1 June is World Milk Day!

To celebrate, we have decided to turn our lens of tasting to milk....

Yes, tasting milk.

But maybe let's start at the beginning...


The Special Bootle's Milk

So the wife of my partner's good friend recently gushed about this milk from a new fancy grocer called Bootle's. After some Googling, we realized the milk isn't called Bootle's (wouldn't that be cute) but rather Bannister Downs Milk.

Fancy, sustainable eco-packaging. The handle bit is inflated so you can grab it easier! 


She bought it because the packaging was curious, but ended up finding it so much more flavorful and amazing than her regular organic milk from the supermarket when she tasted it side-by-side.

Because we're now known as the tasting person, she naturally recommended that we do a tasting of this milk too.

We never felt really compelled to do so (I mean, we're already routinely tasting teas and coffees, do we really need to add milk to the list?).

Then...World Milk Day rolled around.

We're actually one of those people who do celebrate minor secular observances (e.g. making home-made nutella for World Nutella Day). So...milk-tasting it is.

And so, bright and early, we hopped on a bus to Bootle's to pick up a packet of this milk, took the train home with our precious cargo, and prepared for tasting.

But what is a tasting without a control.

The Contender: Farm Fresh Milk

We've recently switched from Meiji milk to another brand called Farm Fresh Malaysia. We first bought it because it's cheaper than Meiji even when Meiji is on sale. And it's from a private company instead of a multinational, so brownie points there. Most importantly, when we tasted it, it was so much more flavorful than Meiji that it was a no-brainer to make the switch. The fact that it comes from just across the causeway, which means lesser food miles also gives it extra brownie points.

With that, World Milk Day became...

THE MILK SHOWDOWN

But okay, honestly, we're pretty chill about the whole tasting thing.

Our friend had already tasted Bannister Downs' milk with other fancy organic milk brands and declared it superior. So we were really only doing a side-by-side so we can truly taste the difference.

Round 1: Cold

On the left, coming in at 2L/$5.15 in plastic bottle packaging, we have Farm Fresh Malaysia. And on the right, coming in at 1l/$5.50 in Ecolean packaging, we have Bannister Downs!! 📣📣📣

We began with a generous sip of Bannister Downs (BD) and umm...it tastes like milk. Balanced milk, not too rich, not too plain. There's a sweet and almost floral or sweet grass field flavor that finishes off with a mellow milky savoriness. Think the kind of rich aftertaste that Hokkaido milk has, but less intense and with a much cleaner and more refreshing finish.

So okay, it's...nice.

But I guess it's hard to be blown away when you drink it just by itself. As the Chinese saying goes: 沒有對比就沒有傷害 (there is no damage if there are no comparisons).

And so, we moved on to sip the Farm Fresh Malaysia (FF) milk.

Our first instinct was: 'wow, I guess you can tell the difference between fancy milk and 'regular' milk, it tastes more metallic and flat and less sweet and...thicker?'

As the milk warmed up in our mouth, the liquid took on a fattier, more buttery flavor. It was like the aftertaste of butter cookies almost. The creamy milk flavor lingered on our tongue, coating it with a rich butteriness long after we've swallowed.

Full discloser, we sat down to do the tasting the moment we reached home. so BD milk had warmed up a tad from our trip back. Meanwhile, the FF milk was fridge cold.

We went back to the BD milk again, to give time for the FF milk to catch up in terms of temperature.

And yea, it was still a nice, balanced refreshing milk.

Where was the mind-blowing comparison of rich creaminiess I was promised!?

In fact, going back to the FF milk...the warmer milk had 'opened' up if you will, and completely lost its metallic flavor. All that was there was this rich, creamy, buttery milk that had convinced me to part ways with Meiji.

Did I actually, maybe, like the FF milk...more? 😱

But okay, you can absolutely prime people to judge and perceive tastes a certain way. So for the sake of fairness, I poured both milks into identical cups and passed them to my partner without saying a word.

He knew we were comparing milks but didn't know which was which, and upon sipping both, he instantly declared the left cup the winner.

His exact words were "this one's just more flavorful, it's the more expensive one isn't it."

The left cup was Farmer Fresh Malaysia.

He was surprised, I was stunned.

...

We needed more answers.

We needed...to do a full-blown tasting.

