The Best Bagel

by post_author

As part of our group’s “Ultimate Starch Attack”, I taste tested 6 bagels from different cafes in Harvard Square. To make judging fair, I ordered a plain, untoasted bagel (cut in half) from each restaurant. After suffering severe carb overdoses, the bagel from Darwin’s Ltd. emerged the winner.

Initially, I did some research into what makes a good bagel and learned that a bagel’s texture and appearance play a large part in its quality. A good bagel should not need to be toasted, and should have a crunchy crust with a soft, bready interior. The crust should have bubbles, and be a dark golden brown. The inside bread should also have plenty of holes, since these appear when a bagel is boiled and baked well.

Our group also decided to use emojis as an additional way to describe taste and texture. The post on “The Best Bar” has a key to the different emoji descriptions.

ROUND 1

Darwin’s Ltd.  $1.60 ??

Taste: ☀️??

Texture: ☁️?⛲️

Appearance (out of 5): ????

Desirability (out of 5): ?????

The Darwin’s bagel was a dark, golden brown giving it a proper baked appearance. A rough texture, and clear wrinkles helped add to the proper bagel aesthetic. It had a few medium sized crust bubbles, and plenty of holes in the interior bread. The crust was slightly shiny. It smelt very bready and warm, and was moist ⛲️. As for taste, it had a slightly sweet ?, but mostly warm ☀️, umami-like ? bread flavor reminiscent of sourdough. The bread was soft ☁️, while the crust sounded and felt sufficiently crunchy ?, and the bagel was dense in a nice way. 

Peet’s Coffee & Tea $1.34 ??

Taste:? ?

Texture: ☁️?

Appearance (out of 5): ????

Desirability (out of 5): ????

The Peet’s bagel had a smoother outside texture, but was also a nice golden brown color. There were smaller crust bubbles and the crust was less shiny. The inside bread had a few large holes but mostly smaller holes overall. It smelled and tasted sweeter ? than Darwin’s, and did not have as strong a bready taste. There was also a dry, tangy ? smell to it. The crust was crunchy ?, though not as crunchy as Darwin’s, and the inside bread was softer ☁️ and less dense overall. It had less flavor than Darwin’s, and tasted slightly more like white bread.

WINNER: Darwin’s Ltd.

Overall, Darwin’s bagel had a more warm, classically bagel taste, texture, and appearance. It felt more fulfilling and had more distinct flavor that made it enjoyable to eat by itself. The emotional associations with the Darwin’s bagel were definitely more pleasant and satisfying, and reminded one of a warm oven.

ROUND 2

Starbucks $1.60 ??

Taste: ??

Texture: ☁️⛲️

Appearance (out of 5): ???

Desirability (out of 5): ??

The Starbucks bagel was very smooth and shiny, and had a lighter golden brown appearance. There were no crust bubbles, and the inside bread had tiny, mostly insignificant holes. The bagel was moist ⛲️ and very soft ☁️ overall, with no crunch to the crust. It smelt tangy ? and tasted sour ?. Overall, its consistency was very similar to white bread, and it was very light compared to the denser Darwin’s bagel.

WINNER: Darwin’s Ltd.

In this round, the Starbucks bagel could not really compare in appearance, texture, or taste to the Darwin’s bagel as it lacked too many essential qualities. It was not a bagel that could be had untoasted, and felt artificial and bland in terms of emotional associations, like one would expect from a brand like Starbucks.

ROUND 3

Au Bon Pain $1.27 ?

Taste: ??

Texture: ☁️⛲️?

Appearance (out of 5): ?

Desirability (out of 5): ?

The Au Bon Pain bagel was very light in color, looking a sort of golden-cream. It was very smooth in a strange artificial way, and only had a few wrinkles with no crust bubbles. The inside bread had very small holes with a few medium ones. It was very moist ⛲️ and soft ☁️, and smelled uniquely sweet ? and plasticy, like it had just come from a plastic bag. The crust had no crunch and was mostly chewy, and the whole thing became sticky ? in your mouth like very refined white bread. It tasted sweet after chewing, but overall had no flavor and was very light bread. It was definitely the worst bagel I tried ?.

WINNER: Darwin’s Ltd.

This was really no contest, as the ABP bagel seemed like one you could buy from the store out of a bag, and perhaps tasted worse. It had none of the appearance qualities it should have had, and did not have taste or texture either. As for emotional associations, it reminded me of crappy store bought baked goods with no love or warmth 🙁

ROUND 4

Crema Cafe $2.83 ?????

Taste: ?☀️?

Texture: ☁️??⛲️

Appearance (out of 5): ?????

Desirability (out of 5): ????

The Crema bagel was best in terms of appearance and texture, with a rough textured, not shiny crust and lots of crust bubbles. It was a lighter, more golden color than expected, but had large inside bread holes and was soft ☁️ and moist ⛲️. The crust was appropriately crunchy ?, and was a good toughness ?. It smelled sweet ? in a unique, perfumatic, way, and tasted a little tangy ?. Overall it had a slightly warm bread taste but lacked much of the flavor and robustness of the Darwin’s bagel. It was blander and less distinctive.

WINNER: Darwin’s Ltd.

This round was a more difficult choice, as the Crema bagel hit almost all of the appearance and texture requirements of a bagel. However, its flavor proved ultimately disappointing and bland, especially considering its ridiculous price. The emotional association for this is definitely one of buyer’s remorse and faux high quality. 

ROUND 5

Panera Bread $1.12 ?

Taste: ?☀️??

Texture: ??

Appearance (out of 5): ??

Desirability (out of 5): ???

The Panera bagel had a pretty lackluster appearance, with a very light color and smooth texture. It had a tiny amount of crust bubbles, and a few inside holes. It smelled sweet ?&nbs
p;and robust. The bread was a bit sweet like white bread, with a crust that was tougher ? and slightly crunchy ?. It had a warm ☀️, tangy ? bread flavor, but it was much more muted than Darwin’s. It also had a bit of a sour ? taste. 

WINNER: Darwin’s Ltd.

The Panera bagel, while not horrendous, was pretty average and unimpressive. It had mediocre versions of the appearance, texture, and taste that should be in a bagel but ultimately could not compare to the Darwin’s bagel. The emotional association it relates to is one of settling and Monday mornings.

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