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Product Review: Talenti Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip

 rasp

This is my fifth review of a Talenti ice cream, with two of my favorites reviewed here and here. This brand’s chic packaging is what initially caught my eye, but with my first bite I was hooked with each of the sweet, creamy, and natural flavors.

Flavor

This ice cream has all you could ever want – a strong, natural raspberry flavor backed by a creamy, sweet milk texture, and tiny chocolate chips to complete the picture.

I’ve mentioned this with many other ice creams as well, but this one especially tastes *really* good when eaten in a half-melted state, like when you scoop your spoon around the perimeter of the container, picking up only the most melted stuff. Focusing on eating the half-melted parts not only maximizes your enjoyment per bite, it also lengthens the time to eat a given amount of volume.

Nutrition/Ingredients

A single serving (1/2 cup, 104 grams) contains 230 calories and 24 grams of sugars. These are both somewhat higher than the average ice cream, but typical within Talenti’s lineup of milk-based ice creams.

This dessert has very natural and healthy ingredients, and is also gluten free, hfcs free, hormone free, vegetatian, and kosher. There are also no artificial flavors or colorings, or even “natural” flavors, the latter of which are present in a few other Talenti poducts.

Because of the calorie and sugar content I wouldn’t consider this a diet product, but the ingredient quality is top class. Some might point out that “sugar” (typical white refined sugar) is used instead of agave or some other popular sweetner, but based on my research there is not sufficient evidence to prove any of these sugars is significantly more healthier than any other.

Full ingredient list: milk, cream, sugar, black raspberries, chocolate, oil (coconut, soybean), dextrose, vanilla, carob gum, and soy lecithin.

Price/Availability

I bought this for around $2.99 at a Publix grocery store, half of its normal price due a weekly sale. For some reason I never see this flavor at my local Whole Foods Market, though it may be at others.

Ratings:   Flavor: 8.5   Nutrition/Ingredients: 9.0   Price:  8.0  Overall: 8.5

Summary

Natural ingredients, great taste, and a reasonable price (even when its not on sale) make this a must try for any ice cream lover.

References

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

Product Review – Whole Foods Coffee Ice Cream

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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

Talenti Gelato Simply Strawberry

p2 

I am not the biggest fan of strawberry-flavored products but when my wife saw this for the first time in the frozen section, we had to try it out. I have always felt alliteration is an important technique used in product naming, and this is another of Talenti’s products where it is employed, along with others like “Lisbon Lemon” and “Coffee Chocolate Chip”.

Flavor

The flavor of this ice cream is in keeping with its name: all you taste is strawberry mixed with milk. Within creamy texture there is occasionally a gritty sensation as you chew on fibrous parts of a whole strawberry, though they are quite subtle so you might miss them.

As this ice cream doesn’t have any mix-ins such as chocolate chips or nuts, it feels a little incomplete to me. And while I do enjoy eating fresh strawberries, much of the enjoyment comes from their juicy, almost meaty texture which doesn’t really translate here.

Nutrition/Ingredients

One serving is 1/2 cup (104 grams) which contains 170 calories, 60 of which are from fat. There is 24 grams of sugars, a bit higher than many other company’s products, but on the low end of the Talenti line (23 – 36 grams). The calorie count is also near the low end for other milk-based Talenti products, although the water-based ones (for example Roman Raspberry) can be as low as 110.

Except for the “natural flavor”, which fortunately is listed last, I don’t have any issues with this ice cream’s ingredients. There is only eight and the rest of them are well known substances. For those of you who don’t commonly read ingredient,s you may not be familiar with carob gum. It’s used as a thickening agent and also goes by the name “Locus bean gum”.

Though I typically scoff at natural flavors, the taste of this ice cream is so… well “simple” that I feel it really doesn’t need any additional mysterious flavor. I’m not sure what they added but I definitely can’t taste it.

The thing I love about Simply Strawberry is that strawberries are used in a higher proportion than sugar, which gives this product its great natural strawberry taste.  I checked Bryer’s Natural Strawberry as a comparison and this also have the same order for the first four ingredients. Ben and Jerry’s Strawberry, however, had more sugar than strawberries.

In any case, with the high amount of real strawberries, its reasonable to expect some of their nutritional benefits when eating this product.

Full ingredients list: Milk, strawberries, sugar, cream, dextrose, carob gum, vanilla, natural flavor.

Price/Availability

I purchased this at Publix for $5.99 where it had just appeared on the shelves recently. I checked and this flavor has been out for some time in other places.

Ratings:   Flavor: 7.0   Nutrition/Ingredients: 8.0   Price:8.0    Overall: 7.6

Summary

The simplicity of Simply Strawberry is both its best strength and worst weakness. I feel that major fans of strawberry should try this out once, but for the rest of us the lack of a deep or complex flavor limits the enjoyment.

