B for Birch Water Benchmarking – Mad March Munch 2016 Alphabet Challenge

Make it short & snappy’

B for Birch water benchmarking.

Coconut water is so passé, move over and make way for the birch water, or so they’d like you to believe? What’s the hype all about? What does it taste like. We did the benchmarking of 7 new brands (and a bonus maple water) on the market to give you our insight into birch water mania.

‘Just the facts please’

  • Amazing Forests (two versions at the time of sampling)
  • Website: http://amazingforest.co.uk/
  • Flavours: original and Byarozavik Organic Birch Water and other juices (non birchwater)

‘I’ve got a cup of tea, tell me all about it…’

I love attending a food fair or trade show and in 2015/2016 something that became very clear was that “birch water” as the “latest thing” – move over coconut water, the birch tree is the new hot “super health drink” saviour.

Intrigued by this sudden saturation of the market: in one trade show I found about 5 different brands! I set about collecting them and organising a night with friends to sample our way through and see what the fuss was about.

IMG_5619Armed with a range of bottles and a slight intruder of a maple water bottle, we set about working our way through the samples.

The array of samples included Treevitalise, Belseva, Amazing Forests (two versions), Sibberi, Sealand Birk, Drink Maple and Tåpped. I decided to try only the original flavours, not the flavoured ones initially.

The appearance was quite impressive: a selection of heavy but quality feeling glass bottles, more portable plastic ones, and some lovely drawings of birch trees. The light weight, portable and recyclable nature of the Belseva tetrapak made it come out on top for packaging.

IMG_5621The sourcing varied from Russia to Eastern Europe. When being pitched to in person, not many places highlighted much of the sustainability of the forests which was a concern, but more information on all is available on their websites.

I like the idea of using birch water – the more we want it, hopefully the more forests will be planted.

The names ranged from Treevitalise (I do love a good play on words) to the harder to pronounce or fathom Byarozavik Organic Birch Water. One I will mention that irked me, and I told them so, was Tåpped – something where unfortunately the company’s brand clinic failed to check that the å is a Swedish letter not a Finnish one (although for pedants out there I know Finns do speak and use Swedish too) and when pronounced actually sounds like ‘tawp-ped’.

The flavours – sadly after all the hype and anticipation none of us were particularly impressed with any of the original flavours. That’s a polite way of putting it. Some flavours were actually quite unpalatable and were met with several noises of disgust. I will have to do a bit of work to build back the reputation of my benchmarking clinics for friends in future!

What was quite surprising was how different the flavours were between one another. Once might expect the products of a tree to taste the same – having said that perhaps like wine, there can be a lot of variation dependent on variety, location and terroir? The predominant flavour was of a lactic flavour – a little bit like slightly off milky water.

The winner partly based on the fact that the flavourings and sweeteners disguised the natural flavour was Sealand Birk, the added sweetness and lemony flavour made it more drinkable. Available at places like Central Street Cafe in St Lukes’ Community Centre.

We can’t attest to the health benefits, and I’m sure some people will love the flavour. Coconut water took a while to take off and kombucha is an acquired taste – so good luck to all the brands it’s good to see some variety out there for soft drinks to compete with the sugar saturated juices of the world.

Top tip: I will say I tried some flavoured ones later, including mint, which was much more drinkable. Perhaps start with them and work your way up to the original? Rather like using chocolate laden mocha to train your taste buds to enjoy the bitter hit of coffee.

Your turn! I’d be interested to hear your thoughts if you’ve drunk any.

Bonus. Oh and Maple Water? A mixed review, I thought it tasted like slightly sweet diluted maple syrup (which it is in effect!), more palatable than the birch waters I found.

Disclaimer: Most of the drinks were purchased, some were given as samples at the trade shows. All opinions are my own (and my fellow three benchmarking panellists).

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