Are you too cool for Qoola?
11 Comments Karen HamiltonFebruary 5, 2009
My most vivid memories of frozen yogurt involved snoozing studying at the Central library with liberal Yogen Fruz breaks in between. I didn’t necessarily like frozen yogurt. It was the closest thing to ice cream in the vicinity that didn’t involve going to the 7-11 for Oreo sandwiches topped with freezer burn. Now kids, this was years ago, back in the day when graduating from SFU was a distant goal and The Britney still made pretenses to innocence. It was before even that fateful day that I came to grips with my one dietary restriction (sigh) – lactose intolerance.
During that time, frozen yogurt was all the rage and no one had even heard of that Italian way that ices were prepared. Not that the frozen yogurt options were at all impressive: they were a hair’s breadth better than the soft serve iced milk at McDonald’s but still originating from a lifeless white brick that gets tossed into a machine, rattled around with even more insipid frozen fruit, and then squeezed out into a styrofoam receptacle in a manner much too similar to 2 Girls 1 Cup ( <– if you don’t know, don’t ask).
When gelato overtook frozen yogurt, I didn’t look back. Yogen Fruz had nothing on the likes of Mondo Gelato. Summers were spent happily chipping away at quivering towers of lactose-free sorbets made with fresh fruit and soy-based gelatos mingled with European chocolate. I’d even venture out in the middle of winter if a craving struck.
So when we returned home from our tropical vacation, busily resorting to soups, teas, hot chocolate and toques to acclimatize to this unseasonally chilly city, I looked upon my inbox in dismay. There was an invitation to sample the wares at Qoola, Vancouver’s latest entrée into the frozen yogurt biz, who had recently had their soft launch and were looking to garner feedback from local foodies.
All my recollections of frozen yogurt came flooding back, and I must admit, I wasn’t entirely enthusiastic. I was a gelato convert, after all. But other words excited me on the invite. Organic. Environmentally responsible. Crepes. Waffles. And, most curious of all, the descriptor “fresh frozen”. Fresh but frozen? I had to see it for myself.
My family and I passed through the glass storefront of Qoola and were greeted at the glowing counter by owners Warrick and Jesse. We sat down at a table with a clear view of the multitudinous toppings and the dizzying menu options. It was a good thing that the atmosphere was so Zen, because I certainly was intimidated by the number of toppings (over 40!) at my disposal and the liberty with which I can choose to dollop them over my yogurt of choice.
Not seeing any immediate combo ideas on the menu or the counter, we requested the team at Qoola to prepare us a sample of each of their available yogurts topped with the flavours that they would recommend. This is what we got:
- Vanilla Qoolala with green apples, chocolate chips, and caramel sauce
- Green tea Qoolala with mochi, blueberries, and marionberry syrup
- Chocolate Qoolala with an overload of chocolate toppings (triple chocolate shavings, chocolate sauce, and Oreo cookie crumble)
- The month’s specialty flavour: raspberry Qoolala with fresh strawberries, cocoa pebbles, and triple chocolate shavings
The group favourite was easily the raspberry Qoolala. Vibrant colour, true flavouring, fresh fruit, and a bit of coo-coo crunch from the pebbles. While I liked the unusual green tea combo best, chewing thoughtfully on the white chunks of mochi, my brother found too little matcha personality in the green tea yogurt. My husband, an apple fiend, catered mostly to the vanilla yogurt, while most toyed with the chocolate, which was at once not rich and not dainty enough for the varying tastes at the table.
The four yogurts were doled out in the smaller of its two available sizings, and even with 2 guests that hadn’t eaten dinner, the abundance of topping and the quality of the yogurt quickly filled us up. Warrick and Jesse wanted us to sample as much as possible, so as we chatted with them about their business, they continued to deliver more items for us to try, like the acai energy bowl that looks like chocolate porridge and tastes like a chilled smoothie with banana and granola folded in.
Also sampled was the Qrush: a blue swirl of a smoothie / yogurt blend containing vanilla yogurt and acai, pomegranate, and blueberry. It was a large and tasty treat that I can see doubling as a power breakfast for someone on the go.
With it being the middle of winter, I heated up my belly with sips of Herbal Republic rooibos tea that smelled enticingly of caramel and vanilla. The tea bag, like most of the dishware in the store, was biodegradable and came with no strings attached (pun intended).
At some point, I took a moment to calculate what it would have cost me to pay for all the items we were trying. A small yogurt at $3.95 with 3 toppings at $0.89 apiece would already run you close to $7 – yikes! We were all a little taken aback by the price (even though ice creamery neighbour Marble Slab can cost much more for much less), so I asked after any deals that may be available to walk-in traffic or as a seasonal special.
