12.122 Taste Test: Korean Milk


7 (Fri) May 2021

Taste Test: Korean Milk

by me

at home

-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-

with the Family

After conducting taste tests for bottled mineral waters (see 12.098 Taste Test: Mineral Waters) and bottled sparkling waters (see 12.100 Taste Test: Sparkling Waters), IZ had proposed that we do one for milks (as he put it: “something that I actually like to drink”).

The milk aisle at E-Mart (Seongsu).

Unlike bottled waters, milk is very popular in Korea.  So many producers, so many brands, so many variations, so many sizes.  I would surmise that the market is predominantly kids, with a small portion of adults who drink milk on occasion for breakfast along with a pastry, or maybe at lunch with a sandwich; adults generally do not drink milk at dinner and would be considered very peculiar to do so (I’m looking at you, GK).

In the States, which would seem to be more of a milk culture, I seem to recall that choices were more limited.  1 brand: the supermarket’s proprietary label.  3 types: whole, low-fat, skim.  3 sizes: gallon, quart, pint.  But that was 20 years ago, and I was never much of a milk drinker, so maybe my recollection is faulty.

The Seoul Milk section.

The contenders (prices calculated per 1,000 ml) (nutritive values calculated per 100 ml):

  • Good Milk by No Brand (1,480 won) (4 g fat / 5 g sugar / 55 mg sodium / 70 kcal) – E-Mart’s proprietary brand; never tried it before, included to here see if low cost had adverse impact on quality.
  • Masitneun Milk GT by Namyang (2,800 won) (3.6 g fat / 4.5 g sugar / 50 mg sodium / 60 kcal) – one of the most popular brands in Korea; what I tend to buy, only because I prefer products packaged in blue (only kinda kidding)
  • Maeil Milk by Maeil (2,740 won) (3.6 g fat / 5 g sugar / 50 mg sodium / 65 kcal) – another popular brand.
  • Pasteur Milk by Lotte (3,630 won) (4 g fat / 4.5 g sugar / 50 mg sodium / 67 kcal) – claims to have introduced pasteurized milk to Korea in 1987 (I find that hard to believe), marketed from the start as a high end product; what W tends to buy, probably because it’s expensive and hence must be better; this used to be my favorite back in high school, when Korea did not yet make low-fat milk, and Pasteur seemed lightest.
  • Sangha Farm Organic Milk by Maeil (4,870 won) (3.6 g fat / 5 g sugar / 50 mg sodium / 65 kcal) – the latest high end milk, now capitalizing on the growing organic trend in Korea; what W prefers to buy, but only when it’s on sale at half price as the expiration date approaches.
  • Seoul Milk by Seoul Dairy Cooperative (2,540 won) (4 g fat / 4.5 g sugar / 50 mg sodium / 65 kcal) – the undisputed granddaddy of Korean milk, founded in 1937, claims #1 market share (40%); I’m sure that every Korean has tasted this milk at least once in a lifetime.

The testers included IZ, DJ, W, and myself.  The 6 brands were poured into unmarked glasses.  In turn, the tester took a sip (or more) of a sample and gave it a score from 4 (awesome) to 1 (terrible), rinsed with water (IZ insisted on gargling every time, which for some reason pissed off DJ and grossed out W, though I found it absurdly cute), then sipped the next sample and scored it, and so on until all 6 were sipped and scored.  The tester repeated the process, with samples provided in different order.  The two scores for each brand were added.  The highest scoring brand was deemed the favorite of the tester.  In case of a tie, the tester sampled the two brands a third time and chose one as the favorite.  The scores of all testers were tabulated to determine the family favorite.

