Perhaps no food has been more closely linked to health geeks than yoghurt. In the old South Africa, yoghurt used to be vaguely associated with people who eat wheat germ and await flying saucers to take them to a better world.
In fact right up and until the late 1980s, almost the only yoghurt available locally was the thin “Bulgarian” variety from Dairy Belle, sold in cartons for drinking through a straw, or thrown in as an ingredient for certain baked goodies.
And yet, there were always South African backpackers returning from exotic climes on the Mediterranean with fantastical tales of delicious extra-thick yoghurts and rumours of goats milk yoghurt laced with honey.
In the end, yoghurt caught on mostly thanks to the health kick industry of the early 1990s and reports about the longevity of Bulgarians. Places such as Camphill Village led the way with organic pastures. Yoghurt-making machines became a brief craze and could be found on hypermarket shelves. Anybody completing a course of antibiotics was encouraged to binge on yoghurt. Today, yoghurt is virtually a staple food in South Africa.
Yoghurt is essentially fermented milk, not curdled milk as reported by among others the Oxford English Dictionary. Two strains of lactic bacilli working together are responsible: Lactobacillus bulgarius, which acidifies the milk, and Streptococcus thermophylus, which provides that distinct aroma and the tart Granny Smith apple flavor.
Much continues to be made of the digestive health benefits of prebiotic and probiotic cultures in yoghurt. In general, strains used by industrial manufacturers are either killed in pasteurization or don’t survive in the human intestine, so the idea of repopulating your gut’s flora and fauna with those yoghurts is quackery. Some strains do colonise however, and these “probiotics” must be live and noted on the labels, although my GP says you’d have to eat kilograms of the stuff to get the equivalent benefit of a good probiotic pill.( A warning: the market is flooded with thousands of dud probiotic drinks and products.)
Sticking to the health theme, frozen yoghurt was “invented” in the 1970s in the United States as an alternative to ice cream. In South Africa, it was pioneered by Marcel’s, starting in 1989 in Stellenbosch. By 2005, probiotic BB-12 cultures were introduced and the fat content reduced to 2.4%. They have 19 stores in four provinces and are expanding to Saudi Arabia.
Another frozen yoghurt franchise is Wakaberrÿ which started in Durban in May 2011 and now has 16 outlets in four provinces.
When a little frozen yogurt parlour opened on Kloof Street in December 2011, it appeared Cape Town had been blessed with yet another brand, Myög. Its bold and cheerful signage, cool colour scheme, and eye-catching logo led many to assume it was the first branch of some international chain.
But the interior was slightly quirky, with AstroTurf on the counters and the floor, and funky white leather couches and chairs. Taken together with the extremely attentive and personable service in slightly hesitant English, one quickly gleaned that behind the counter were owners not employees. They are the handsome duo of Frenchmen Joris Hadjadj, who hails from Auxerre, and Jean-Eric Leblanc of Montereu.
Myög (standing for My Yoghurt) has been an instant hit, though somewhat forsaken during last year’s long, Cape winter.
The story is familiar to Capetonians. They came on holiday to Cape Town, fell in love with the city, and devised a way to stay.
They did their research and saw a gap in the market for their passion – frozen yoghurt.
The South African taste it seems is for creamy and sweet. They too focus on health, outlawing artificial flavourants and heaven forbid no yoghurt powder (which gives some frozen yoghurt brands a sherbet taste). Their frozen yoghurt is rich in calcium, potassium, and its halaal certified. It has 5% sugar and 2% fat (Myög prefers to advertise this as “98% fat free”). In comparison, normal yoghurt has 4% and Greek-style 10% fat. By contrast, regular cream is 18% and double-thick cream 48%.
A regular size Myög serving is 150ml and has 75kcal. The yoghurt is specially produced for them from a single Cape dairy farm using fresh skimmed milk (not UHT), which means the yoghurt has a relatively short shelf life. This is partly why in addition to plain they offer only one weekly flavor, cycling through real peanut butter, coconut (very subtle), mixed berries, Nutella, and rooibos. They will soon add cinnamon.
Toppings include nuts, Astros, muesli, Oreo cookies, fresh seasonal fruit (in summer and when available, mango, kiwi, strawberries, pineapple and melon, and in winter apple, pear and banana).
Myög offers its flavours in smoothies. The rooibos is my favourite; the inclusion of nuts with the rooibos was a taste revelation. You can also try the parfait with layers of yogurt, muesli and fruit.
To date Myög had been open from noon till 10pm, but will soon open for breakfast from 9am. Large waffles promise to be popular, as well as their invention, a Yoffee – coffee with frozen yoghurt instead of milk or cream.
Plans are now well underway to open an outlet in Sea Point. Perhaps, a new franchise has landed after all.
Myög Frozen Yoghurt, 103 Kloof Street, Gardens. Info: myog-frozen-yogurt.com
This article first appeared in the Mail & Guardian on 3 May 2013.