Warrick pointed out the sandwich board on the sidewalk that describes their 11am – 7pm special: a small yogurt of your choice with 2 topping for $5 inclusive. Should you be in the mood for their waffle selection, you could also enjoy a waffle combo, with 2 toppings and your choice of hot beverage, for $5 inclusive. All hot drinks are a flat $2 all day. The availability of these reduced-price offers assuaged my budgetary concerns and gave me cheap options without needing to order to a yogurt plain.
Hope for the lactose intolerant
I had prepared my digestive system for this visit with a healthy dose of extra-strength Lactaid and and my eye marking quick exits as we had strolled in. After several email exchanges with Jesse after the fact, perhaps I need not have worried. I’ll let Jesse describe in his own words how the lactose intolerant may rejoice at Qoola:
People that have lactose intolerance are deficient in an enzyme called lactase, produced in the small intestine. Lactase primarily breaks down the sugars found in milk into simple sugars (glucose and galactose) and the body is then able to absorb them. People with lactose intolerance aren’t able to break down these sugars as efficiently and thus the body reacts with symptoms suchs as nausea, diarrhea, gas, etc.
Our yogurt is not officially lactose-free as it contains minute to zero quantities of lactose (which is the primary sugar contained in milk). Thus, we can’t say that it is certified to have absolutely ZERO lactose in it. However, if there is any lactose at all, the probiotic cultures that our fresh frozen yogurt contains utilize any amounts of lactose to create the acids that is part of the standard process of turning milk into yogurt during the fermentation process. Milk in and of itself is rife with lactose. During the fermentation process of converting milk to yogurt, our billions of little probiotic buddies help create the lactase that a person that is deficient in lactase needs and thus, helps with the digestion. Recent studies have even inferred that eating yogurt with probiotic cultures can help reduce one’s lactose intolerance.
Qoola‘s emphasis on being the only establishment to offer fresh frozen yogurt vs powdered, reconstituted yogurt is more than a marketing point to the public – it’s because we truly believe that the beneficial qualities of having as many live and active cultures possible can only be a good thing, especially in cases of people with lactose intolerance. An establishment that serves frozen yogurt that uses a powdered base can say that there are probiotic cultures in their product. However, the quantity is severely reduced during the heat treating process that is use to create powdered yogurt and thus, an enormous majority of cultures are destroyed. For us to be able to display the Live and Active Cultures seal, we have to have at least 10 million live cultures per gram. Ours has well over 100 million per gram. Thus, we are the only establishment in Vancouver (or BC even) to be able to display that seal.
As an aside, we had a customer come in and ask about this same question since she was lactose intolerant. She was willing to try a sample cup of our yogurt as a test since she lives in our neighborhood. She came back a couple of days later with her husband and was all smiles. No bloating. No gas. No upset stomach. So, take that as you will. We cannot fully guarantee that everyone with lactose intolerance can partake in our product with impunity but those who would like to come down and take the “The Test” is more than welcome.
Hooray for another business that is thinking about their footprint and sustainability!
Since its beginnings, Qoola has been working with Green Table to green its operations and at the time of our first meeting, had hopes to become an official member of the Green Table network by the end of January.
Some of the environmental practices I observed from Qoola are meticulous choice of compostable take-out containers (from US-based Trellis Earth); clearly marked recycling and composting waste bins; wall art that doubles as energy-efficient evening lighting so that the daylight floods can be switched off; and active interest in learning from or collaborating with other businesses that have similar greening initiatives.
Qoola reviewed around the city
I’m always one to seek a second opinion, so here are links to other bloggers who had taken Qoola up on their invitation (or something like it):
- Miss 604 – Review: Qoola Yogurt and Fruit on Denman
- Hummingbird604 – Qoola Yogurt + Fruit (Denman Street, West End)
- Chow Times – Qoola on Denman, Vancouver
- Deelish – Kintaro Ramen + Qoola
- Tasting Vancouver – Visit to Qoola Yogurt + Fruit
- TBDFBTI – Makin’ some moola with Qoola
- I’m Only Here for the Food – Qoola Frozen Yogurt + Fruit
- Modern Mix Vancouver – Qoola Yogurt + Fruit
- Eat n’ About – Qoola Yogurt + Fruit
- I Love Food Blog - Qoola (Fresh) Frozen Yogurt + Fruit
Qoola Grand Opening festivities ahead
I thought I was too cool for Qoola, but instead, I walked out with a tummy laden with more fruit than I’d normally consume, a conscience free of styrofoam, an education on yogurt, its production, and its benefits, and every intention of coming back to taste test the plethora of edibles on their grand opening on February 14th, to which you are all invited.
Qoola Yogurt + Fruit
1116 Denman St | West End