I try to stick to buying local produce but once in a while I splurge on something more exotic. I recently saw an Instagram post about shine muscat grapes, so yesterday at T&T Waterloo I went on the lookout. These grapes are green, seedless, typically imported from South Korea, and expensive as all heck.
Muscat is a huge umbrella family of grape varieties, with shine muscat being just one of many. Previously, I kind of associated muscat grapes with wine, but it turns out many varieties are good for eating as well.
Cost and Packaging
Shine muscat grapes were originally developed in Japan, but the brands I found at the supermarket here in Waterloo are all Korean. The one I bought was $50.68/kg—that’s $23/lb—compared to regular green grapes that I can pick up for $2/lb. I swear a good portion of the price comes from the shipping and packing costs alone. These grapes were packed in small, neat bunches, wrapped with mesh and plastic, with a foam tray underneath. The quality is definitely very good. None of the grapes were crushed or soft.
(NOVEMBER 2021 UPDATE: The lowest price I have seen these grapes going for is now $22.88 for a 500g box, so around $20.77/lb. See UPDATES section below for details.)
The two of us finished the 1 1⁄2 lbs in one sitting while watching TV. Yep, we ate about $50 worth of fruit in under an hour… I know, we’re a couple of real fat cats.
What’s Special About These Grapes?
Well, Kevin and I both decided on our first bite that these are definitely better than conventional table grapes. They are huge compared to other varieties and super firm, which is just how I like it. There are no stringy bits of fiber like you sometimes get in the grape’s center.
The skin of these grapes is pretty typically, sour and a bit astringent, but the flesh is more delicious than any other I’ve tasted. The texture is a bit like jelly, and all the ones I tasted were super fresh and sweet, no hint of sourness or off notes. Also, if you’re the type who really dislikes eating grape skins, the skins on these grapes peel off super easy.
Since publishing the original post, there have been a few new entrants to the shine muscat market in Canada. I’ll be adding all my subsequent updates to this section.
December 2020 Update
Fellas, I have some interesting findings to report. I’m staying in Calgary for the holidays, so last week I visited a T&T here and saw that the Korean shine muscat grapes were not only still available but on sale. A bit more expensive than the ones I’d bought previously in Waterloo ($25/lb instead of $23/lb). I bought a pack to try… and THESE TASTED COMPLETELY DIFFERENT! The ones we had purchased earlier from the Waterloo T&T paled in comparison.
The appearance and feel were the same between the two batches, with the only difference being that some of the Calgary grapes were smaller. But oh man, the taste is noticeably better.
The bunch of grapes purchased from Calgary had a distinctly more fragrant flavour. Like, think actual perfume scent, but in a good way. To make sure I wasn’t tripping, I got my boyfriend to try them as well and he agreed they tasted more floral and were superior to the pack we got in Waterloo. My mom, who obviously hadn’t tasted the ones from Waterloo, commented immediately that these had a really unique flavour.
In short, the first batch were delicious, juicy, very fresh grapey-tasting grapes. But these ones that we just bought were on a whole other level. They don’t taste like any other grape I’ve had before. The question is, how to buy the right kind of shine muscat grapes every time?
Although the packaging was the same between the two locations, the brand labels were different. One was labelled “ELOASIS” and the other was “EVERGOOD.” I tried to research the two different brands but didn’t get very far. In fact, from EVERGOOD’s Instagram account it looks like the two brands are actually related. And I haven’t bought these grapes enough times to definitively say whether the ELOASIS grapes are consistently better or if this batch was a fluke. So sorry, I don’t have any tips for finding the best grapes, other than telling you that in my personal experience, the ELOASIS brand was tastier.
January 2021 Update
Wow, this post just gets longer and longer. Who knew shine muscat grapes were so interesting?!
I am bringing you this update from Vancouver, British Columbia. And yes, of course, I had to visit a local T&T. I can confirm that here in BC, they carry the ELOASIS brand of grapes and they tasted just as good as the ones I bought in Calgary.
But the Vancouver T&T also carried a Brazilian brand of shine muscat grapes. Although the sign in the store advertised these as shine muscat grapes, they are called pilarmoscato on the packaging which I think is a specific breed/variety name. These were really good too. I couldn’t really tell a difference between these and the ELOASIS Korean shine muscat grapes. They are a little smaller, and not quite as firm, but have a great flavour.
November 2021 Update
Lowest price I’ve yet seen for shine muscat grapes. This 500g box of ELOASIS brand grapes was on sale at the Calgary T&T for $22.88. That works out to $20.77 per pound.
January 2022 Update
In addition to the humble styrofoam-wrapped version, ELOASIS has introduced a new gift box format. When paying $20something for grapes like a pleb when you can pay $66.88 to get them in a fancy cardboard box??
(Yet another layer of packaging!!! I’m losing count of the layers… are we buying grapes or onions here?)
As you can tell, I haven’t shelled out for these grapes yet. Since they are the same brand, I expect they taste the same as the grapes I reviewed earlier in December 2020. But they would make a neat gift for the fruit lover in your life. Have you have tried them? Do drop a comment if these taste three times as good as the other shine muscat grapes!
My Favourite Brand of Shine Muscats
Now that I’ve bought three different brands of shine muscat grapes in three different provinces, I will rank the grapes I’ve tried so far from best to worst:
- ELOASIS Korean grapes—found in Calgary and Vancouver
- APPC Brazilian grapes—found in Vancouver
- EVERGOOD Korean grapes—found in Waterloo
Have you tried another brand that you want to recommend? Do you disagree with my rankings? Please post a comment and I will update accordingly.
Where To Buy in Canada
All in all, these are definitely the best grapes we’ve tried. But are they worth paying a premium of over $20/lb? No, not really. Also, these grapes use a lot of foam and plastic packaging, and have to be transported from across the world. That’s a lot of waste for a small bunch of grapes.
(DECEMBER 2020 UPDATE: I amend my statement. These are worth buying at least once if you can find the ELOASIS brand. I still won’t be purchasing them often, what with the price and the environmental impacts. But if you have a guest you want to impress, or want to know just how fucking good a grape can taste, give these a go.)
That said, if you want to give these a try, visit your local T&T Supermarket or other large Asian grocery store. I started seeing them recently (September to January) but I’m not sure if they’re around all year. Go get them soon!
What Should We Try Next?
If you enjoy seeing someone spend too much money on fruit, you might be interested in my pink pineapple taste test. Any other fruits or food in general you want me to review? Let me know in the comments and I’ll try to find it in the stores here.