Koia. Koia. Koia. What a cool name! A cool name to say out loud like a chant. It sounds kind of tribal doesn’t it? Or isn’t there even a type of wood called ‘Koia’? I feel like there is. The Koia brand is just cool. I think I’ll just start right there, with an overview of their packaging:
Koia Packaging & Branding ROCKS.
Branding is everything, and clearly Koia knows a thing or two about it. I think that there logo is even handsome. They are walking that fine line between modern and sort of heritage/tribal-y. The product itself is very modern in that it is super clean and natural. And then they have married it to a sort of mysterious and captivating tribal them that pulls the consumer in. It’s super effective. They have also done a good job of allowing the consumer to SEE the product inside by using these clear plastic bottles. I don’t know if they are as eco-friendly as a paper carton but I personally love being able to see the color and texture of the product inside, so I think Koia’s packaging is lovely. I give them a 9/10 on packaging it is very well-done. Let’s look at what is INSIDE these pretty bottles now:
What is in Koia Plant Protein Shakes?
Well here’s the thing- Koia now makes THREE different product lines (yes they seem to be expanding quite rapidly!). The latest is actually a keto-friendly product called ‘Koia Keto’ which just launched in my Whole Foods. Let’s look at the Koia Keto product first:
Koia Keto Macros:
Total Fat 22g
Sat Fat 20g
Total Carb 10g
Dietary Fiber 5g
NOTES: As you can see, the Koia KETO product has a LOT of fat in it. And most of it is saturated. 20g is just way too high for me given my family’s history of heart disease. I don’t care of cavemen drank this way or not- the amount of fat is insane in here. The sodium is also rather high for my liking. And for a protein shake, 12g isn’t all that much especially when there is so much fat.
Koia Keto Ingredients:
Coconut milk (filtered water, coconut cream), mct oil, Koia proprietary protein blend (brown rice protein, pea protein, chickpea protein), coconut water concentrate, chicory root fiber, natural flavors, sunflower lecithin, sea salt, locust bean gum, gellan gum and monk fruit extract
NOTES: The ingredients are pretty straight-forward here. You will note that the coconut cream is providing all of the fat along with MCT oil. We are not sure where the MCT oil is derived from but again there must be a LOT of it in here. The protein is coming via a blend of pea, brown rice, and chickpea. Flavoring and textural ingredients round out the ingredients list.
Okay so that’s the KETO. My synopsis there is that even for a KETO product it has just way too much saturated fat. The original Koia formula has much less fat, and slightly higher protein than the KETO version. If you are curious my opinion on regular Koia vs Koia Keto, I’m taking the regular every time. There is another good reason for that which I’ll get into in my Koia Side Effects section below. But let’s go over the fine details of regular Koia first:
Koia (Original) Macros:
Total Fat 7g
Sat Fat 0.5g
Total Carb 13g
Dietary Fiber 7g
NOTES: As you can see, this product has MUCH less fat than the KETO formula. The protein is also about 50% higher in this one, which has 18 grams in it vs. the 12 in KETO. I like the macros MUCH better in the original Koia formula here…
Koia (Original) Ingredients:
Almond milk (filtered water, almonds), Koia proprietary protein blend (brown rice protein, pea protein, hemp protein), chicory root fiber, organic cane sugar, natural flavors, vanilla extract, sunflower lecithin, sea salt, monk fruit extract, locust bean gum, gellan gum and coconut flour
NOTES: This regular Koia does not contain the fatty ingredients, and also uses a different combination of vegan proteins. This time you still have brown rice and pea, but HEMP rounds out the blend. Also note that the original Koia still has the brown rice protein listed FIRST just like the KETO version which means that the majority of the protein is coming from this source. A similar roster of flavoring ingredients is used for the original as in the KETO.
*I have yet to try any of the Koia Fruit Infusions line but once I do, I will update this section with those details!
Okay. So. Those are the technical details of the Koia products that I have tried. A few closing thoughts re:ingredients and formulation: I think these products are really nicely designed. Koia uses real ingredients, and clean ones at that. I don’t see a whole lot of certified ORGANIC ingredients, but overall they are nicely composed. The Koia Keto product still makes me uncomfortable with all that saturated fat and because of the misconceptions around what KETO is and isn’t, there are going to be some people who are not using Koia Keto as a healthful part of their diet, but I supposed that is true with any consumer good. But. Let’s talk about the KOIA Flavors now.
What is the Best Flavor of Koia?
Let’s start with the five flavors of Koia Original. I’ll describe each and then tell you my personal pick for the top flavor.
Cold Brew Coffee: This flavor is bitter, and is probably the least sweet, in my opinion. You guys know I have never been a big coffee fan so I wasn’t loving this flavor.
Vanilla Bean: The vanilla Koia is quite tasty. I liked the texture and the TYPE of vanilla that they use in here is also really good. It’s smooth and bold at the same time- like a perfect mix of vanilla bean and french vanilla, if that makes sense? It’s yummy.
