We Try 6 Brands of Wheat Bread: Gardenia, Sari Roti, Olsen, and MoreJanuary 14, 2019
Past the trauma we’d endured during our 2017 supermarket white bread taste test, we’re taking on its darker, heartier cousin: wheat bread, or more formally, whole wheat bread (see our note below). Whereas white bread is made with white flour, made only with the wheat’s endosperm and processed more thoroughly (thus stripping it of many nutrients), whole wheat bread uses whole wheat flour, which includes all parts of the wheat kernel—bran, germ, and endosperm—for more flavor and a more complete nutritional profile that retains more of its protein, fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and the like. (Some have argued against this claim, but we digress.)
Like many “health”-marketed items however, wheat bread can polarize; while some people love it for the added fiber boost (and/or arguably, its more rustic, flavorful body), others deplore it for what may be deemed a more cardboard-like taste or consistency. How do the different brands in the supermarket compare?
Note: we were unable to find information on the legal distinctions between the terms “wheat” and “whole wheat” (though in some but not all cases, a distinction is made between “wheat flour” and “whole wheat flour”, the former simply referring to white flour). As they are generally understood to be the same in colloquial speak however, we take them to mean the same thing for the purposes of this article. We thus narrowed down our selection to include both those labelled as “wheat” or “whole wheat” bread (as well as one labelled “wheaten”, noted below). All breads were tasted both at room temperature and lightly toasted on the same day of purchase, putting focus on flavor as opposed to nutritional value.
On the coffee-hued end of the spectrum, Gardenia’s comes as roughly half-inch thick slices around the same size as its white bread counterpart. It’s on the soft and mildly elastic but sturdy side, its surface specked with a generous amount of wheat for a decidedly coarse, hearty bite. Bordered by a crust that’s a tad firmer and chewier than its interior, the bread is barely sweet and just slightly salty, allowing the deep, nutty taste of wheat to come through beautifully.
Softness: 3/5 | Wheatiness: 4/5 | Sweetness: 2.5/5 | Saltiness: 3/5
Marby goes for a lighter-hued bread that’s as thick but a tad more stout than the previous brand. With a softer crust around the edges that you can easily pull off, it veers toward being on the pillowy side with a relatively moist crumb, but stays sturdy enough that it can hold up for use in sandwiches and the like. Flavor-wise Marby goes for a sweeter profile and is less robust-tasting than Gardenia, yet carries a good amount of wheat (albeit more dispersed, with what seems to be less bran) that add nuttiness to the overall mix. Though slightly chemical aftertaste arrives toward the finish, it just about dissipates when the slices are toasted.
Softness: 4/5 | Wheatiness: 3/5 | Sweetness: 4/5| Saltiness: 1/5
Note that Neubake’s labels theirs as “Wheaten” bread, a term which specifically denotes Irish brown soda bread and/or anything related to the grain. In this case, we take it to refer to (whole) wheat bread as you do find whole wheat flour in the ingredient list.
As with its white bread version, Neubake’s goes for a wider but thinner form. Combined with its airy, stretchy crumb, it makes for a flimsy slice that easily disintegrates when used for sandwiches. It’s also on the sweet side, with very little wheat that you’d almost never feel or taste it was there, aside from the very occasional bits of bran and/or germ that interrupt its elastic chew. This can be a good thing or a bad thing; for what it’s worth, it’s a decent compromise if you dislike the taste of wheat but still want a bit more fiber in your diet (you get 7 grams per two slices).
Softness: 4/5 | Wheatiness: 2/5 | Sweetness: 3.5/5 | Saltiness: 2/5
With its lighter hue and soft, thin crust you can easily peel off, Olsen bears a number of similarities to Marby. Though still on the more or less pillowy side, Olsen’s carries a shorter crumb with denser, more tightly-packed fibers. You get what seems to be a higher ratio of wheat germ to bran on each slice, giving a rich, nutty undertone to its mildly sweet body. Though we’d wish for more of the wheat’s robustness, this is made for by the tinge of depth (from what tastes like molasses, though not listed in the ingredients) that concludes each bite.
Softness: 3/5 | Wheatiness: 3.5/5 | Sweetness: 3/5 | Saltiness: 2/5
Labelled only as “wheat” bread (and listing only “wheat flour” in the ingredient list, as well as “fine bran”), this Indonesian brand falls second to Neubake’s with its wide but thin form, but has better structure and a stronger crumb that’s a tad denser and less airy. Wheat vs. whole wheat debacle aside, it bears what seems to be more discernible wheat flavor and bits of bran in the mix that make for a surprisingly deep, robust profile brought out with its ample saltiness and mellow sweetness. Though a tinge of this peculiar chemical taste turns up at the finish, so does a mild yeastiness that has us back for another slice.
Softness: 2.5/5 | Wheatiness: 3.5/5 | Sweetness: 3/5 | Saltiness: 3/5
Tiffany’s has the darkest and thickest slices of the lot, with a soft but sturdy base that makes for especially good toast. In spite of its hue however, it doesn’t contain as much wheat in the mix; where it does contain wheat, what we get are more seed-like, nutty bits we would’ve thought to be sesame seeds (though this does not appear in the ingredients). It’s also significantly sweet; not in a one-note way, thankfully, but in a deep, rich way that brings to mind molasses (as this does not appear in the ingredients either though, we suspect it to be barley malt syrup instead as you do find “malt” in list). It falls short as a wheat bread in our book—but for what it is, it’s quite delicious.
Softness: 3.5/5 | Wheatiness: 2.5/5 | Sweetness: 4.5/5 | Saltiness: 2/5
The Verdict: Gardenia
Gardenia reigned supreme during our white bread taste test as well, but we promise we’re not being biased here. With its not-too-sweet profile, great balance between softness and heartiness, and generous amount of wheat, it’s tasty enough as is but works as a great blank canvas for any sandwiches and other applications—and thus proves to be our top wheat bread of choice. Should you want a softer, less-robust tasting version that nonetheless does not scrimp on the wheat, Olsen’s is a reliable alternative.