It’s not just Pepsi that comes out with creative new forms of soda — all of the big beverage companies do it. We’ve seen a lot of Pepsi so far, so let’s take a look at what sort of things the competition has come up with:
The “plus” stands for “plus green tea.” We saw another green tea soda earlier this week, but unlike Shizuoka Cola, which is not cola,Coca-Cola Plus is actually cola and tea mixed. The bottle looks deceptively like a diet soda bottle, and sure enough, this one is artificially sweetened with aspartame, and advertises the fat-fighting tea catechins in green tea on the label.
Now I love tea, and I love soda, but I do not love tea plus soda. The flavor of Diet Coke was overwhelming and completely masked out the flavors of the tea. It tasted like what I would call “Diet Coke mixed with something else,” only without reading the label it was impossible to guess what that something else might be. This is probably why it was named “Plus” and not “Plus Tea.”
In the same tradition of combining two popular drinks to see if an even more popular drink will result, just about every drink company came out with a version of coffee-cola. Suntory’s offering is Espressoda. Interestingly, these two drinks simply don’t mix at all. The flavor of cola and the flavor of coffee coexist simultaneously without fighting each other. They don’t compete, and they don’t complement each other. The experience was basically like taking a sip of pepsi and then a swig of coffee in the same mouthful. I think coffee drinkers would rather stick with coffee, and soda drinkers would rather stick with soda. This one was not particularly satisfying.
Gabunomi Cola Float
As far as combining delicious things goes, whoever first came up with combining ice cream and soda was a true genius. This may seem to go against my earlier complaint about combining sweet desserts with sweet soda, but I don’t care. This drink was a winner. Although, how surprising is that? The soda float is a tried-and-true drink going back generations. Of course, Japan was the first and only place I have seen it sold in bottles as opposed to being made to drink.
The only downside to this drink was that it had the exact flavor of a cola float, but without any actual ice cream in it. The cola was a bit cloudy, as you would expect, but it wasn’t thicker than normal, and it didn’t have any chunks of vanilla ice cream floating in it. It might seem a logistical nightmare to create a soda float that separates the ice cream and the soda until you open the bottle without allowing the ice cream to melt in the meantime; but if any country can do it, Japan can. Heck, they’ve invented wrapped onigiri that separates the rice from the nori, and expertly stacked noodle bowls that don’t mix the ingredients until you open them, so if they really put their minds to it, I’m sure they could come up with real instant float technology.
“It’s kind of like champagne, except disgusting,” would be the slogan I would have written for this drink. Suntory’s Chocolate Sparkling was billed as an elegant, sophisticated soda for people of high taste. It was interesting for about one sip, because they really did manage to get the chocolate flavor down pretty well. But while I really enjoy chocolate milk and other chocolate drinks, this one didn’t quite do it for me. It might have been the fact that it was clear instead of opaque, or it may have been the carbonation, I’m not sure… But there are plenty of good brands of chocolate milk in Japan, and I don’t know that clear, chocolate-flavored soda water is necessarily an improvement over ordinary chocolate drinks.
Which one of these sounds the best? Or the worst? Would you give up your morning coffee for an Espressoda? Let us know in the comments, and check back tomorrow for our last installment of Japan’s Wonderful World of Wacky Sodas!