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Probiotics and cons of yoghurt

In the old South Africa, yoghurt used to be vaguely associated with people who ate wheat germ and waited for ­flying saucers to take them away to a better world.

In fact, right up to the late 1980s, almost the only yoghurt available locally was the thin “Bulgarian” variety from DairyBelle, sold in cartons and drunk through a straw or used as an ingredient in baked goodies.

There were always South African backpackers returning from exotic climes on the Mediterranean with fantastical tales of delicious extra-thick yoghurts and rumours of goat’s milk yoghurt laced with honey.

In the end, yoghurt caught on mostly thanks to the health industry of the early 1990s, and to 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 thermophilus, which provides that distinct aroma and the tart Granny Smith apple flavour.  

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 pasteurisation 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, though my GP says you’d have to eat kilograms of the stuff to get the equivalent benefit of a good probiotic pill.

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%. When a little frozen yoghurt parlour opened on Kloof Street in December 2011, it appeared Cape Town had been blessed with yet another brand, Myög. Its cheerful signage, cool colour scheme and eye-catching logo led many to assume it was the first branch of an international chain.

The interior is 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 the owners, not employees. They are the handsome duo of Frenchmen Joris Hadjadj, who hails from Auxerre, and Jean-Eric Leblanc of Montereau.

Myög, which stands for My Yoghurt, has been an instant hit, though somewhat forsaken during last year’s long Cape winter.

The story is familiar to Cape­tonians. The two came on holiday, fell in love with the place 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 brands a sherbet taste). Their frozen yoghurt is rich in calcium, potassium and is ­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 75 calories. The yoghurt is specially produced for them at a Cape dairy farm using fresh skimmed milk (not UHT), which means it has a relatively short shelf life. This is partly why they offer only one weekly flavour, in addition to plain, cycling through real peanut butter, coconut (very subtle), mixed berries, Nutella, and rooibos. They will soon add cinnamon.

Toppings include nuts, Astros, muesli, Oreos and fresh fruit.

Myög also 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.

Myög 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 well under way to open an outlet in Sea Point. Perhaps a new franchise has landed after all.

Myög Frozen Yoghurt, 103 Kloof Street, Gardens. Visit myog-frozen-yogurt.com

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Brent Meersman
Brent Meersman
Brent Meersman is a political novelist Primary Coloured, Reports Before Daybreak. He has been writing for the Mail & Guardian since 2003 about things that make life more enjoyable – the arts, literature and travel and in his Friday column, Once Bitten food. If comments on the internet are to be believed, he is a self-loathing white racist, an ultra-left counter-revolutionary, a neo-liberal communist capitalist, imperialist anarchist, and most proudly a bourgeois working-class lad. Or you can put the labels aside and read what he writes. Visit his website: www.meersman.co.za

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