August 27, 2009

Review: Trung Nguyen G7 Instant Coffees & Cappuccinos

Review Single Serve Coffee 3-in-1_Coffee.jpg
The G7 Instant Coffee 3 in 1

It's been a while since we've done a "mega review", so we apologize in advance to our readers if this article seems excessively long. Just keep in mind that we're reviewing over FIVE different products at once. So if you're ok with that, grab a cup (or 2) of your favorite single-serve coffee and read along.

A quick look on Trung Nguyen's website reveals that the company has been around since 1996 (possibly longer) and started off as a small business processing coffee in Ban Me Thuoc city, Vietnam. What was unique at the time was that Vietnam was one of the world's leading coffee producers but only of green, unroasted coffee beans that were sold primarily on the commodity market. This would result in no control over the final coffee quality or overall prices.

Soon afterwards, the company's owners realized the best way to be independent of the world commodity markets was to control every aspect of the growing & processing techniques and follow-through all the way to the final packaged product. They later launched Vietnamese coffee houses throughout Vietnam and a number of other countries. Today, Trung Nguyen is one of the most established, respected and successful producers of branded coffee in Vietnam.

We managed to obtain Trung Nguyen's entire line-up of instant coffees & cappuccinos which they've branded as "G7" and despite its admittedly strange choice in brand names, we've got to say that we were surprised by some of the results once we figured out the proper way to brew these products. Normally, with any instant coffee product, you dump the packet (or a spoonful) in your cup and fill it with hot water, right?

Yes, but such is not the case for the G7 line-up. Each individual product has its own specific water requirements which need to be measured out to exact proportions. The black coffee requires EXACTLY 60ml of hot water, the cappuccinos require EXACTLY 150ml, and so on (see the sections we've circled in yellow within the photo below). We were not accustomed to measuring out precise amounts of hot water (the one & only downfall of owning a variety of single-serve coffee machines which do all the measuring for us) but quickly learned just how critical the measurements would be. Too little water and the drinks were horrendously bitter or sweet, too much water and you'd wash-out all traces of flavor and be left with a lovely "cup o' blandness". Trust us folks, as annoying as it may seem, PLEASE follow the listed amounts and measure your hot water during the brew process!


Measurements.jpg

So, enough with the technicalities... we know you're only interested in one thing when it comes to instant coffees: TASTE! So let's have at 'em, shall we? It should be noted that we're listing prices for the smallest possible sizes available for ordering online. Other quantities/sizes are available for some of the products as noted.

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G7 Pure Black, 15-pack, $2.50 USD

We noticed this instant coffee appeared to be using "micro-grind" granules similar to Starbucks' VIA instant coffees and after measuring the required 60ml of hot water, we realized this would yield an amount slightly larger than a standard espresso. We did not need to stir much as the granules dissolved as soon as the water hit them. Aroma was pleasant and yielded the tartness of Arabica beans while the taste was slightly bitter/sour, as is common with espressos, yet was more in the line of a very dark roast. A bit of a sour aftertaste, but it didn't linger for long.


Coffee_Micro_Grind.jpg

Compared to your run-of-the-mill bottled brands available in grocery stores, we'd pick the G7 instant coffee any day. It makes for a nice instant espresso-like drink and the small, slim size of the packets (or "sachets" as the company calls them), is an easy choice for people who are travelling often. This coffee might also be better suited in the office environment at work as a quick morning "pick-me-up". At only $2.50 a box, we consider this a bargain vs. buying a jar of conventional freeze-dried dreck.

Speaking of which, that's another unique quality of the G7 line-up... none of the coffees are freeze-dried after brewing. As a matter of fact, they're not even brewed at all... they're a direct grind and mix of the actual beans, creamers & sugars to ensure you're getting the fullest, freshest flavor possible.


3-in-1_Coffee.jpg

G7 3-in-1, 10-pack, $2.50 USD (other sizes/quantities available)

Billed as an all-in-one coffee that incorporates the coffee beans, non-dairy creamer and sugar, this proved to be the sweetest flavor of the entire G7 line-up. Trung Nguyen also suggests an alternate use for this flavor and noted that it can be used as an iced coffee as well. We were a bit taken aback by just how sweet this flavor was and later learned that there's over 8 grams of sugar per serving. Once we got used to the taste, it proved rather pleasant as it satisfied not only our caffeine cravings but likely gave us a nice little sugar rush in the process. Make sure to keep this one away from the kids... otherwise, they'll likely be bouncing off the ceiling by mid-morning.

We think one packet (or "stick" as the company calls them) would be enough for a satisfying cup of iced coffee, but surprisingly enough, the company suggests using 2 sticks if you decide to go the "iced" route. Really? TWO sticks?!? Wow... unreal. Recommended water amounts are 85ml for one serving and we can only assume 170ml if you make an iced version (they don't really note anything else on the box instructions). If you love sugar in your coffee, you are definitely going to LOVE this flavor. The non-dairy creamer wasn't that noticeable and overall, the taste was quite good. We wouldn't want to drink this every single day of the week, but wouldn't mind having a cup when we're in the mood for something sugary.


