Nestle Milo will forever be etched in my mind as a hot, comforting beverage that helped lift my spirits at a roadside rest stop in rural Ghana.
After a very long, very bumpy start-stop bus trip on the road from Tamale to Kumasi, I was relieved to make a several-hour-long middle-of-the-night stop at a busy collection of tables lit by kerosene lamps.
At the time, nobody seemed certain how long the bus would be stopped, but I was tired and I needed something to keep me awake. I stumbled from table to table, wasting time while checking out the vendors’ wares. At one table, there was a woman with boiling water, some plastic café-au-lait-style bowls and a regionally ubiquitous green tin of Milo.
This wasn’t the first time I’d encountered Milo. I’d seen it around in Burkina Faso, the country to the north where I was living at the time. I’d also tasted it as a teenager in Canada, where it made guest appearances in our pantry when my step-mother picked up tins at grocery stores in Chinatown. I liked it, sure, but it didn’t inspire me to write sonnets in its honour.
My feelings toward Milo changed in Ghana. For a reasonable price, the woman at the Milo table whipped up a piping hot bowl of Milo with, if I remember correctly, sugar and sweetened condensed milk stirred into the mix. It was bliss. Instead of pacing around the market, I sipped my bowl of Milo in the cool night air, taking in the surroundings from my seat at the edge of the late-night market. It’s still one of my most vivid memories from Ghana.
The taste of Milo, for the uninitiated, is milk chocolate and malt. It isn’t very sweet unless you use a lot of it or add extra sugar. It’s not as rich as the hot chocolate mixes we’re used to in Canada and the U.S. It has a more elemental cocoa taste to it, with the addition of a grainy malt flavour.
You can drink it hot or cold. The basic directions on the tin say to combine 3 rounded tablespoons of Milo with a cup of either hot or cold milk. I find that a bit weak for my liking, so don’t shy away from adding an extra scoop.
Served hot: The Milo dissolves easily into the milk, turning into a light brown version of hot chocolate. The taste is similar to hot chocolate, but not as chocolatey. That’s where the extra scoop comes in.
Served cold: It takes a bit more effort to mix the Milo into the milk. It’s like lightly flavoured chocolate milk with added malt flavour. If you’re familiar with Nesquik, it’s along those lines. Not bad, but I prefer it hot.
My wife, who grew up in Africa, says you can add Milo to other things, too. She’s seen it added to yogurt, tapioca, tea and coffee. Go figure.
It strikes me as the sort of thing you have to grow up around to truly embrace. I like it because of the memories it evokes, which my mind has forever fused with the flavour. Your mileage may vary.
RATINGS AND DETAILS
Cost: $4.28 for a 400-gram tin at Superstore in Edmonton.
Value for cash money: Good.
Availability: Check shops that specialize in products from Asia, Africa or the Caribbean. This isn’t the first time I saw it at Superstore.
Nutrition?: Per 3 tablespoon (30 grams) serving, not including milk: 130 calories, 3 grams of protein, 1 gram of fibre, 150 mg of sodium, 3 grams of fat. It also has quite a bit of vitamin punch. Per serving, daily values: 80% of vitamin A, 15% of calcium, and 20% of iron. With a cup of 2% milk, the calorie count jumps to 250. Other values rise, too.
The verdict: The malt flavour is the only real deal-breaker for people who aren’t used to Milo. Some like it, some don’t. While I can easily go for years between tins, I like it.