You can’t pigeonhole juicers – the people, not the appliances, I mean. That’s what Starbucks has figured out with their new line of cold-pressed juices by California juice company Evolution Fresh.
Yes there are the hardcore green juicers: those who feel good about themselves for drinking something that tastes awful. And there are the beginner detox-ers: the ones just starting with sweet fruit juices who may or may not eventually fall down the rabbit hole to green mornings).
But then there are the feel-good sippers: the ones who drink juice as an accompaniment to a meal, not a grab-and-go meal in and of itself). And last but not least, there are the traditionalists: anyone who orders a freshly squeezed OJ with their eggs benny at brunch.
But all these people have something in common:
They want the best quality juice at the lowest price. For many, that means cold-pressed juices – the juice trend of the moment – which promise more nutrients and often better flavour from using only fresh juices (nothing from concentrate) and never heat-processing the juice. Often the juice is organic, but that’s not guaranteed, especially when price is a factor.
But let’s get back to the question of why cold-pressed? Well why would you want to cook off some of juice’s deliciousness? Some do it for shelf life and others for convenience. Non-cold-pressed options are the default: everything from Tropicana to Welch’s. Tropicana is heat processed and Welch’s is made from grape juice concentrate, which means the juice has been cooked down to evaporate the water. It’s essentially the evaporated milk of juice. Who drinks evaporated milk straight? For the same reason lots of people drink Welch’s. Imagine if you had grown up on evaporated milk – you wouldn’t know what you were missing, so why would you ever pay more for fresh?
To solve this juice conundrum, in walks the $10 organic, cold-pressed juice market. Have you been to Manhattan lately? It’s swimming in juice (there’s a delicious image for you). And it’s not just yogis, raw-tarians and vegans drinking the green stuff. It’s high-powered execs, moms and dads on-the-go and anyone with poor digestion, all powering their mornings with easy-to-digest concoctions of spirulina and kale and replacing their lunches with a shot of nutrients without the chewing.
Then there’s the rest of us healthy eaters who love the convenience – cold-pressed juices on-the-go – but who aren’t willing to drop the cash on a regular basis.
If you’re a cold-pressed juice-drinker, what’s the most you ever spent on a juice? $10? $15 with tax and tip?
I love Crudessence, but whoa…even with the Vegetarian Association of Montreal 10% discount, it’s a pricey sipper.
Then there are local companies Dose and Jus Pur, which I love, and my all-time favourite: the 100% blueberryy from Anti+. The secret is pressing the juice with just a little of the skins to make it a little thicker – a little more unctuous – and then drinking it a “dose” at a time.
Then there are the non-organic big-name juice companies. Ever stop at Jus Jugo Juice? Or buy a bottle of Odwalla when you’re trying to get something healthy at the airport? These aren’t bad options. They’re just not cold-pressed and they’re not cheap.
But then there are some packaged products that just taste watery, and some freshly squeezed options at specialty juice shops that just aren’t consistent. How can they be when every piece of pineapple is a little more or less sweet, and the size of a piece of kale can make or break a made-to-order juice by adding too much bitterness to the mix. Those juice salespeople aren’t sampling every plastic cup for quality control.
All this to say…
…There’s a new option in town. At Starbucks. The mega-company is now officially on the cold-pressed bandwagon.
Full disclosure, I was asked to attend a tasting for Evolution Fresh.* What it has going for it is that it’s consistent. Every bottle will be just as delicious. 82% of the fruit comes within 400 miles of the $70 million, 264,000-square-foot juicery based in California. The coconut water, mangoes and pineapples are foreigners. The fruit’s not organic, but those oranges, cherries and black raspberries are plenty sweet and pressed in-season when the flavour is best – that means they’ll be fresher than the mangoes you buy that ripen on the road to Canada, then in the warehouse, then on your counter.
There are four flavours available in Canada.
Sweet Greens ($5.95) – celery, apple, cucumber, spinach, romaine, kale, lime, lemon and parsley
Super Green ($5.95) – a combo of orange, mango, apple, pineapple, cucumber, spinach, romaine, kale, spirulina, chlorella and dulse (seaweed)
Orange ($4.95) – 100% cold-pressed orange juice
Sweet Berry ($5.95) – apple, mango, strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, coconut water, black raspberry and cherry
Sweet Greens is actually a misnomer. It’s on the bitter side and is aimed at hardcore juice-lovers. There are 18 grams of natural sugar in this bottle, which is about as low as you’ll ever see in a commercial juice. After that, it becomes way too sour and doesn’t sell widely. Would I drink this juice? Yes. Every day. I thought I wouldn’t, but I found it was my go-to every morning after my first taste. I wanted something that wouldn’t spike my blood sugar to start the day. So I took a sip of this and then a sip of Super Green (below), because life’s too short to always be virtuous. I drank it over the course of four days because there’s no need to down the whole thing when you’re not actually on-the-go. I’d definitely drink it on a morning when I need to go easy on my stomach – like the morning after Christmas or Thanksgiving, or a night out at Joe Beef followed by Au Pied de Cochon followed by La Banquise…Those happen, I hear. Be warned: It’s bitter from the romaine and heavy on the kale, but you’ll feel really, really, really good about yourself for drinking it.
Super Green is the sweet green option. Despite that detoxifying chlorella, spirulina and dulse, one bottle contains a whopping 50 grams of sugar per bottle, as much as the orange and sweet berry flavours. There’s no junk in there, though. In fact, I think it’s the most pleasant green juice around, even though it’s officially a smoothie (its main ingredient is orange juice but it includes apple purée). Don’t worry, though; you won’t notice the fibre, which is good for most of us anyway. Plus, that apple and mango gives it a well-balanced tropical fruit flavour that knocks the taste of kale off its high horse. Would I drink this? Yes. See above.
100% Orange is very nice. What can you say about unadulterated orange juice? It’s more sweet than acidic, giving it a leg up over Tropicana. And there’s just a little bit of pulp in there, seemingly just to remind you that it’s all natural. Would I drink this? Yes. It’s not a meal replacer since it’s straight juice (unless you’re a monofruitarian), and there’s too much sugar to think drinking a whole bottle is a healthy meal (all that sugar will go straight into your blood stream without any fibre to slow it down), but at $4.95 a bottle, it’s a thumbs-up.
Sweet berry is what you drink for dessert. Just try to drink this without smiling. I dare you. It’s another smoothie, officially, not a juice (mango and other fruit purées), but it’s blended so finely that at this point it’s semantics. 50 grams of sugar in a bottle means you want to split it up over a couple meals, but the naturally sweet coconut water (not a local ingredient, clearly) makes this insanely sweet without upping the glycemic index any more.So dark and rich and high in anti-oxidants (that’s not the delicious part) and naturally sweet. You need good quality cherries to make an unsweetened juice, and sure, I know those mangoes and apples are helping, but holy crap this is good. Would I drink this? Yes. Don’t you love cherries? Boy, I love cherries.
Are they worth it?
Yes. For the convenience. For the consistency. For the taste. For the price. And the fact that they’re at Starbucks means they’ll be everywhere. If they were any less expensive I’d be asking which corners were cut. As it stands, I feel that they’re providing the highest quality product they can at a competitive price. I haven’t seen the enormous farm in California myself, and I’m sure it’s not exactly a permaculture forest of sustainability in a drought-ridden state, but, well, oranges don’t grow in Quebec.
And until they do, when I need a healthy, delicious, affordable juice, there’s Evolution Fresh.
*I didn’t get any money for writing this. All I got was some impressive juice. Who’s the sucker? Not my belly.