I’ve finally gotten my hands on a bottle of Coca-Cola produced in Mexico. The part of my id that reacts to novelty jumped with glee. I am a huge fan of colas after all, loving their savory undertones mixed with an excessive amount of sweetness. Over the course of my lifetime I’ve consumed dozens of different brands, and have had a place in my heart for the soft drink, even after middle-age forced me to curtail my sugar intake.
Coke and Pepsi have never been my favorites. After their switch to High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) in the 80′s (and I would like to forget both New Coke and Crystal Pepsi), I had pretty much written them off, prefering to stick to the even-more sweetened RC Cola. Even more recently, as my palate changed, I found myself drinking China Cola, which is far less sweet than most mainstream brands, and a little more cola-esque (for lack of a much, much better adjective). Over the course of my research/web search in regard to HFCS, people alerted me to both Kosher and Mexican versions of Coke, which I had to try. Finding the Kosher Coke was not difficult. Mexican Coke was a little moreso. About a week ago, Tara found a shop in the South Park neighborhood of Seattle that sold the stuff, and picked up several bottles.
Let me make this clear, there IS a difference between Mexican Coke and the American version. Where the difference is most noticeable is in the finish and aftertaste of the drink. The Mexican Coke is far crisper, cleaner if you will. The American version’s aftertaste is cloyingly sweet and sits on the back of the tongue for a while before dissipating. If forced to choose one over the other, I’d pick the Mexican version as my preference, but I would choose other colas even over Coke’s Mexican version. And I believe that both Mexican and American versions are different from the Kosher version, which seemed a little more astringent upon my tongue and teeth.
The only true conclusion I can draw is that Coke’s claim that they all taste the same is bunk. The sugars provide flavor, and if you use differing amounts pr different types of sweetener, the flavor will vary. This seems obvious to me, especially in light of seeing it written out, but Coca-Cola has invested a lot in keeping up the appearance of the equality of quality throughout their world-wide production facilities, but I just can’t agree with their position.
But do you know what really struck me about the Mexican Coke? The glass bottle. I realize that this is more of a psychological thing, but it does bear repeating that having a product in a glass bottle influences a consumers perception of the product. I can’t help but think that part of the reason people think Mexican Coke is better is due to the fact that it’s in a glass bottle rather than the cheaper (and cheaper looking) plastic ones that are oh so pervasive here in the States. I’m guessing that providing cola in a glass bottle increases its production costs, so it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see glass bottle dominate the soda market again, but I can’t help but think that the soda companies sacrificed a bit of a perception of quality when they moved to plastic bottles. I’m also quite sure that there’s a handful of folks out there that will swear up and down that glass bottles result in a better tasting product over plastic. While I buy that argument when it comes to cans vs. glass or plastic, I’m not convinced that the great majority of Americans can taste the difference between cola from a glass bottle and cola from a plastic one.
The other conclusion I’ve drawn from all of this? I think WAAAYY too much about these things.
UPDATE: There’s some folks saying that this isn’t a bottle of Mexican Coke. Check out the bottle in the middle, with the Spanish words. Sorry. It is. Now the one on the far right? Absolutely American.