all have benefits according to nutritionists, but there isn’t much here to supply the body with needed vitamins and minerals. My gut confirms this when I down these 16 sugary ounces on an empty stomach. Hunger is suppressed for a short time but then renews with even greater vigor, leaving me starving with a stomach full of junk my body doesn’t need.

Sugar and caffeine are both strong stimulants in the right dose, and while this drink is good for a quick pick-me-up, I can’t help but feel that frequent usage has the chance for adverse long-term effects. Another problem with this drink is that the full ingredient list isn’t published, which means there is bound to be all sorts of scary things like artificial flavor in the syrup used.

Which is why I do plan to kick the Java Chip habit. Eventually.

Price and Availability

The “grande” size goes for $4.25, which isn’t too bad for a dessert of this type. Those of you watching calories can go for the “tall” 12 ounce size, but with a price of only 50 cents less its a hard sell. There is also a “light” version for the same price with roughly half the number of calories, but I haven’t tried it.

These are available at Starbucks Cafe, or at Barnes & Noble Bookstores Cafe. I tend to use the latter, which may be why I have had such an inconsistent experience.

Ratings

Flavor: 8.0 (varies between 4.0 – 10.0 depending on the person making it)

Nutrition/Ingredients: 4.0

Price: 7.0

Overall: 6.3

Summary

A serious drink loaded with enough sugar and caffeine to keep you up for hours. Not recommended for anyone too concerned about nutrition.

References

http://www.starbucks.com/menu/drinks/frappuccino-blended-beverages/java-chip-frappuccino-blended-coffee#size=11002666&milk=67&whip=125

(*) This sort of sensation is a good (though slightly exaggerated) account of what I felt when drinking this product until recently. Since I started drinking coffee on a daily basis several weeks ago, my caffeine tolerance has increased so my body responds less readily to the stimulation.