I really like apples. The apple is the underdog of the fruit world. Everyone seems to be into watermelon, mangos, passionfruit, lychee, or even durian — but for me, nothing beats a great apple.
But not just any apple. It has to be a bloody good one. The problem is that it’s hard to discern what’s great in your regular supermarket. There are so many varieties of apples you can get at supermarkets in Australia. Some apples are even unique to particular chains.
Some look good, some have familiar names, and I’ve often wondered — which is the best apple I can buy from an Australian supermarket, including Coles, Woolworths, IGA, and even Harris Farm Markets?
Of course, I can go to an apple orchard, or to a fancy farmer’s market, where a garrulous stallholder will charm me into paying way too much for my choice of delicacy.
But I’m talking about your regular, everyday apple — the kind you can get from the big grocery chains. They have so many varieties. Which one to pick?
So here it is — the ultimate apples-to-apples comparison!
Update Feb 2024 — found a new apple, the Sweetango, and it’s one of the best!
How I / We Did This Apples Test
Firstly, I’m not a scientist or professional taster. I do like my coffee (here’s my guide to drinking black coffee) and do try to detect flavour notes and so on, but I’m not an expert.
However, I’ve probably eaten more apples than you have, because a) I eat multiple apples a day, and b) I’m older than you, as I’m older than most people (on average, and barely).
For each apple variety, I picked 1-2 samples of what I thought were some good-looking ones from a supermarket in the middle of the season (winter in Australia). The season was why there was so much variety — and why I decided to do this test! If I felt I had got a bad example, I went back on a later day and got a better one.
I also had my brother Samand as a backup to corroborate with me. We formed independent opinions and exchanged notes, frequently making “Homer drooling” sounds.
All the apples were chilled in the fridge, washed with water, and served cold.
There are four elements we graded apples on. Professional tasters have longer and more detailed scorecards. But this was just how we experience apples — so I think this scorecard has more everyday relevance.
- Acid balance
We assessed every apple on these notes.
I want to highlight that we stopped short of giving them an overall score. It was more a case of “Good, OK, and Bad”. Yes, that’s a three-point scale, but we didn’t want to get stuck in the semantics of ranking apples and then defining thresholds for quality. Rather, we just put them in three categories:
- The “Best” — ones to go for, if they’re available
- “Pretty Good” — ones that will do the trick
- “Not That Great” — if these are the only ones available, I’d rather eat some other fruit
The Best Apples — Our Favourites
Below are our favourite apples from the test. These are varieties that we go after if they’re available.
Bravo Apples — Rich, Dense, and Crispy
I’ve never had many Bravo apples, but I was surprised by how much I liked it. The test exposed me to these apples and I’m glad!
The Bravo apple was from Radevski coolstores.
Bravo apples have a dense, crisp texture, with raisin-like spicy sweetness, and neutral acidity — well balanced with sweetness.
Bravo apples are really excellent. I’ve had the occasional soft one, so make sure to get them in season.
Eve Apples — A Great All-Rounder
These are a Coles exclusive. They’re from Montague farms.
The Eve apple has a moderate tartness, but unlike the Jazz or Pink Lady apples, it’s not overwhelming. And there’s a bright sweetness from start to finish that lingers on the palate.
It has a crisp crunch and pleasing density to it. It has a core that’s so dense that you can eat the whole thing, leaving just the stem!
What I really liked about the Eve is that its tartness is interesting without being so acidic it puts you off eating them later.
What I don’t like is that I can only get them at Coles. I’m Looking forward to finding these at a farmer’s market someday.
Jazz apples — Bright, Crunchy, and Pleasantly Acidic
I’ve been a fan of Jazz apples for a long time, and they went into this taste test as one of my possible favourites.
Jazz Apples originally are from New Zealand. “Jazz Apple” is a trademarked cross between a Braeburn and a Royal Gala apple.
Jazz apples have a really good, crisp bite and density to them. They’re a heavy apple despite being generally quite small.
Jazz apples have a medium tartness and strong sweetness. This is where they shine — they really have a lot of character between that crispness and acidity!
I like that Jazz apples are widely available.
The only place Jazz apples fall over is that the tartness isn’t an “everyday” kind of flavour — it’s more a sometimes fruit. The lighter tartness of other apples helps showcase this.
SweeTango Apples — Bright, Crisp, and Light
The SweeTango Apple is a new one I found in a Victorian supermarket in 1994. I really like it — it’s crisp, sweet, and bright (I suppose that’s the “tang”?), without being overwhelmingly acidic like a Pink Lady tends to be. It’s not bursting with flavour but it’s very pleasing anyway.
The texture of the SweeTango is light, similar to a Pink Lady.
In fact, I can’t fault the SweeTango other than saying it’s an awkward name to type.