Tasting Notes Summary (Cold)

(holy cow. you know you're in too deep when you have milk tasting notes. milk)

BANNISTER DOWNS

  • Sweet, balanced and freshing
  • Very faint undertone of floral/sweet grass
  • A mellow savory aftertaste
  • Clean finish

FARM FRESH MALAYSIA

  • Thick, buttery and rich
  • Aftertaste of butter cookies
  • Long, rich, lingering finish

Round 2: With (cold brew) coffee

It was hard to declare a winner (more like we were reluctant to declare a winner) just through drinking them cold. Rich VS Balanced felt like too much of a personal preference to use that as a judge for quality.

Plus, we use milks in so many ways, we serve them hot, in coffee, in tea...

Just because one flavor profile tastes good when cold, doesn't mean it'll do well in other applications.

And so, because we didn't want to figure out the logistics of heating two milks with only one milk pot, we decided to first try it with a cold brew coffee concentrate.

We added an Italian Roast Cold Brew Coffee at the ratio of 1:2 (coffee:milk) to each of the milks and proceeded to taste them.

And here are the results!

Tasting Notes Summary (With Cold Brew Coffee)

BANNISTER DOWNS

  • The coffee's vanilla/floral flavors came through clearly
  • There was a balance of sweet and charcoal flavors
  • Aftertaste is a mixture of pleasant coffee bitterness and a clean refreshing milk flavor

FARM FRESH MALAYSIA

  • Bitter coffee and richness of milk
  • No synergy whatsoever
  • An unpleasant bitter aftertaste reminiscent of bitter cough syrup with notes of ashy charcoal

See, we were onto something.

Context does make a difference.

(But also realistically, would you normally buy specialty milk just to put in your specialty coffee?)

With all the cold taste tests done, it was time to move into the kitchen

Round 3: Hot

Heating it to precisely 84°C, give or take a couple decimal point

After some minor deliberation, we decided that a scientifically rigorous test wouldn't be possible because we couldn't be damned to pull out a big soup pot just to heat two milks side by side.

So instead, we poured out 100ml of each milk and heated them to 84 degrees respectively, and poured them into a smaller up to cool and taste them side-by-side at a more drinkable temperature.

We must say, the differences were stunning.

Heating up Bannister Downs was like boiling water, unremarkable and...yea, it's milk on the stove in a metal pot. What more do you want me to say!?

Then came Farm Fresh Milk. Being a richer, more buttery milk just really plays in one's favor in cases like these. Just standing next to the pot, I could smell the sweet, delicious aroma of cooked milk. It's like if someone smacked you in the face with a warm cuddly teddy bear. The flavor is just, yes.

No bets on who performed better in the hot milk category.

Tasting Notes Summary (Hot)

BANNISTER DOWNS

  • This milk is sad when it's hot.
  • There is a gaminess, or wet farm/hay smell that comes out when heated
  • 😢

FARM FRESH MALAYSIA

  • SO.MUCH.CWEAMY.MILK.
  • 😻
  • Strangely, despite how much sweeter it smells and tastes when warmed, the finish also becomes really clean when it's served hot/warm

Round 4: Milk Tea + Frothing

Where did all the other heated milk go?

It went into a milk tea.

Of course, in our world, no milk tea is complete without milk foam. So after pouring out the taster portion of the hot milk, we used a milk frothing wand (just your regular Ikea one) and made yummy milk foam.

So we maybe forgot to time the frothing, but it FELT like BD's milk frothed faster, but not by much. Both milks frothed up pretty quick, in under a minute. It's not café-quality milk foam because we're using a frothing wand, but looks pretty nice.

But the real question is, how did it taste!? What were the textures like?

On the right was the BD milk tea, the texture shocked us. It was almost like egg whites that were whipped to stiff peaks. And had a similar texture in the mouth too. It made us wonder, just how much protein is in that milk!? (3.6g/100ml apparently)

On the left was the FF milk, and it was the creamy milk foam we're familiar with.
Which strangely also had 3.6g/100ml of protein, so we have no idea why they foam so differently.  

Texture aside, there was also a huge difference in aroma.

Digging the spoon into the FF milk foam, we could immediately smell the aroma of black tea tinged with buttery milk. Meanwhile, the BD milk tea continues to be unremarkable in the aroma department. But we're kind of expecting that at this point.

