Because fresh-squeezed isn't always an option.
Credit: Maddy Sweitzer-Lammé

Let’s face it: there’s really nothing that can compare with actual fresh-squeezed orange juice. But we don’t all live in California or Florida, surrounded by heaving orange trees with plenty of time to squeeze ourselves a glass every morning. For those of us who live far from the orange groves, I tried all of the most popular orange juice brands that I could round up, and I was surprised by the results.

Minute Maid and Florida’s Natural are basically interchangeable. They both have the familiar flavor that I associate with store-bought orange juice—nothing special, but not bad either. I can see why these are so popular—they’re dependable, familiar flavors with nothing weird going on. Also in that super-familiar category is Simply Orange, which had a slightly more distinguished flavor that I found hard too describe. There’s a lot of acidity there, and the aftertaste is almost bitter, rather than leaving you refreshed and satisfied.

In the slightly more high-end category, you’ve got Evolution Fresh, Natalie’s, and Kennesaw Fresh Squeezed, all of which are available at Whole Foods and other fancier grocery stores. Evolution Fresh fell totally flat for me—it has a weird background flavor I couldn’t quite identify that totally distracted from the straight-up orange flavor that I was looking for. Kennesaw was less acidic than other juices, which at first made me think the flavor was watery, but on a second tasting, I realized that the juice actually tasted fresher. It might be because it’s unpasteurized, which makes it closer to what you’d get straight from the fruit, but I liked it a lot, and the little bit of pulp in the juice also made it feel fresher.

At the end of a lot of sipping, my two favorite juices were 365 Organic and Natalie’s. Both have a strong flavor of real orange juice, without the off flavor that seems to come from more processed, pasteurized juices. If you hate pulp, opt for 365 Organic, which has that option. Natalie’s, on the other hand, does not offer a pulp-free version. Both are delicious on their own, perfect for brightening your harried weekday mornings, but would also be very much at home in a brunch mimosa, for a different kind of bright morning.