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Cooking Tests: HFCS-Free Cream Sodas
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Joined: 10 May 2005
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2007 10:51 pm    Post subject: Cooking Tests: HFCS-Free Cream Sodas Reply with quote

Article Digest:
I love soft drinks. If it's cold, non-alcoholic, and flavored - I want to try it (at least once). (After an unfortunate incident with a salty yogurt drink, I should also add "sweet" to that list.) Tina also shares my curiosity and likes to taste soft drinks (but taste is all she does - I love to drink the stuff - fruit juice, sparkling water, sodas, lemonade, and even Sunny Delight). We both have a special place in our hearts for cream soda, so we decided to do a taste test. In order to limit our selection - we focused on regular (no artificial sweeteners) cream sodas without high-fructose corn syrup.

(This is filed under Cooking Tests even though no cooking was involved... didn't know where else to put it.)

I should explain a little before I go on. In the United States, it's actually cheaper to make high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) than to buy cane or beet sugar. This is largely due to the massive corn lobby in the U.S. which has convinced the government to set import quotas and tariffs on sugar cane to make the environment more favorable to the corn producers. (America produces so much corn that it doesn't really know what to do with it - most recently there's been a big push for the corn to be converted ethanol for use as a fuel.) In any case, the corn goes through a fairly extensive process to form corn syrup, which is then treated with enzymes to convert glucose into fructose. The syrup is then further enriched to a higher concentration of fructose. Most beverages use HFCS that is about 55% fructose and 45% glucose as opposed to pure corn syrup which is close to 100% glucose. (HFCS can be as high as 90% fructose.) Because fructose is sweeter than sucrose (cane sugar) and glucose a bit less sweet than sucrose, this blend works out well for use as a cane sugar replacement - just replace the sugar with HFCS. Because sucrose breaks down during digestion into a glucose and fructose molecule, most people consider the two to be pretty much the same.

This isn't quite true - just because sucrose is composed of glucose and fructose doesn't mean it's the same as a 50-50 mix of glucose and fructose. First off (and most important to me) it tastes different. Whether it tastes better or worse is a matter of preference, but I think sugar tastes better than HFCS. It's currently unclear which is worse for you - HFCS detractors claim that HFCS can lead to and/or promote obesity while other research shows that HFCS has no detrimental effects when comapred to sugar. (The fact that the majority of the pro-HCFS research has been conducted with money from industry sources like the American Beverage Association and the Corn Refiners Association does not invalidate the results, but can lead to some eyebrow raising.)

In any case, for taste reasons (as well as reducing the number of sodas we had to buy), we limited our taste testing to only those products using cane sugar. We stocked up our fridge (these sodas don't usually come in singles - so we had four and six packs of them) with nine different varieties of cream sodas. Here's how we felt about them after multiple tastings.

We tried (from left to right): Natural Brew Hand Crafted Vanilla Creme Soda, AJ Stephans Pure Cane Sugar Boston Cream Soda, Virgil's Micro Brewed Cream Soda, Fitz's Premium Micro-Brewed Creme Soda, Dad's Classic Cream Soda, Journey Softbrew Java Island Vinalla Creme Soda Twisted Bean Vanilla Brew, Boylan Bottleworks Brand Creme, Boylan's Creme Soda (The Natural Kind), and R.W. Knudsen Vanilla Creme Spritzer.


Our favorites
Virgil's Micro Brewed Cream Soda - Gentle vanilla flavor and smooth finish made this our favorite cream soda

AJ Stephans Pure Cane Sugar Boston Cream Soda - Rich solid vanilla flavor

Dad's Classic Cream Soda - Good, strong vanilla flavor but extra sweetness reduced the complex vanilla flavors

Fitz's Premium Micro-Brewed Creme Soda - Fruity taste, mild vanilla flavor

Second choice
R.W. Knudsen Vanilla Creme Spritzer - Sweetened with fruit juice, this cream soda had a sweetness that hinted of grapes

Boylan Bottleworks Brand Creme - Crisp start with a slightly odd after taste; overall bland flavor

Boylan's Creme Soda (The Natural Kind) - Clean cream soda flavor, but a little bland and unexceptional

