Type of Yogurt
Bulgarian yogurt, also known as Balkan-style or set-style yogurt, is the undisputed king of yogurts, the yogurt that started it all.
Its history dates back to the Thracians, ancient inhabitants of the Bulgarian lands, when stock-breeders placed sheep’s milk in lambskin bags around their waists and fermented yogurt using their own body heat.
The word ‘yogurt’ is derived from the words for ‘thick’ and ‘milk’ in ancient Thracian.
Being credited as the inventor is not Bulgaria’s only source of yogurt pride – it is also proven to be the healthiest of all yogurts and the only yogurt scientifically proven to prolong life.
All that thanks to a unique bacteria native to Bulgaria, called lactobacillus bulgaricus (or as you might also know it – Bacillus Bulgaricus).
Bulgarian yogurt is traditionally made by pouring warm cultured milk mixture into containers, then incubated without any further stirring.
Greek yogurt, also known as Mediterranean or Mediterranean-style yogurt, is traditionally a thick yogurt with creamier consistency and a milder taste than Bulgarian yogurt. It is made either from milk that has had some of the water removed, or by straining whey from the ready yogurt to make it thicker and creamier.
Greek yogurt tends to hold up better when heated than regular yogurt, making it perfect for cooking.
Greek-style yogurts often contains seven or more different strains of live active cultures.
Icelandic-style yogurt, also known as Skyr, is traditionally a thick dairy yogurt-like product that is full of protein. Skyr has been a staple food of Icelanders for thousands of years and has, in recent years, gained popularity worldwide.
Traditionally, Skyr is a thick milk by-product that is often made using rennet, which makes it closer to the cheese family than to yogurts. Skyr has a high fat content, with most original Icelandic Skyrs containing more than 20 grams of protein per cup, with little to no fat or added sugars.
Skyr has a mild flavor and thick consistency, similar to that of the Greek yogurt, but milder, thicker and less creamy.
Because it is thick and creamy, Skyr is a great substitute for sour cream in any recipe that calls for it. It’s delicious on its own and is best served cold with some fresh fruit or fruit jam.
Skyr usually contains only 2 strains of live active cultures – lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophiles, much like the Bulgarian yogurt with the difference that its l. bulgaricus strain comes from the Icelandic regions.
Caspian Sea Yogurt
Caspian Sea Yogurt (Matsoni, Matzoon) is a dairy product of Armenian and Georgian origin. Caspian Sea Yogurt is a mesophilic yogurt. Mesophilic yogurts are a family of dairy products that contain cheese cultures and can be prepared without heating up the milk, i.e. at room temperature. Caspian Sea Yogurt, Viili (a traditional stringy yogurt from Finland), and Filmjolk (a traditional kefir-like yogurt from Sweden), are some examples of mesophilic style yogurts.
Mesophilic yogurts are naturally thinner than thermophilic yogurts (Bulgarian, Greek, and Skyr are thermophilic yogurts) so expect them to have more like a viscous and slimy or stringy consistency.
They can be eaten as-is, made into drinking or frozen yogurts or incorporated into desserts. Some of them are really fun to eat – Viili for example is so stringy and almost elastic so eating it with cereal for breakfast is a guaranteed fun time for the kids.
Mesophilic Yogurts, depending on their origin, can contain a different set of strains and it is common between all of them to contain cheese-making strains.
Type of Starter Culture
Bulgarian Yogurt starter, Greek Yogurt starter and Skyr starter are all thermophilic starter cultures, i.e. the bacteria in the starters perform better at warmer temperatures. Thermophilic starter cultures are best incubated at 110°F / 43°C.
Caspian Sea Yogurt is a mesophilic yogurt. Mesophilic yogurts can be prepared without heating up the milk, i.e. at room temperature.
All of our starter cultures are heirloom, meaning you can keep propagating them for ever, i.e. you can make new yogurt using your previous batch of yogurt for as long as you’d like.
Flavor Profile and Consistency
Bulgarian Yogurt is thick and creamy in nature and has an impeccable taste with just the perfect balance between being mild and tart. It is unlike any other yogurt you’ve ever tried.
Greek Yogurt is a thick yogurt with creamier consistency and has a milder taste than Bulgarian yogurt. Greek yogurt is usually strained to make it thicker and creamier, however our starter makes a fairly thick and creamy yogurt without any straining.
Skyr is probably the thickest of the four yogurts we are comparing and has the mildest flavor. It is similar to that of the Greek yogurt, but is milder, thicker and less creamy.
Caspian Sea Yogurt contains cheese cultures which make it mild in taste with just a touch of tartness. It has thinner consistency compared to the Bulgarian, Greek and Skyr.
Active Bacteria Present
Interestingly enough, all three Bulgarian, Greek and Skyr yogurt starter cultures contain the same two strains of bacteria – lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilus. However, there is difference between the ratio of the two in each one of the types of yogurts resulting in three completely different yogurts. Isn’t nature just great!
Caspian Sea Yogurt contains Live active lactic acid cultures of lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilus, lactococcus lactis, lactococcus cremoris with the last two being type of cheese cultures, which gives the Caspian Sea Yogurt it’s much more different taste and appearance profile.
All starters contains lactic acid cultures isolated from natural sources in ecologically preserved areas in Bulgaria as well as local, indigenous cultures. They are fully natural and organic with no preservatives, additives, artificial colors or flavors. They contain no GMO ingredients and are soy and gluten free, halal and kosher.
So, Which One Should You Go For?
Bulgarian Yogurt starter is undoubtedly the heavy weight champion among the four. It makes one of the most famous yogurts in the world and is the most sought-after and the best-seller of all starters.
Greek Yogurt, Skyr and Caspian Sea Yogurt follow closely behind and with their milder taste and different consistency profiles have large fan bases of their own.
I suggest you try them all and decide which one is your favorite. One thing I am certain is that whichever one you choose you will love it!