References

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

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

http://www.breyers.com/product/detail/113864/natural-strawberry

http://www.foodfacts.com/NutritionFacts/Strawberry/Ben-Jerrys-Strawberry-Ice-Cream-1-Pint/17314

Ice Cream – weight vs volume

In several of my previous blogs I had adjusted by weight (expressed in grams) when comparing across ice cream products. While the amount of weight per serving is an important value and in comparing using it gives useful information, in reality we eat ice cream by volume, not weight. When you scoop up some ice cream the real limiting factor is volume, in other words size, because ice cream will never be heavy enough for you to care about a spoonfuls worth of weight.

For this reason I’ll try to stick to comparing against volume in future posts. Originally I had started comparing using weight because I noticed this different across ice cream producers and thought it translated to different volumes, so it would be the most fair way to compare. However I was wrong – most ice cream/frozen dessert companies use a standard serving size of 1/2 cup, which yields 4 per pint.

Here is a sample of average weight per 1/2 cup serving for a few ice cream companies:

  • Talenti: 100 grams
  • Haagen Dazs: 100 grams
  • So Delicious Coconut Milk: 85 grams
  • Bryers: 66 grams

So how can the weight be almost double for the same volume? The basic ingredients, coconut/cow milk and sugar, shouldn’t differ too much in weight and the minor ingredients are in a lower proportion and have only a small effect on the total weight. The answer may be a little surprising to those who haven’t researched how ice cream is made:

Air.

Believe it or not air bubbles are actually a necessary component of (tasty) ice cream. If you want to see what I mean, you can try an experiment which I accidentally did the other day. Move a small portion of ice cream into your refrigerator and wait a few hours until it melts into liquid. Then transfer it back to the freezer and wait a few more hours. It will re-freeze but much of the air (and ice crystals) will be gone, so the texture will be ruined. Also you will see the volume is reduced. If you own an ice cream machine you’ll know that its primary purpose is to continually spin the cream so that these air bubbles form.

If you go back and look at the table above again, you might be upset since Bryer’s is essentially filling their ice cream with air. I found a great post which discusses this practice and does some research to discover the cheaper the ice cream the more air is puffed in. You can find it here.

Some might declare we need to stand up to ice cream producers and force them to stop saving money by giving us air-filled ice cream, but I would disagree. At least for a company like Bryer’s that produces great-tasting ice cream, I don’t think there is any reason for them to change. Personally, I have gravitated to more dense ice creams in the last few years, but I have no problem eating some Bryer’s now and then, albeit in small portions.

Besides a cheaper price to the consumer, there are other advantages to adding air – less calories and sugar content. But be careful, since a much larger container size (gallon vs a pint) means you are likely to gobble up more per sitting. You could also argue there is less nutrition, but most people don’t eat ice cream primarily for nutrition.

Regardless on how you judge things, I believe in transparency – consumers knowing what is really in the products they buy. This includes air, which is not listed on the label as an ingredient.

Product Review – Talenti Gelato Peppermint Bark

 mint

If you have been reading my blog you’ll know I’m a big fan of Talenti gelatos, having reviewed their products here and here. One of my favorite flavors is Mediterranean Mint, but I have eaten that so many times and felt like getting something new to review. I selected Peppermint Mark because I thought it would likely taste similar, while giving me the opportunity to try a new product.

I didn’t quite understand the naming until I did a Google search and discovered “peppermint bark” was a traditional candy consisting of peppermint candy (candy cane, etc.) pieces embedded in a ‘bark’ of white and dark chocolatess. I have never eaten it so cannot say whether it is a fitting name. The base ingredients are pretty much the same, but I can’t see how the texture is even close.

Flavor

This gelato has an extremely fresh mint taste, backed up by a nice portion of irregularly-shaped chocolate chips strewn about. The experience of eating this pure white cream is quite different from the light green colored Mediterranean Mint because of the color difference, but the actual test is very similar. As I said in the intro, this pretty much lines up with my expectations. The only difference  I detected was a slight graininess in the texture (maybe that is supposed to represent the ‘bark’), but it could be my imagination. Until I try these two back-to-back I won’t know for sure.

Nutrition/Ingredients

In a 100 gram serving there is 240 calories, slightly above the average of other Talenti gelatos which is roughly 210-220. This is clearly not something you should eat frequently when counting calories. There is 26 grams of sugar,  on the low side of Talenti ice creams (Sea Salt Caramel is a whopping 36 g), but a little excessive for my personal health guidelines. Both of these values are very close to Bryer’s mint chocolate chip ice cream, when adjusted by serving size weight, so there is nothing too unusual here.

This product has a few qualifications that make it available to a wide group of people: vegetarian, gluten free, HFCS free, hormone free, and kosher.

