I’d have to be blind to not notice that frozen yogurt has come back to the Philippines. Yes, “come back.” Progenitors of this dessert include TCBY which had a celebrated but much abbreviated stint at Megamall in the early 90s, New Zealand Naturals (which I miss terribly), as well as that Japanese (or was it Korean?) frozen yogurt stand in Landmark. And of course BTIC (Better Than Ice Cream) has been around since the same time but no one really seems to be moved by frozen yogurt that isn’t soft serve.
Whether you call it fro-yo, frozurt, or frozen yogurt, it’s the next local food trend that’s fast gaining critical mass and will explode in early ’09. As with all things fashionable, there are those who will ride the wave and frozen yogurt will soon be coming out of everyone’s ears. But only the strong, or in this case, only the truly delicious and those who offer fresh (as opposed to frozen) toppings will survive.
Though frozen yogurt has been in existence since the 1970s, there’s never been a better time for it than now. In an era where health is forefront and foremost on everyone’s mind, frozen yogurt seems to be the answer to the never-ending search for a dessert that miraculously combines flavor and satisfaction. Similar to ice cream, but – hallelujah! – lower in fat, and made with yogurt, it may actually get Filipinos hooked on yogurt, both the frozen and non-frozen kind.
Frozen yogurt is sweet or sour or both, and may or may not (gasp!) contain the live bacteria cultures that makes it, erm, yogurt. Various flavors abound, and though Manila has frozen yogurt purveyors that sell in tubs, soft serve rules. Commercial frozen yogurt may include gelatin, a natural sweetener or sugar substitute, and additional flavors and colors.
Pinkberry and Red Mango are considered the proponents of the frozen yogurt movement and it’s from them that a thousand copycats originate, some right here on our home turf.
I set out to taste all the frozen yogurts available commercially, that is, those with actual stores and not just portable carts, i.e. I Love Berries, which will soon be opening at the A.Venue Mall in Makati. As of this writing, their store is yet to open, so it’s not included in my round-up. I must say that after all the tasting I do, I discover that I prefer plain yogurt without any toppings. My purist streak is showing, I know. While doing the rounds, I’m looking for:
- discernible yogurt taste and tang (yogurt without the tang is just low-fat ice cream)
- creaminess AND a
- sufficient selection of FRESH toppings
Ultimately, it’s about the taste of the yogurt.
The White Hat
It bills itself as “so good that you can’t get it off your head,” although why I’d want to put my dessert atop my head is beyond me; my food goes into my mouth and nowhere else. White Hat’s claim that it serves Italian frozen yogurt is a bit puzzling since Italy isn’t really known for its yogurt, frozen or otherwise. I like the store’s compact layout awash in sky blue. Indeed, as I’m about to find out, all these frozen yogurt stores are meccas to pastel shades and swirls. There’s also that pleasantly chilly, dairy smell in the air here and the toppings wink up at me from their shining containers: fresh fruit, tiny mochi balls, and on the day I’m here, cheesecake bits and chocolate sandwich cookies.
White Hat’s frozen yogurt is sweeter than all the other yogurts I try ”“ in fact, it’s the sweetness that I taste first. It’s instantly followed by a rounded tang and almost painful creaminess, with a bit of fluff at the end before it melts on my tongue. It’s very, very good ”“ so good that it drives some people I know to distraction. I have friends who come here at least twice a week, and those who order two at a time, varying only their toppings. Oh, and if you take photos of your visit here, one of the staff will ask to take your photo. Don’t know why that is.
Small ”“ P85
Toppings ”“ starts at P20
Update (Aug. 20, 2008): A day after this feature was posted, I received an email from Eric Chao, the Marketing Manager of White Hat. He explains why they call their frozen yogurt ‘Italian.’:
Its because our yogurt comes direct from Italy.Â Yes mam, we don’t use cheap yogurt and sell it at premium prices.Â Of course, the Italian yogurt base is the most expensive in the world, definitely, more expensive than made or even US made (since we pay in euros).
Why we call ourselves “AUTHENTIC” Italian is because our recipe was developed by an expert Italian gelatero who was able, through many trial and errors and taste tests, to come up with a recipe that is suited to the Filipino taste buds.Â Maybe this is why you commented on the sweetness.Â But i assure you, we don’t add any sugar or sweeteners at all.Â Its just that our formula is exclusive to us and made-to-suit our market.
Oh, and we also upload the pics we take of customers into our website … sort of a marketing gimmick you know.Â But people love it!
Its logo and font will remind some people of Pinkberry, but aesthetics aside, it delivers on its product which is imported from the States. The usual canned fillings are here and when I ask for fresh fruit, the attendant looks at the counter behind her where a supermarket bag is spilling over with fruit still in their packaging. “Mayroong kiwi, banana, at mango,” she replies. The small size here is very small, so small that I gawk, prompting the same attendant to say that it’s “mas sulit” if I get the larger size but I decline.
