It's official- I do hereby declare 2009 the year of the coconut! This tropical trend has swept vegans everywhere off their feet, eliciting a near fanatical response every time it pops up somewhere new. Of course, it seems to be making cameo appearances in cutting-edge products on a practically daily basis, making up the base for everything from ice cream to yogurt… And now, to kefir.
Those crazy scientists at Turtle Mountain are on a roll, unveiling delight after delight- And all with coconut milk as the star. This particular beverage was something completely new to me, but in fact, it's been around for centuries as a dairy product. Essentially a fermented milk drink, Kefir is generally described as a tangy milkshake. Supposedly very beneficial to digestion, it also comes with a whole laundry list of theoretical health benefits as well. What I wanted to know, however, was how it tastes! Happily, those same crazy scientists are also very generous, and sent me a few samples so that I could find out.
Hoping to get a baseline for what this drink would be like, I opted to try the Original flavor first. Casually taking a quick sip, I stopped short once the kefir hit my taste buds- Man, is this stuff tart! Much more "tangy" than I had expected and in fact downright sour, I would not recommend drinking this plain. That's not to say that it's bad, though, as I found that it made a fantastic "buttermilk" substitute in baking, and a wonderful addition to fruit smoothies. Only faintly coconut-y, the flavor is not too intrusive here, and just a pleasant undertone.
Taking a more cautious sip of the Vanilla kefir, I was happy to find that this perfectly smooth and white beverage was quite drinkable indeed. Just barely sweetened, it's enough to take that "bite" out of this flavor. Very similar to a thin, drinkable yogurt, it's a great drink to have as part of a meal on the go, or a nice, light snack.
Finally, the one I was most curious about: Strawberry. This pale, pastel-pink liquid, flecked with real strawberry seeds, smelled strongly of fresh berries from the moment I popped off the lid. Although the flavor is actually much more mild that the scent might suggest, it's also far tangier than your typical berry-based drink. Hardly sweet at all, this is no kid's juice box affair in the least. Although I wasn't crazy about it initially, the flavor did grow on me, and it became even more tasty when blended with more whole strawberries. Kefir itself is a very unique sort of beverage, as I've come to learn, and while I've never had the "real" thing, I think that this coconut version is very true to that original model.