So then, how did they perform flavor-wise when paired with tea?

We decided to start with FF's milk tea this time because it smelled so aromatic and appetizing. The flavor mirrored the smell, it was a buttery milk tea that had more milk and cream flavors than it had tea flavors. The black tea taste was more of an undertone. Just enough to remind you that there is tea in this drink.

Meanwhile with BD's milk...I think this really is the milk to have with coffee and tea. Gone were the strange gamey hay-like flavors of the milk, instead there were grassy and pleasant musty tea flavors, but without all the tannins. You can barely taste the milk. It was such a silent supporter of the drink, quietly taking away the astringency of the tea tannins and imparting some thickness to the body of the tea.

Once again, it's a matter of preference. If you like tea flavored milk, you'll probably prefer FF's milk tea, but if you like milk tea, emphasis on the word tea, then BD's the clear winner here.

Curiously, after drinking BD's milk tea, when I got back to drink the FF milk tea, I can't even taste the tea in it anymore. I was just drinking hot milk.

Tasting Notes Summary (Milk tea + Frothing)

BANNISTER DOWNS

  • Stiff-peak, egg-white like milk foam
  • Adds body but while cutting astringency, but retains and even enhances existing tea flavors

FARM FRESH MALAYSIA

  • Creamy, aromatic milk foam
  • Creamy, buttery milk tea
  • Sweet milky flavors, very faint taste of tea

Verdict

Bannister Downs Farm Fresh Malaysia
Cold TIE TIE
Hot ✓
With Coffee ✓
With Tea ✓
Milk Foam ✓
Value for Money ✓
Food Miles ✓
Ethical Farming ✓

I did some digging after this taste test because, I need answers!
These were not the results I was expecting when I set off to do a fun little milk tasting thing for World Milk Day.

And lo and behold what I found.

So, it turns out, Farm Fresh Malaysia's farm fresh milk came from Holstein Jersey Cows imported from Australia.

You know where Bannister Downs' from?
Australia.

And you what cows they use?
Holstein Jersey Cows.

These are the SAME KIND of milk cows.

And more amazingly, they're both grass-fed cows, allowed to graze on fields.

In fact, looking at the nutritional labels:

  • Bannister Downs: per 100ml, 3.6g protein, 4g fat
  • Farm Fresh Malaysia: 3.6g protein, 3.8g fat

These two milks are comparable.
(Although I need to ask, how is the less fatty milk the richer creamier tasting one!?)

So who wins? Which is the better milk?

I don't know anymore.

I mean, what is 'good' milk?

If rich and creamy is good milk, then okay, I guess Farm Fresh Malaysia is the better milk. But not everyone likes rich creamy things, and sometimes you want to taste your coffee or tea. In those cases, won't a balanced milk be seen as the 'better' milk?

This whole exercise only reaffirmed to me one thing: I spend way too much time on frivolous taste-related things in life.

Just kidding.

This whole exercise once again proved that: taste is subjective.

So I guess the real question is: What do I like in a milk?

And I find myself not having an answer for that.

I've not given my milk enough thought to have a criteria for what I think is good milk for my taste-buds.

And is taste the only criteria here?

Bannister Downs focuses on ethical dairy farming, addressing many concerns activists have over treatment of calves and their mothers. We couldn't find similar information for Farm Fresh Malaysia.

At the same time, if we're really talking about sustainability and environmentalism, does 'Ecolean' packaging really cancel out the flight this Australian milk took to get here?

These are not easy questions to answer (and not ones I want to think about when I'm buying milk on a regular grocery run tbh).

One thing's for sure, World Milk Day was very successful in their agenda of making me learn about milk.

I don't think I've ever thought about my dairy choices this seriously, like ever.  

What is good milk to YOU?

PS: Using banister down milk for the actual milk tea but serving farm fresh milk foam on top gives you best of both worlds. Rich aroma of milk and actual tea flavor. If you're that particular about your milk tea.

PPS: We drank so much milk that we were too full to eat lunch

PPPS: We're actually lactose intolerant and usually drink oat milk...many TP were sacrificed in the making of this review. May they rest in peace. 🧻👼🙏

Ri Chang
Singapore
The intersensory workaholic who has made life their job. Also an artist-padawan...and kind of long-winded. 康復中的工作狂. 正努力練習認真生活