In L.A., they were calling it "crackberry" and "frozen heroin juice." Consumers jovially referred to themselves as "addicts."
But supposedly, it was good for you. After all, they were only talking about yogurt.
Pinkberry yogurt, more precisely: a milk-based frozen yogurt concoction said to contain only 25 calories per ounce. A yogurt so good that lines rounded the block, and (rich) people sneered at $60 parking tickets.
Then New York got wind of things the usual way, skipping geographic points in-between and pinkberry franchises began springing up there.
It'd only be a matter of time before the chain bled elsewhere. But local Coffee & Tea Zone owners Young and Kathy Yoon didn't feel like waiting around.
Having tried the swirled concoction on a visit to L.A., they beat a path to the distributor's door and have begun serving a pinkberry ... um, imitation they're calling "Zoneberry."
Young says when he first tried pinkberry, he found it refreshing, and felt a "craving" for it later.
The frozen yogurt is typically served with between one and three toppings, among them blackberries, granola, even Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles.
Minus the toppings, the yogurt itself is a little sour and tangy under a mild sweetness, like real yogurt. You can taste the cultures inside the velvety texture.
Over the past month, two coworkers have developed regular "cravings" for Zoneberry. A few others have tried and enjoyed it once, but shown no follow-up enthusiasm. Only one person didn't like it, not for the taste, but because of the way she felt a bit "dizzy" afterward.
Me, I dig it, especially with raspberries and chocolate chips. It's not too sweet, seems healthy enough and subtly picks up the flavor of the toppings.
Though pinkberry has posted nutritional information at pinkberry.com, confirming that the yogurt contains "natural sweeteners," it's never revealed the recipe. Some speculate that the company is lying about the caloric count and hiding a dirty secret. According to National Public Radio, one man in Southern California is even suing pinkberry for not disclosing its ingredients.
Zoneberry, on the other hand, is strictly nonfat yogurt minus any sweeteners, maintains Kathy Yoon, who graciously read me the ingredients listed on her yogurt base. Aside from live cultures, milk, a touch of lemon juice and standard emulsifiers/stabilizers, there are no lurking sugar sources. The Yoons believe their product is healthier than pinkberry.
But where does that sweet taste come from?
For once in life: true magic.
Yoon traces pinkberry's genesis halfway around the world to Korea, about five years ago. An entrepreneurial young South Korean woman opened pinkberry's original store in West Hollywood in January 2005. Within a year, she claimed to be serving more than 1,300 customers daily from her 600-square-foot store.
The Yoons were the first to bring Boba (chewy tapioca pudding balls added to drinks) here, and say that has grown popular. They're confident Zoneberry will catch on, too. firstname.lastname@example.org
Coffee & Tea Zone
25 N. Tejon St., 632-3887
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
Zoneberry prices: 8-ounce, 12-ounce and 16-ounce sizes start at $2.50; $.99 per topping or three toppings for $1.99