My first taste is refreshing and properly tangy. Light and less dense too, it’s flavorful and for some reason, makes me start thinking about how good it’d be in a smoothie. Tucked away and hidden in a small space in the Silver City parking lot, Californiaberry just needs to do something to increase its visibility.
Small ”“ P60
Toppings ”“ starts at P20
At the Silver City Mall with a Starbucks at the corner of the building. Park at the covered parking (of the mall) and you’ll see CALIFORNIA BERRY right at the entrance.
For inquiries, contact Kyle You at: email@example.com.
Website under construction: www.californiaberry.net
If you can’t be Red Mango, why not be Green Mango? Other flavors are offered here in lieu of the plain yogurt: vanilla, ube, green tea, and chocolate. But variety may not always be better. The vanilla, my first order, reeks of cheap vanilla and tastes like it too. It’s a good thing I’m eating with my back towards the attendant lest she see my grimace. I’ve always been bad at hiding my emotions.
Not wanting to give up, I ask the girl behind the counter what the second most popular flavor is. “Chocolate,” she replies. The purist in me is screaming, and I can’t imagine ube yogurt (!) so I go with my gut and go for the green tea. It’s decent enough with that certain (slight) bitterness characteristic of green tea and enough tang to remind me that I’m eating frozen yogurt. It’s not as creamy as the others I try; I think of it as yogurt for those who don’t like yogurt.
One size only ”“ P55 (no toppings) or P70 for 3 toppings
Rosa Alvero corner Esteban Abada St., Loyola Heights, Katipunan, Quezon City (beside Fruit Magic)
Ice Cream Bar
I like the vibe of this place ”“ it reminds me of a new age ice cream bar and the bar seats are groovy. I pay a lot more for my frozen yogurt here but that’s because it’s in a glass receptacle instead of a paper cup, and it’s a hefty serving. Though I prefer White Hat, I could live on the Ice Cream Bar’s frozen yogurt: smooth and mercilessly creamy and consciously tart, it’s refreshing and still sweet enough to make me feel that I’m having dessert and not a low-fat alternative. I only wish that they were more consistent in having fresh fruit and strawberries. When they have it, the granola topping is awesome, but most of the time I end up having to settle for the canned stuff.
One size only ”“ P120 plus extra for toppings
Joya Tower, Rockwell Center, Makati, (02) 403.0891
My sisters are frozen yogurt addicts. For them, it’s like crack and when they want their fix, we make a day trip to Pampanga and head for Cold Spoon. Run by Koreans and managed by Filipinos, it’s an arctic oasis in the middle of a brown wasteland. Inside, it’s chilly and white, the perfect backdrop to consume frozen victuals with a cold (plastic) spoon.
Most of these frozen yogurt stores use a dehydrated yogurt formula that is rehydrated and churned in the store. Proof of this are the boxes of frozen yogurt mix out back with Korean characters that undoubtedly spell out such. No matter, for the yogurt at Cold Spoon never disappoints me and my sisters. Lightly sweet, it tastes almost all natural with enough sourness to make cheeks pucker. I appreciate the flavors that linger and the clean finish. Only canned toppings are offered here, too many of which make the frozen yogurt taste like a bastardized, saccharine version of what it’s meant to be. Stay away from them and enjoy the yogurt as is. I only wish there was a Cold Spoon in Manila.
Small ”“ P60
Toppings ”“ start at P10
Cold Spoon is located along the Fil-Am Highway that runs near the Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga.
The possibility of tasty food with health benefits often fuels unstoppable food trends, which frozen yogurt undeniably is. Unfortunately, those who rush to be the first on the scene slip and slide along the way, peso signs glinting in their eyes. R&D (research and development) suffers and profit often overrides quality. Along with Yoh-gurt Froz which isn’t included in this round-up, Yogurbud was one of the first on the frozen yogurt scene. It should be lauded for incorporating yogurt into meals by offering yogurt puddings, fresh salads with yogurt, and yogurt dips to eat with bread, a sort of faux fondue, if you will.
Of course their star product is their frozen yogurt which is ghastly. Icy and somewhat nubby in texture, it’s almost too sour to qualify as dessert. To add salt on the proverbial wound, they top their yogurt with frozen fruit! It’s a mortal sin however you churn it. In a tropical country such as ours, there’s absolutely no excuse to be doling out frozen mango (or fruit, for that matter!) on top of food. I also try their fresh yogurt, thinking that it might be better. No go. It tastes like yogurt but the texture is all wrong ”“ like eating cold and sour egg whites. Eeew! But I end up finishing the damn thing, thinking that maybe ”“ miraculously! ”“ it would taste better. This is one Yogurbud that’s Yogurbad.
Yogurt with 3 toppings ”“ P85