Monday, January 23, 2012

Milk was a bad choice

 Grocery stores are a great way to see cultural differences. Often when I go traveling, I love to wander through a local grocery store for a while just to see what products they have and the weird things that pop up in the aisles. 
Typical American grocery aisle
American grocery stores are generally really big. Even the "smaller" stores are huge by most European standards. There are lot of aisles, lots of options, and lots of products. Having so many options is one of the things I believe the American consumer has come to expect. 

In Europe and in Spain, neighborhood grocery stores are generally smaller with fewer options (minus their olive oil selection which has an entire aisle). And one of the most shocking things I remember from my first few visits to a supermercado was the milk. It was just sitting there on a normal room temperature! I remember standing there for a couple minutes totally dumbfounded. Milk not refrigerated...was I in a third world country or something?

I quickly learned that most of Europe and 95% of Spain drinks UHT milk (for ultra high temperature milk). The milk is heated at a very high temperature for a short period of time allowing it to be stored at room temperature for long periods of time. Since Spain is a hot country and refrigerated transport is expensive, it makes since why it is normal to be able to keep milk at room temp.

But after drinking a glass a day of fresh pasteurized milk as a child and adult in the US, I'm still wary of the UHT. I usually only drink it mixed with something (like Cola Cao) or in cereal because the taste is a little off-putting. 

Expats or people who have tried UHT milk, do you notice a difference in the taste? Do you like UHT milk?


  1. I do notice a difference. Mario does too, after experiencing fresh milk here in the States. I don't normally drink milk by itself, but he does.

    Another note about milk--Mario said that the first time he was in the U.S. (with a host family), he was served for milk for dinner, which he thought was strange. I guess in Spain milk is generally drunk for breakfast, in coffee, or as a dessert thing (which is what he does).

  2. I hate UHT milk! I can't drink it straight, it makes me gag. However, here in Galicia some stores sell fresh milk (slightly more expensive of course, but worth it to me!), so I've been buying that instead.

  3. I totally agree with both of you! I don't particularly like UHT milk but have gotten used to it. And I drank a glass of milk everyday growing up so I can taste the difference. However it's cheaper and you can buy in bulk so I usually go for the UHT :(

    Kaley- That's something I never thought about but Spaniards generally drink milk at breakfast or kids with their merienda. Good point!

  4. I'm not a huge milk drinker. I am, however, a cereal devotee! I don't really notice the difference much with cereal BUT I CANNOT drink it warm/room temp. When I studied in Madrid my roomate sometimes would use the last of the cold milk and I'd have to go into my senora's cupboard and get the room temp milk. And this was in July! Gross. I was scarred for life.

  5. Bethany- I agree! I don't notice the taste of milk in cereal or mixed with cola cao but I usually can't drink it cold or warm with nothing.