Food crazes come and go over the years, most with little staying power in the turbulent tides of an ever-changing market. Right now the buzz is all about super foods and antioxidants, alternatives to the traditional idea of diets, and generally healthier alternatives – All good concepts that I can fully support, even if many companies are more concerned with their bottom line than their consumers’ health. Even when the best intentions from wholesome brands are put forward with an honest desire to cater to the health conscious crowd, it’s not uncommon to fall short when it comes to overall appeal.
We’ve seen a particularly huge surge in pomegranate, green tea, all the “usual” suspects that until recently were about as common in American food products as durian fruit. Riding this wave all the way to the bank is Cliff, producer of many different granola bars, including one of my favorites, the Luna Bar. Having an eye on new and interesting concepts, as soon as I caught wind that there new Luna products were to include these trendy ingredients, the only question in my mind was how soon I might be able to sample them. Despite the fact that their previous attempt to expand with the Luna Sunrise Bars was a complete an d utter failure, I still trusted that they could still recover after such a blow. Everyone makes mistakes, after all.
Giving good old Luna a second chance, I purchased one of all three flavors of their brand new Tea Cakes at Wild Oats, each bearing an attractive label similar to their standard bar. Now, I do have a bone to pick about their marketing efforts: I truly despise packages that try to suggest that eating their contents will in fact help you lose weight, clear up acne, attract a mate, improve your hearing… Whatever they claim, the truth is that no single food eaten on one occasion could have any serious impact on any deep-rooted conditions. It might be a great, healthy option that is in fact good for you, but just one granola bar will not allow you to live longer than you would have otherwise. Sorry.
Ignoring the claims in enticing white lettering, other statements on the exterior wrapper bore more encouraging messages, such as a good commitment to organic ingredients, and the inclusion of a veritable truck load of vitamins. Having rekindled my hopes slightly, I grabbed the nearest bar and tore open the protective plastic encasement. The name of “Tea Cake” had convinced me that I was about to be eating something akin to a… Well… Cake! But in reality, it looked no different from what could also be classified as a granola bar, and in fact looked as though it could be a close cousin to the original Cliff Bar, albeit a slightly more petite. The tea part comes in by way of infusion from actual tea leaves, so I’m told. Very different from the mother Luna bar though, the only real similarity to the original as far as appearance went were the signature waves of icing drizzled gracefully across the top. Ultimately, they all looked pretty much the same, with different colored speckles for various fruits and / or nuts.
Nibbling cautiously at a corner, my teeth met with a pleasing resistance and a further bite revealed the moist, chewy texture overall. Much easier to eat than the hard soy crisps of the original, I quickly saw that I was in for a real treat, not just some trendy “health food” junk.
Removing the small rectangular tea cake produced a strong aroma of vanilla, shortly followed by an intensely sweet smell. Almost overwhelming to the point of repulsion, I wondered if something so apparently sweet wasn’t made of just pure sugar! Moving in for the kill and tasting further, I was thankful that the extreme sugary scent I picked up at first only manifested itself in the frosting. The bar itself wasn’t overly sweet at all, and the icing actually provided a nice contrast.
Sprinkled throughout are a good deal of hazelnuts, crunchy and satisfying, along with some slightly tart goji berries. With its relatively mildly flavored base, most of the vanilla seemed to be coming from the white ribbons on top, which is a nice touch in that it doesn’t make the bar overpowering or tiring to eat.
Extremely pungent again, almost to the point of smelling overwhelmingly artificial, there is no question from the first whiff that this bar will be berry flavored. Expecting the base to be the source of most of the berry flavor, topped by the standard extra-sugary but essentially tasteless icing, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a distinctly fruity aspect to the frosting gracing the top of the cake.
Assembling a mélange of various (And seemingly random) berries to construct the base, copious amounts blueberries and goji berries are found throughout, but I was somewhat disappointed to learn that pomegranate was only present in the form of indistinguishable puree, no full pieces. Perhaps it added a lovely undertone, but having never eaten plain pomegranate before, I wouldn’t be able to say for sure.
Overall, this variant was good, but having a strong distaste for fake fruit-flavored items, this one does skirt the line at times.
With a very tropical citrus scent coming from the open package, I expected great things to come of it, and was not disappointed in the least. Tasting all of the complex flavors carefully, what I found most striking was the nice astringent bite it provided. Mixing in sizable chunks of dried apricot, the fruit provides a nice mellow undertone while a bright orange flavor takes the spot light. I was relieved to see that goji berries didn’t find their way into this bar, since I feel that their extremely sour properties would have thrown off the delicate balance of the tea cake.
This was perhaps the only bar that I could really see the white tea coming into play, as the flavors actually reminded me of its namesake for the first time.
Over all, I was extremely impressed by this new line of Luna bars, and I would have to say that Luna has more than redeemed itself for its past faux-pas that goes by the name of Sunrise. Still relatively new on the market, the Luna Tea Cakes may be a bit difficult to find, but if you can get your hands on them, you won’t regret making this purchase.