Taste Test: Instant Cereal Drinks to Wake You Up on Chilly MorningsNovember 19, 2017
- Patricia BaesWords
Part and parcel of the modern world is the need to have your daily fuel in portable form—including breakfast. Enter cereal drinks: pre-mixed packages that typically include dry cereal and dairy for the hunger-busting combo of carbs, protein and fat, prepared simply by adding hot water. With a couple of brands available (not including other local favorite Nesvita, which has sadly been discontinued), which one should you go for?
Note: for this taste test, drinks were prepared according to package instructions (coincidentally, all brands entail the addition of 150 ml warm water per sachet of drink), and were consumed warm. Our focus is on taste, rather than nutritional benefit.
Bear Brand Busog Lusog
From the moment we tear open a package, Bear Brand hits us with a sweet, nostalgic aroma that brings to mind that of boxed cake mix. Stirred into warm water, you get a drink with a creamy, fake-vanilla note and a hint of malt, which is rich in a way more reminiscent of coffee creamer than dairy (despite coming from a powdered milk brand), but feels amazingly silky on the tongue. The “cereal” part of the equation—denoted in the ingredient list as a mix of wheat flour, corn, sugar, glucose syrup, barley malt extract, rice, salt, and stabilizers—comes in the form of tiny flakes which don’t contribute much flavor but, when mixed with water, soften into supple curds that stay intact while helping thicken the drink.
Energen carries a slightly more robust, nutty fragrance straight out of the packet. It delivers even more of the coffee creamer-type richness of Bear Brand and the distinctive flavor of synthetic vanillin that can feel a tad like petroleum (it’s the sweetest brand of the bunch, too); thankfully, you also get a malted milk-like nuttiness (close to what you’d find on good ol’ Nesvita) in the backdrop that helps balance it out. For the cereal bit (the ingredient lists wheat flour, corn, oats, and malt extract), you also get small, thin flakes that soften in liquid, though in a way that’s more mushy and soggy compared to Bear Brand’s with a starchy mouthfeel and peculiar taste that a member of the team likens it to overcooked siomai wrappers.
Vita Quaker Original
From the dry mix alone, you can see that Quaker’s version contains far more cereal (quick-cooking oats, in this case) than the former two brands—which is not surprising coming from an oatmeal brand. With warm water stirred in, you get a base drink that is just at the right end of creamy without being sickeningly fatty. Barely sweet on its own, you get a flavor we can’t identify but would describe as deep, toasty, and fruity (as if someone had steeped raisins into the mix) weaving right underneath the more dominant nuttiness of oats. And with actual discernible bits of oatmeal (of the quick-cooking sort—as expected at this price range), you get an overall porridge-y feel that’s just what you need to get you out of bed on a cold, dreary morning.
For a cereal drink that feels relatively wholesome and serve its intended purpose of being a quick but filling breakfast, we have to give it to Quaker, with its generous amount of cereal and drink base of balanced levels of richness and sweetness. Bear Brand’s version, though more on the indulgent end of the spectrum, stands out for us with its creamy, cake batter-like character—though we’d be more likely to consume it as a warm, pre-bedtime drink. Energen’s fake vanilla notes and siomai wrapper-esque quality knocks it a few points down, but we love how it delivers a deep, malty flavor underneath.