Orange Juice Snobs

Ames and I are both fairly easygoing and don’t turn our noses up to many things. If there is one thing we are persnickety about though, it’s Orange Juice. You know the stuff they serve at the continental breakfast buffets at most hotels? Horrible. Almost every single OJ available the grocery store? Blech! Even among the “Not from Concentrate, Fresh Squeezed, 100% Juice” varieties, there are very few products that we actually enjoy. Why do we hold such strong opinions over something so trivial as a morning beverage? Location. Location. Location.

We both grew up in a little-known city on the East coast of Florida called Vero Beach. The main reasons Vero exists are tourism, retirees, and citrus. Our beaches are beautiful, but most tourists come because they’re less crowded – which is why you’ve still never heard of it. Retirees give a boost to the local economy, but don’t make it an exciting place to grow up – unless you enjoy golf & shuffleboard. The real reason I’m proud to be from Vero Beach is because we have the best citrus in the world. That’s right California, you’ve got nuthin’ on our juicy fruits. While you’ve probably never heard of Vero Beach Citrus, you may have seen Indian River Fruit before. Vero is in the heart of Indian River County, and Indian River County is to Citrus what Napa Valley is to wine.

So yes, Amy and I have deep rooted & geographically influenced opinions about OJ and we both strongly agree that the best orange juice on the planet comes from one place: Hale Groves. Hale Groves’ orange juice is like heaven in a cup. It’s so good that they drive traffic to their retail store with signs that say “Free Orange Juice”. They have fountains inside that are constantly flowing with ice-cold, fresh-squeezed OJ. Beware though, for if you partake, you will leave with a gallon of the stuff and will never look at OJ the same again. The only problem with Hale Groves OJ is that their 1 store (they had several when we were growing up) is the only place you can buy it.

Living in South Carolina, it’s hard to find a comparable substitute for Hale Groves’ orange juice. We used to buy Indian River Select’s 100% Valencia Orange Juice which is available at several grocery stores. It’s no Hale OJ, but the taste was as close as we could find….until this week. Publix, a Florida-based grocery chain, recently started carrying Natalie’s Orchid Island Orange Juice so we decided to give it a try. Wow! The orange juice snobs were impressed! On a scale of 1-to-10, I’d give it a 9½. After reading through their “our juice” page, it’s easy to see why. They’re all about the pulp:

Oddly enough, a good indication that your juice is Fresh Squeezed is to observe some separation. Technically speaking, Fresh Squeezed juice separates because of the interaction between enzymes in the fruit and the pectin in the juice. When the juice is pasteurized or concentrated, the heat neutralizes enzymes, thus preventing separation. By allowing the enzymes to stay in their natural state, Fresh Squeezed juice tastes great and gives it the “FRESH” taste customers love.

Tropicana and other national brands try hard to make good, fresh juices but they rely on some pretty intense pasteurization processes to extend shelf life. As a spoiled Vero Beach native, the “Pure Premium” OJ simply doesn’t cut it. Until the next time we make it home and get our Hale Groves fix, we’ll probably be buying Natalie’s.

11 Comments

  1. It’s a little out of the way from I-95. Why? I’m not really sure. The address is
    9250 US Highway 1 Wabasso, FL 32970
    and it looks like this. :) We went while we were home over Christmas.

  2. I’ll have to check that out the next time I’m at Publix.

    Where is the Hale Grove store? I might be making an extra stop on my way down to my parents house.

  3. I’ve been trying to convince Russ for a couple years now that pulp isn’t something anathema but in fact part of the goodness that is OJ.

  4. Just before we moved to Charlotte we found Simply Orange, based out of Apopka, FL. I guess that makes it outside of the Indian River citrus family, but I’d be curious to see where it would rate on your scale.

    A bit from their “Our Company” page:

    Something refreshing is happening in the orange grove. Oranges, left to their own devices, are ripening in the sun. When they’ve convinced us beyond all doubt that they’re truly, sweetly ready, we pick them from the trees and gently wash them.

    From there, our recipe is simplicity itself: Do not sweeten. Do not concentrate. Just let oranges be oranges. And let their taste speak for itself.

    We don’t have Publix up here, but luckily we’ve had no trouble finding the juice in other major grocery stores. Since the fall, they’ve also introduced Simply Apple, Grapefruit, Lemonade, and Limeade.

    I’m not trying to open a my-oj-is-better-than-yours war, but I’d encourage you to try it out if you haven’t already.

  5. We’ve tried Simply Orange before. I’d recommend it over Tropicana, but it didn’t really impress me enough to write a blog post about it. I believe we actually have some Simply Apple in our fridge right next to the Natalie’s OJ. :)

  6. Dear Jason,
    My husband and I are new fans of Hale Groves orange juice! We recently tried their juice for the first time and it really is superior to any citrus juice that is available in grocery stores! My husband and I are graphic designers and we also own a gourmet spice business. Hale Groves is now carrying our line of Lucky Onion all-natural dip mixes and recently, we spent the day at their Wabasso store for Customer Appreciation Day. What a great, family store! In addition to citrus fruit and juices, Hale groves is now offering all kinds of fresh produce and gourmet foods. They are concentrating on carrying local, all-natural foods and from the huge crowds at Customer Appreciation Day – I think the new concept and the expanded product lines will be a big hit!

  7. Dear Jason & Ames,

    I didn’t grow up in Vero but my sis in law lives there and took us to Hale Goves years ago. I totally agree that it it is the BEST OJ ! I live in Miami and have done the same to try all OJ’s to try and compare with HG’s OJ. NO COMPARISON. I was in Vero in June and could not find the store. The address I got was ther offices. I was sohappy to find your website and hear I am not alone.

  8. We found Hales over 12 years ago on vacation in the area. There is nothing better anywhere! We pack coolers and bring 6 -8 gallons home to freeze for later. Even our children don’t want to drink any other orange juice. Simply Orange is good but really there is no comparison. Hales is by far the best!

  9. Hale is the best orange juice on the planet. Been there many times for free juice. Glad to hear the sign for it is still up on the highway. Vero is a great area and can’t wait to to back next summer.

  10. No concentrate for me.Ever.
    I do enjoy Tropicana premium with pulp (some) for the most part it is my regular OJ. What I don’t like about some of the other brands of premium OJ is they lack consistency, sometimes amazing, often sour. At least tropicana is consistent in flavour.
    Simply Orange is good. I think the key is consistency. I had some Florida’s Natural last week that was amazing, in a side by side taste test, it was so much sweeter than Tropicana Premium, but again Like many premium OJ’s it does not offer consistent taste. I’ve had Florida’s Natural before that was not that great. I prefer a sweet OJ, low Acid, in essence a taste like your eating a great orange. I did not care for indian river select. If squeezing my own, Florida oranges our perform california oranges in my opinion. I look forward to trying Natalie’s OJ.

  11. I agree, Hale’s is the best tasting orange juice in the world … because: IT IS NATALIE’S ORCHID ISLAND JUICE!!! Orchid Island juice bottles their amazingly delicious juice for lots of private companies nationwide. Trader Joe’s, Wegman’s, Balducci’s in NYC. Hey, why reinvent the wheel when Orchid Island Juice already makes the best orange juice on the planet? They take an orange, squeeze it, bottle the juice that comes out and send it to market. Nothing more, nothing less. Most OJ companies cook their juice to death and then add flavor and nutrients in an attempt to resurrect it! Other companies, like those in Brazil, cook and vacuum the juice to suck out all the liquid to make concentrate. Again, flavor and nutrients are added back in the juice to try and simulate the original flavor. Orchid Island Juice makes juice like the Creator intended. Pure and Good.

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