Natural Brew Hand Crafted Vanilla Creme Soda - Weird citrus flavor at end followed by a super-sweet lingering aftertaste

We really didn't like this one
Journey Softbrew Java Island Vanilla Creme Soda Twisted Bean Vanilla Brew - the winner of longest named cream soda had some overwhelming weird flavors of maple syrup and spice (as in spice cookies) which ended up tasting like medicine

by Michael Chu
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2007 11:24 pm    Post subject: Green Cream Soda Reply with quote

In South Africa the Cream Soda was always dyed green for some unknown reason.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2007 6:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You should come to India. There are some wonderful savoury yogurt drinks here. Salt lassi, spiced buttermilk and many more. It'll change your opinion..
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2007 6:29 am    Post subject: n Reply with quote

I really enjoyed Virgil's when I had it. Tasted very natural. Even the Black Cherry Cream Soda was suprisingly great. Granted, I can see how it could be a little too sweet for some...but then again, I really like Jones Bubble Gun my opinion isn't the same as much of the population.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 1:43 am    Post subject: Oh the glories of Passover Reply with quote

For those that don't already know, near Passover some grocery stores begin selling kosher coke. The sucrose based kosher version is great and when it's gone I resume my coke-less diet.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 2:17 pm    Post subject: Sucrose Coke available all year Reply with quote

Many Mexican-oriented grocery stores offer Coca Cola imported from Mexico where they have not switched to HFCS (They still use cane sugar). It comes in the thicker return-for-deposit glass bottles. It is still the "original" coke and beats the HFCS-version hands-down (IMHO)
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 3:03 pm    Post subject: sucrose isn't necessarily cane sugar... Reply with quote

Because fructose is sweeter than sucrose (cane sugar)...

55% of the sucrose sold in this country actually comes from sugar beets. While sucrose from sugar beets and sucrose from cane are 99.95% similar, apparently that .05% is significant, as reported in this article from the San Francisco Chronicle:

The article claims that sources sometimes produce cane and sometimes produce beet sugar (based on, surprise, economics). I wonder if the soft drink producers always use one or the other or if it depends on their suppliers -- or if it makes a difference in that application.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 8:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yea, I haven't come across any studies that conclude HFCS is any worse (or better) for you than cane sugar. As for the taste? I could never tell the difference!

The sodas you reviewed sound yummy though! I love cream soda - it's underrated in the U.S.!
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 7:29 pm    Post subject: What is cream soda? Reply with quote

Why are cream/creme sodas thusly called?
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Michael Chu

Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1654
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 9:25 pm    Post subject: Re: What is cream soda? Reply with quote

Sarah wrote:
Why are cream/creme sodas thusly called?

The name probably comes from the vanilla flavor. Ice cream and whipped cream are commonly flavored with vanilla, and I believe that's what people were reminded of when they tasted the vanilla flavored soda.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 7:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm totally with you on the HFCS tasting odd, I always try to avoid it when I am in the US
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PostPosted: Tue May 08, 2007 3:53 pm    Post subject: Ayran, drink of Champions Reply with quote

You need to try the salty yogurt drink with food. It tastes good with Mediteranean cuisines =)

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2007 5:14 pm    Post subject: hfcs article Reply with quote

here is an article that goes into depth on the history of high-fructose corn syrup. It may seem long and dry in parts but I think it explains a lot. I have heard bad reports on hfcs through my mom who works at a health food store. I am currently trying to cut it out of all aspects of my diet. It's a work in progress. I'm a junior chemical engineering student with hopes of continuing onto grad school and studying food science or food engineering so this is something I feel strongly about.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2007 4:29 pm    Post subject: Jones Reply with quote

Try a Jones Cream Soda. They sell them at Starbucks in the south and south west (im sure many other places also).
They are the deepest flavor i have ever had in a cream soda.
I must also tell you its only that way STRAIGHT OUT OF THE BOTTLE.
Once that stuff hits ice it's done for.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 29, 2007 1:11 am    Post subject: Hard to find! Reply with quote

Nice to know there are some colas out there with out HFCS. I live in an area where is it extremely few & far to find things made with real sugar.
I did see some at the store once, but the price was horrible and had to pass.

Good job on the story!
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