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G7 Hazelnut Cappuccino, 20-pack, $7.95 USD

On to the first of the "instant cappuccinos" in the line-up... hazelnut. The required water amount was 150ml and it yielded a definite aroma of hazelnuts and a decent crema cap. The most surprising aspect was just how long the caps remained on the cappuccinos. We were expecting them to go flat within minutes but got distracted by a phone call only to return 30 minutes later and find the cap still intact. Hmm... we didn't know if we should be pleased or mildly afraid.


Hazelnut_Cap.jpg

Was there some sort of chemical voodoo going on here? Who knows? Regardless, we decided to forge on and do our "reviewer's duty" for our loyal readers (by the way, congrats if you've read this far without hitting-up /. or your favorite webcomic site). Taste was rather on the light side as we could detect hazelnut but also the non-dairy creamer. Thankfully, there wasn't 8 grams of sugar in this mix like the 3-in-1, so the flavors balanced-out rather evenly. It made for a decent, light-tasting alternative to what's already available on the market from competitors. We could also taste the Arabica in the background, something we can't say of competing products, so this is where Trung Nguyen's approach of blending direct-grinds of the ingredients can be truly appreciated.


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G7 Mocha Cappuccino, 20-pack, $7.95 USD

We move on to the Mocha cappuccino flavor, also a 150ml water requirement, which yielded faint aromas of cocoa. Taste was thankfully more abundant and was the flavor we liked the most out of the line-up. Cocoa was present and complemented the Arabica nicely. As with the other cappuccinos, there was more creamer than the 3-in-1, but a lot less sugar. Something else which also seemed to be present was the scent/taste of coconut in all 3 cappuccino flavors. We saw palm oil listed as one of the ingredients, but aren't sure if this could be a possible source for this. Regarless, it didn't hinder the overall results and actually complemented the hazelnut cappuccino. We can't say there's a strong taste of cocoa in this flavor, but at least there's a decent amount present.


Irish_Cap.jpg

G7 Irish Cream Cappuccino, 20-pack, $7.95 USD

We finally arrive to the Irish Cream cappuccino flavor (150ml water requirement) and have to admit that we couldn't really claim it had a full flavor to it. There seemed to be more of the hazelnut flavoring present than Irish cream (no, we didn't get the sticks mixed-up) and we wish there would have been more of the name-sake flavoring present. We even tried 2 cups in a row to make sure we had the correct flavor, but it didn't make any difference. This was by far the lightest flavor of the line-up and to be honest, we weren't too impressed. We strongly suggest trying a free sample before committing to buying a full box (more info on how to do so below)

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, Trung Nguyen markets G7 as being a "gourmet" version of instant coffee & cappuccinos which are of "export quality" (whatever that means) and compared to what we've seen from competitors, we have to admit that they've done a respectable job with what we've tried here today with the exception of the last item we reviewed. Some people may find the cappuccinos to be too lightly-flavored and the 3-in-1 to be too sugary, so we highly recommend taking advantage of the G7 free sample offer on the American website (a quick look around the Canadian site yielded free samples of the regular grind coffee beans, but we didn't notice any G7 samples anywhere).

Overall, we feel this product would be targeted to those who enjoy trying foreign products from around the world and would also make for a unique gift idea. It should be noted that those concerned of recent milk scares in China do not have to worry about this here... Trung Nguyen states on their website that all the creamers in the G7 line-up are NON-DAIRY based and do not contain ANY content/sources from China. Hey, we wouldn't have tried it otherwise, so no worries. We fully recommend giving any of the G7 flavors a try, especially since you can get free samples at no cost. So go ahead and check out the websites below for more information.

Trung Nguyen's G7 instant coffees & cappuccinos are imported in America by Clockwork Commerce (Medford, MA) and can be purchased online via www.trung-nguyen-online.com. Our Canadian readers can also order G7 online via www.handocoffee.com.

Update: Note the FREE samples are FREE provided you order one of their other coffees. This isn't really FREE but does give you the ability to get some G7 and sample a bunch of the other coffees at the same time.

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Posted by Jay Brewer at August 27, 2009 7:31 AM

Recent Comments

I hadn't noticed that until you pointed it out. Seems rather odd. Did you try calling the company at the number listed on the site to find out why these samples aren't so "free" after all? They might be able to explain their reasoning behind this.


Posted by: SH at September 1, 2009 3:28 PM

I would have been glad to try the free samples but, when I put them in the basket and tried to check out, I got a message saying the minimum order was $9.99.
So the samples aren't really free if you have to buy something in order to get them.


Posted by: Janet at September 1, 2009 8:14 AM
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