There are only 11 ingredients and all natural ones at that. Above all I am very impressed that there is no ‘natural flavors’, because that was present in their Mediterranean Mint flavor. The other differences between these two is that Peppermint Bark has added vanilla and oil (coconut and soybean), and peppermint extract is used instead of fresh mint. The latter explains the color difference between these two products.

Because of the natural ingredients and fresh taste, this is now my 3rd favorite Talenti gelato, after Coffee Chocolate Chip and Caribbean Coconut.

Full ingredient list: milk, sugar, cream, dutched chocolate, dextrose, oil (coconut, soybean), peppermint extract, vanilla, carob gum, soy lechitin

“Dutched chocolate” refers to chocolate processed with alkali, which gives it a browner color and milder taste. Its a pretty common process though I rarely see it listed as “dutched”, but rather as “processed with alkali”. Strictly speaking this is a “unnatural” process that I would like makers to avoid, but it’s a minor nitpick and not sure if how the replacement of natural chocolate would affect the flavor.

(Meditteranean Mint ingredients:  milk, sugar, cream, chocolate, dextrose, natural flavors, fresh mint, carob gum, soy lechitin)

Price/Availability

I purchased this ice cream at Publix grocery store for around $5.99 and haven’t seen it at any other stores in my area. The packaging is marked as “Limited Edition” so eat it while you can, but it seems to have been around since at least December 2012, making the odds of it suddenly disappearing less likely.

Ratings:   Flavor: 8.0  Nutrition/Ingredients: 8.0  Price: 7.0    Overall: 7.6

Summary

This gelato is a mint-lovers delight with nothing unnatural and would be perfect if not for the excessive sugar and calories hidden within.

References

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

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

Talenti Caribbean Coconut Gelato – product review

coco

Introduction

Talenti is one of my favorite ice cream/gelato companies, with a wide range of tasty products sporting a sleek and modern design, which looks even better after their recent rebranding effort (done in March 2013).

I reviewed their coffee-flavored ice cream in a previous post here, and this time I thought I would talk about another one of their flavors – Caribbean Coconut. I love it’s name which combines catchy alliteration with an island paradise atmosphere.

Flavor

This gelato takes a simple, light ice cream base with a touch of vanilla and mixes in a generous portion of shredded coconut. I’m not exaggerating, there is really a lot of coconut here. When you run your spoon through it you can see the little piece of coconuts, or feel their rough texture if you let the ice cream melt slowly on your tongue.

I always say a good ice cream needs a balance of two or more contrasting things. Talent’s Caribbean Coconut just barely manages that – the creamy light base against the shredded coconut pieces, and the strong milk taste against the subdued coconut. The milk flavor, reminiscent of drinking chilled milk, blends together with the coconut flavor so well that you can’t tell where one begins and the other ends. With such simple flavors I’m not sure how they did it, but the end product is a very satisfying experience for the senses.

The only weak point of this gelato, if you could even call it that, is that its lightness doesn’t make it very filling. After eating half of the pint, you’re hard pressed to not just finish it off.

Nutrition/Ingredients

There is 190 calories in a single 100 gram serving, about average in its class if not slightly on the low side. Sugar is a bit excessive for my liking at 24 grams.

There’s nothing nutritionally special about the product according to the label’s information: 3 grams protein, 0 grams fiber, and minimal vitamins and minerals. But there is surely other important nutrients present that are not captured there.

The strongest selling point of this ice cream (besides the great flavor) is it’s short, simple list of ingredients. There is only seven, with no artificial anything, and (impressively) no “natural flavor”. Add the potential nutritional benefits of coconut – listed 4th so there may be as much as 25% coconut – and you get a big thumbs up from me!

The complete list is milk, sugar, cream, coconut, dextrose, carob gum, and vanilla.

Milk listed as the first ingredient explains the strong milk flavor. There is really a lot of milk in this dessert.

Dextrose is another name for glucose, one of the basic sugars. It’s is less sweet than fructose, and the “sugar” listed second place on the label is simple table sugar, which contains roughly half glucose and half fructose. I’m not sure why Talenti would need to supplement with dextrose, possibly as a money-saving effort. I wonder what the effect would be of simply removing the dextrose and adjusting the table sugar to give the desired sweetness.

Someday I hope to many a similar ice cream myself, where I increase the amount of coconut while dialing down the sugar. If I’m lucky I can raise the nutritional value without sacrificing taste too much.

Price/Availability

This product is available at Publix, Whole Foods, Target, and other supermarkets. The price is around $5.00 – $6.00, with online pricing around $8.00.

Ratings:   Flavor:   8.5   Nutrition/Ingredients:    8.5 Price:    7.0 Overall: 8.0

Summary

This ice cream has a rare combination of natural ingredients and fresh, simple taste that makes it one of my favorites. It’s a must try for anyone who is a fan of coconuts, or looking to upgrade their vanilla to a product with simple, healthy ingredients.

References

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

 

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

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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

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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