Milk is good for you; this phrase is probably one of those few things which we have been made to believe is set in stone. When one mentions milk, almost instantly the words that come to mind are creamy, fresh and calcium booster. When we contemplated a milk taste test, the first question that struck us was -"But doesn't all milk taste the same?" Well, we may have been wrong all this while.
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Milk's got character. Cow's milk is supposed to be sweet with a mild after-taste, creamier on the tongue, fresh and slightly off-white in colour. Buffalo's milk, on the other hand, is white and thick. It has more proteins, fat and calories. In a quest to discover if what we're drinking really holds up to these standards, we decided to do a blind taste-test with five popular brands of milk.
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The size of India's dairy industry is 3 lakh crore rupees and milk accounts for most of this. The 2014-15 figures indicate that we produced 147 million tons of milk which makes us the world's largest milk producer. Though a large part of this market is raw buffalo milk, we decided to taste pasteurized cow's milk because it's more popular in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities where you won't find too many takers for raw milk. Raw milk comes straight from the farm to your doorstep, along with a long list of unanswered questions about 'health and safety'.(Raw Milk Versus Pasteurized Milk, Which One Should You Pick?)
In the last few years, there's been a lot of talk on whether you should drink milk or not. But if you're not lactose intolerant then there's no reason why you shouldn't. It's rich in calcium and Vitamin D, good for your bones and does your body a whole lot of good.
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How much milk should you drink?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that an adult needs 400 to 500 milligrams of calcium a day to prevent bone fracture and maintain good bone health. One glass of toned milk has about 125 milligrams of calcium, which means you need to drink anywhere between three to four glasses of milk a day. Some other advocates of health and food recommend as high as 1200 milligrams of calcium a day for people up to the age of 50. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends three cups of milk a day for anyone over the age of 8.
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We picked five popular brands of toned milk that were easily available in general stores and supermarkets. Most of them were a mix of cow and buffalo milk which was confirmed by the respective brands that were selected basis consumer popularity regardless the source. We tried our best to find milk that was manufactured around the same dates. Few were several days older than others (all within the best-before date) but that didn't seem to affect the overall rankings. We bought one litre packs for every brand and all of them were within the same price range (up to Rs. 70).
That said, we wondered if it is worth paying a premium for the packing and longer shelf life of tetra packs and therefore included Mother Dairy which sells milk pouches but holds a significant market share in the Capital, New Delhi. While comparing it with others, we made sure we took the difference in packaging and price into consideration.
What is toned milk?
Single toned milk is obtained by added skimmed milk powder and water to whole milk, a method of treatment developed in India. This is done to reduce the fat content and the process 'tones up' the non-fat solids. Toned milk has a fat content of about 3%. Mostly, buffalo milk is toned because it has a high fat content.
All the brands were blind tasted (not knowing the brands). The tasters gave their personal scores and feedback which was later compiled to get the average results. Each of the brands were ranked on the following three parameters -
Flavour: Consumers prefer milk with a subtle sweetness. The sweetness comes due to the presence of lactose. There shouldn't be a sour after taste. It may have a faint saltiness due to the presence of minerals. So, was it flavourful, salty, grassy, nutty or neutral?
Texture: The ones that were thick, rich and creamy were preferred over those that were runny and watered down.
Freshness: Needless to say, milk should taste fresh and not artificial or acidic.
Some other points that were kept in mind -
1. All brands were served at room temperature.
2. All brands were tasted uncooked without boiling to sample the original flavours.
3. Cookies were used as palate cleansers.
4. We took into consideration the colour and aroma of milk.
5. After the blind taste test, we also scanned through the nutrition labels of all the brands to come up with a rounded conclusion taking into account the amount of calcium and calories.
6. All the brands were marked individually on each of the parameters and the average was calculated for the final scores.
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Milky Matters: Which One 'Moo'ved Us?
Brand 1 - Mother Dairy
Mother Dairy toned milk which is a mix of cow and buffalo milk was very light with a faint aroma. The texture was smooth, but it wasn't creamy like the others. Some of the tasters found it to be slightly watered down. The freshness didn't stand out considering the fact that the others were all tetra packs.
Calcium per 100 ml - 127 mg
Calories - 59 Kcal
Brand 2 - Nestle
Nestle was praised for being well balanced in all three aspects. It tasted fresh and earthy. The subtle sweetness was valued by all. The texture was full-bodied; rich and creamy but not overly thick or heavy. It is perfect for straight-up drinking out of a glass. It is a mix of cow and buffalo milk.
Calcium per 100 ml - 84 mg
Calories - 59 Kcal
Brand 3 - Tru
This one deserves a cookie. It was sweet with a distinct nutty note that all of us loved. Where it failed to score in comparison to Nestle was its texture, which we found lacked creaminess. It was nicely packaged in a bottle with a cap and a handle which made it easy to pour and store.
Tru is in produced by MDVL Farms and distributed across Punjab, Delhi NCR and Chandigarh. It is pure cow's milk.
Calcium per 100 ml - 118 mg
Calories - 60 Kcal
Brand 4 - Danone
Danone is a French company that has recently entered the Indian market. The milk was super sweet and almost tasted like it contained added sugar. Contradictory to its taste, the aroma was slightly pungent, which was a put-off for us. Again, a mix of both varieties.
Calcium per 100 ml - 80 mg
Calories: 58 Kcal
Brand 5 - Amul Taaza
It tasted somewhat artificial and had a bitter aftertaste. Some deemed that it was synthetic and boring. 'Nothing interesting,' remarked one of them. Amul Taaza was also a mix of cow's and buffalo's milk.
Calcium per 100 ml - 150 mg
Calories - 58.2 Kcal
The results of the blind taste test showed that Nestle scored the highest in terms of taste but on scrutinizing the labels we found that the calcium content was one of the lowest. On the other hand, Amul Taaza had the maximum calcium content but its taste didn't go down well with most of us. The brand that caught us by surprise was Tru, as we really enjoyed the nutty flavour. We also took into consideration the calorie content as milk is consumed daily. All brands had similar values, so wasn't really a distinguishing feature.
This taste test was in no way sponsored by any brand(s). All expenses were borne by NDTV. All reviews are strictly personal opinion of the authors. The same should not be construed as the opinion or policy of NDTV. Always do your own research on products and companies before using a product you choose. NDTV, its affiliates and its management does not claim responsibility for any of the products/ or companies discussed on this site.