Side note — they usually do have a core, per internet pictures, but for some reason, the two I bought had no core. Odd! Well… mildly interesting, at least.
“Pretty Good” Apples
The following apples are what I think of as “pretty good”. They do the job if I want an apple, but they’re not my first picks.
Fuji “FFS” — Sweet and Juicy
The Fuji “FFS” apple (I don’t know why it was called that, spell it out, for… crying out loud) had a bright but neutral flavour.
It’s mildly acidic, but has a really nice sweet aftertaste, and lots of juice. It’s not terribly crisp but nor is it soft. Not bad, FFS!
Pink Lady Apples — Sweet and Crunchy, but Very Acidic
If you’re a fan of acidity (or sourness), then you’ll like Pink Lady apples. I personally find that the acidity overwhelmed the sweetness.
I tried a few, including an Organic Pink Lady from Huon Valley in Tasmania, one called Pink Lady 5030 by Jeff Tompson, and one from Priests farm.
Overall, my favourite was the Priests Pink Lady apple. It was very tart and sweet, and had good crisp. They’re also quite acidic, which isn’t to my taste.
The Organic Pink Lady from Huon Valley in Tasmania was less sweet, but also less tart, and more balanced. It also had some notes of raisin and sweet potato. It’s crisp, too. An equal favourite.
My least favourite was a third Pink Lady, which is no longer in production. It was sweet and acidic, but not tart enough, and a bit floury.
Ambrosia Apple — Light, Crisp, and Interesting
The Ambrosia apple from Montague Farms has a refreshing light sweet flavour with medium sweetness and little acidity.
It has an interesting oaty and somewhat spicey flavour, too.
Interestingly, the Ambrosia takes longer to brown, per their website, which makes it good for fruit platters.
Take a bite out of the Ambrosia apple. Its flavour is best described as refreshing with floral notes and pleasantly crisp, fine-grained flesh. It’s very sweet with very little acidity.
Kanzi Apple — Mild with a Sweet Aftertaste
The Kanzi apple is a mild flavour apple that’s not very tart and that has a nice aftertaste. The flavour is not very intense.
It has a neutral crunch with a dense texture. Overall, most of the Kanzi’s charm is in its satisfying crunch and neutral flavour, but I don’t think they’d win any awards.
They’re a good apple if one of the above isn’t available.
“Not That Great” Apples
Finally, a list of apples that aren’t that great. If these are the only apples available, I’d avoid them and pick some other fruit, unless there really is no other fruit. (Or I’m not paying for them, e.g. they’re in some airport lounge.)
Royal Gala (Various)
Royal Gala apples are hit and miss — but I quite enjoyed the one from Priests. I consider it “inoffensive” at best, but “bad” at worst, which is why it’s in this section.
The Priests Royal Gala has good sugary sweetness that lingers through to the aftertaste, though the taste has little complexity. It has a good crips and medium density, with almost no tartness.
The Royal Gala from Kalafatis Fresh Produce had a mildly tart, medium sweetness, with not much aftertaste. It had good crunch without being too dense.
The Royal Gala FFS (again, no idea what that means) was, however, kind of negative. It had medium tartness and sweetness but with mild astringency that compromised the experience and ruins the aftertaste. FFS!
Finally, I also had a Royal Gala apple from Huon Valley and didn’t like it at all. It was soft and floury, with a flat and boring flavour. It was entirely missable. So I’d choose my Royal Gala apples carefully.
I’ve never understood the Granny Smith. They’re not very crisp, and the texture is always a bit soft, almost floury.
The flavour of Granny Smith apples is very tart. They have an almost overwhelming amount of acidity and not much depth.
Basically, this is the kind of apple I’d juice to use in a salad dressing. Like a lemon! But I don’t enjoy them.
That said, if you’re someone like my dad who enjoys sour things, Granny Smith is for you.
Finally, the much-maligned Red Delicious. I’ve had many a Red Delicious in my time, and the experience has always been similar.
The best thing I can say about the Red Delicious is that it’s red and it can be crispy and crunchy. Though it isn’t always.
But the Red Delicious apple is so bland that it has almost no flavour. It’s not just inoffensive. It’s like someone forgot to add any aroma at all. This is an apple I’d give to someone if I wanted only to fulfil the technical duty of giving them nutrients in a whole fruit format without any pleasure at all.
I’m aware that this test is limited. It’s limited by being in Australia and it’s limited to apples you can get from supermarkets.
I know that you can go to apple-producing places in the world (I’ve had great apples in Italy, France, New Zealand, Turkey, and Argentina, just to name a few places and casually imply that I travel a lot), or even orchards in this neck of the woods, and get apples of amazing quality. Must be nice, but I’m often not near those places, so these will have to do.
Hope this has been useful. If I’ve missed any apples, let me know.
Or if you violently disagree, let me know too!