Cacao Bean: The cacao bean AKA ‘chocolate’ flavor of Koia is good, but maybe a little too ‘dark’ / bitter for me. I like dark chocolate as much as the next gal, but this interpretation was a bit over the top. The first sip is awesome but then you are left wishing it was a little smoother and less bitter. I didn’t love this one.
Coconut Almond: This was actually my favorite of the five Koia protein shake flavors. It was smooth, sweeter than the others, and had a super ‘real’ coconut flavor. It reminded me of vacationing to Hawaii when I was younger. I really enjoyed this one.
Cinnamon Horchata: This is more of an exotic flavor from the Koia folks, which I appreciate as a reviewer of their brand. As a consumer, however, this flavor missed the mark for me. I just don’t think horchata translates well into a plant-protein drink very well.
Okay. So as you can tell- the BEST flavor of Koia is the coconut almond. I know for some of you that don’t like almond, you won’t love it, but it really is the most balanced, tasty menu item for the regular non-keto Koia line-up. Second place would go to the regular vanilla, which is also quite good.
What is the Best Flavor of Koia KETO?
The KETO version of Koia has a totally different menu line-up consisting of three unique flavors. I really like how creative and ‘outside-the-box’ they went with these. Here are my thoughts on each flavor:
Chocolate Brownie: This was my introduction to the Koia flavors, and it’s actually quite good. It is true to it’s name in the sense that there are actual real brownie notes in here- which must have been incredible challenging to pull off. But. It’s pretty awesome that they actually made it taste like brownie. I thought it might be a little TOO sweet, but it’s not quite as bitter as the regular Koia Cacao flavor so I enjoyed this one. One thing to note about this, and ALL three Koia KETO flavors is that texturally-speaking there is a little bit of a, hm, how to say this, ‘scratchy-ness’ that exists as you swallow each sip? It is strange and I think it is from the MCT oil but it’s almost like a little MCT-burn or something. It’s not super noticeable at first but as you get to the halfway point of your jar you will notice that little bit of off-taste. Or off-sensation really. It’s much more of a sensation that a flavor. But. I think alot of MCT-containing products have that.
Cake Batter: This flavor had me SO excited because, I mean…who doesn’t love cake?? But unfortunately I don’t think Koia pulled this one off too well. Similar to the horchata flavor in the original line-up, I’m just not so sure that Cake Batter translates well into a natural vegan drink. It does have SOME notes of cake, but I think this flavor just allows too much of those vegan protein-y flavors to show through.
Caramel Creme: By far the most sensuous NAME of any of the three Koia Keto flavors, the caramel creme will get you all hot and bothered when you see it on the shelf. It has some pretty authentic caramel notes and for a few sips you are a true believer. It does sort of fade quickly though as some more of those MCT and protein flavors start to take over. It’s a decent effort but I think they needed to crank up the intensity of these caramel flavors. Maybe a little more salt too but then you start to mess with sodium content and that’s not what anyone wants, so. I think they did about as good as they could have done here.
The bottom line is that the Chocolate Brownie is the best flavor of Koia Keto. This product seems to have been more of a flavoring challenge and I’m not surprised that the most bold flavor (with natural bitterness from the chocolate) turned out being the best Koia Keto flavor. The cake batter and caramel creme are remarkable efforts and neither are ‘bad’- it’s just that the brownie is best.
Overall I’m very impressed by the Koia flavors both Keto and non-Keto. I think for a vegan, all-natural, high-protein ready-to-drink they have really done a fabulous job.
NOTE: Come to find out that the man behind this brand used to operate Four Loko- remember those?? (or actually I DON’T remember a whole lot of anything from Four Loko nights LOL). But. Point being- this guy clearly knows a thing or two about making a great-tasting ‘functional’ beverage. Lol. Okay. This has been an absolute MONSTER of a Koia Review…let’s summarize and sca-daddle.
Koia Review Summary
So. What have we learned here? Here are my highlights:
-Koia is a new company from the founder of Four Loko that makes high-protein, vegan, high-protein beverages in creative flavors
- The Koia branding and packaging is totally on the mark- combining highly technical products with organic, ancient-culture-esque messaging and visuals in a lovely juxtaposition
- The Koia flavors are creatively chosen, and have varying degrees of success. My top picks are the coconut almond (regular/non-keto) and the chocolate brownie (keto)
- The Koia ingredients are all-natural, and nicely arranged. I think the KETO product has just too much fat, but then again I approach these KETO things through a different lens of cardiac health
Koia is the first of what I believe will be a WAVE of high-protein, all-natural ready-to-drink beverages. And I think it may end up being one of the best out there and will ward off the competitors because it has the x-factor combination of great taste, and thoughtful, high-quality formulations. Koia is expensive, but worth the shot.*