Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area smack dab in the middle of the so-called health food movement, smoothies were everywhere. That is, before fro-yo swept through and became the trendy snack du jour. Poor little smoothies. But smoothie chain Jamba Juice lives on, ever popular in malls across the country. There is even a Jamba Juice in the strip mall right across the street from my high school, which continues to be swarmed by teenagers reveling in the glory of an open campus every lunch hour.
I've heard my friends go on and on about the merits of Caribbean Passion versus Strawberries Wild versus Mango-A-Go-Go, but none of it ever stuck to me. Honestly, I could never really tell the difference between the majority of the flavors. (And I'm more of a milkshake person anyway.)
I gave Jamba another try at Serious Eats Headquarters when we tasted samples of the new line of Jamba Juices—Make It Light versions of its ten Classic flavors. These smoothies aim to offer the same flavor as the originals but with a third less calories, carbs, and sugar. They use a "low calorie dairy base" that includes skim milk and Splenda.
Some stood out from the pack and managed to avoid tasting artificial; here's my report on the winners and losers.
Banana Berry: Bananas tend to take over everything they're featured in, but this smoothie tames the banana flavor with berries. The low-cal base isn't even noticeable here; the banana helps to boost this smoothie's creamy texture.
Mango-A-Go-Go had more of a sorbet-like texture, and was a little less creamy. The mango flavor shined through in this smoothie, without the artificiality you would expect with low-cal substitutes.
Peach Pleasure was basically a creamier version of the Mango. It had a pleasant, slightly sour peach flavor and scent but wasn't oversweet.
Caribbean Passion also proved enjoyable, though it included a more noticeable artificial-sugar aftertaste than the other winners. The smoothie boasts a powerful citrus flavor and a creamy texture.
The Razzmatazz, Strawberry Surf Rider, Aloha Pineapple, Strawberries Wild, Pomegranate Pick-Me-Up, and Orange-a-peel were nearly indistinguishable in flavor, and displayed an aggressive icy and grainy quality across the board. Their flavors were all in sweet-and-sour limbo with a hint of artificial sweetener, and none was particularly memorable.
Have you tried Jamba Juice's new Make It Light smoothies? What do you think?