  1. Masitneun Milk GT.   Top collective score of 25 out of a possible 32.  Perfect score of 4+4 by IZ, chosen as his second favorite in a tie-breaker.  Score of 3+3 by DJ, chosen as his favorite in a tie-breaker.  I gave it a 3+3, noting its sweetness.  Surprisingly, it is the best for nutrition with the lowest (or tied for lowest) values across all categories, even if marginally so.  Third highest in price, but still within the mid-tier (2,500 – 2,800 range).
  2. Seoul Milk.  Collective score of 23.  Perfect score of 4+4 by IZ, chosen as his favorite in a tie-breaker.  Score of 3+3 by DJ, chosen as his second favorite in a tie-breaker.   I gave it 3+3, noting its distinctive aftertaste and identifying it by taste memory – even though I probably haven’t tasted it in years, maybe decades – as Seoul Milk.  Second to cheapest, great value.
  3. Good Milk.  Collective score of 23.  Scored second highest by W at 3+3.  I gave it 3+3, noting its creaminess.  Best value at the lowest price (1/3 of the price of the most expensive).
  4. Sangha Farm Organic Milk.  Collective score of 21.  W’s favorite at 3+4.  My least favorite at 2+3, noting a round mouthfeel with empty flavor.  Given that Korea is pretty strict on the use of chemicals in food production generally, I’m not convinced that “organic” versions offer much added value.  Here, it certainly didn’t improve flavor or texture.  Most expensive by far (3 times more than the cheapest), not worth the price (unless on sale).
  5. Maeil Milk.  Collective score of 20.5.  My highest rating at 3+3.5; realizing that many of my scores were adding up to 6, I added the half-point in the second round to preempt the need for a tie-breaker; a third-round tie-breaker could’ve ended with a different favorite.  Decent price, but nobody except me seemed to like it much.
  6. Pasteur Milk.  Lowest collective score of 20.  I gave it 3+3, noting its light texture and identifying by taste memory as Pasteur.  I’m pretty sure that the lightness is what prompted the low scores from the other testers, who seemed to think that it tasted “weak” or “bland” or “watery.”  Surprisingly in converse to the Masitneun Milk GT, it has the highest (or tied for highest) amount of fat and sugar, and second highest calories.  Second most expensive, worst value overall.
“Masitneun” literally means “has flavor” but generally means “delicious.”

Reviewing the numbers together, we agreed to alternate between Masitneun Milk GT and Seoul Milk as our family’s go-to brands.  Good Milk maybe if we’re at E-Mart.  No more Pasteur or Sangha Farm (even if on sale).

(See also FOODS)

(See also PLACES)

6 thoughts on “12.122 Taste Test: Korean Milk

  1. A suggestion for a continuation of this series:
    Taste testing soju, makgeoli, beer (preferably bland, mass-produced lager-style Korean beer). With friends/alone.

    1. Well noted. Stay tuned. (Funny you should feel the need to suggest that I could do it with friends/alone.) (I’ve revised the post to include a poke at you, which I had intended to do but forgot.)

      1. That’s funny, I was actually looking for a snarky comment about my milk consumption before, to no avail.. Good to see it’s there now 🙂

        I got curious about the difference in milk consumption when it comes to Swedish vs Korean culture, and it turns out Sweden consumes 10 times more milk per capita compared to Korea! (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_milk_consumption_per_capita)
        Almost 1 litre per resident and day!

        Probably it has partially to do with the prevalence of lactose intolerance among adults… (According to a site I found (https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/lactose-intolerance-by-country) 7 % are lactose intolerant here vs 100 % in Korea, but I’m really doubtful about those exact statistics… And I’m not inclined to research more into the subject…)

  2. i still find it funny when i see a glass of milk in the background of your photo, especially next to a plate of korean food.

    930 ml of milk per person per day in sweden. my god, that’s on average, which means some drink more than that – how about you? i can’t imagine drinking more than a half-cup a day, which comes close to korea’s average. i’m surprised that japan is so high, almost 3 times korea.

    something is wrong about that website on lactose intolerance. first, nothing is 100%, there’s always margin of error. and i wasn’t able to track down the source, just reference to a systematic review, so i don’t know what data they’re using. a quick search suggests a lot of different figures for prevalence of lactose intolerance in korea, but nothing that high. just anecdotally, i’ve never heard of any korean being lactose intolerant – just look at all that milk on the shelves.

    1. I actually had the thought yesterday (upon reading those statistics) that I should start tracking how much milk I actually drink/consume. I should add that I pretty often make food that has milk as an ingredient (such as “Swedish” pancakes and oven pancakes).

      And yeah, a statistic that says “100 %” also gives me warning signs about the source… Kinda like countries (like your Northern neighbour) that has elections with 100 % turnout and 100 % for the ruling party….

      1. i just read something about exaggerating the need for hydration. the water that’s contained in the foods we eat and other drinks, even beer, count towards daily water intake.

Leave a Reply