Saturday, April 3, 2010

China Cola

The thing that is initially most striking about China Cola (besides its trapped-firmly-in-the-early-1980s look), is the smell that wafts up when you twist off the bottle cap. It is not one of sugary sweetness as you find with most colas--it is an herbal scent, almost medicinal. And rightfully so; bottled by REED'S Inc., famous for their array of natural ginger brews, China Cola gets its name from the imported Chinese herbs and spices that are a primary part of the drink's recipe. But more than the Szechuan peony root and Malaysian vanilla, the distinct smell of China Cola seems to owe itself to its interesting blend of nutmeg, cardamom, licorice and cloves. A lot of licorice and cloves.

Like its scent, the soda's taste also is much closer to that of a Dr. Pepper in its medicinal sharpness than Pepsi or Coke. It's an interesting quality, but I can't quite say I enjoy it. Drinking a bottle by itself is almost too much, like sucking down some kind of organic cough syrup. It's not very heavily carbonated, and ends up falling flat within a few minutes of being open. But interestingly enough, considering its name, as I was drinking my first bottle, I couldn't help but think how good it might taste alongside a takeout container of General Tso's chicken from China Taste in Ephrata. A nice side of pork-fried rice. Won-ton soup. Mmmm...

Please excuse my wandering stomach. With its prominent but mild spices, I really do believe China Cola would make a nice compliment to a meal like that, regardless of its name. On its own, however, I can't even really find myself wanting to finish an entire bottle. I just sort of want to sniff it, still completely intrigued by the smell. And by the packaging. I'm not sure what they're going for here, but these bottles look like they were lost in the corner of some dusty warehouse for the last two decades. The yellow-red-teal color scheme isn't doing much for the dated design or typography either, and worst of all, the labels themselves are the cheap paper kind that wanted to wrinkle and peel off when I washed a bottle for my archive. Yes, I keep an archive. It doesn't even look appetizing. Labeling a soda in Eighties Coney Island colors doesn't do much for the perception of taste; it's like packaging meat in a green wrapper. A grocery faux pas. It gives off a bad vibe, a subconscious questioning of quality. And so most don't do it. REED'S, however, was not to be deterred. Too bad.

Ultimately, despite being perhaps one of the healthiest sodas I've ever reviewed on here with all of its natural ingredients and herbs and spices--and even raw cane sugar as a sweetener--I don't know if I would suggest it to anyone. It could be conditionally good (if you've got a styrofoam container of noodles and MSG sitting in front of you) but then wouldn't you still rather have something you like otherwise? I'd love to give it an A for intrigue and originality, but like its fizziness (fizzocity?), the drink just falls a little flat for me.

TASTE: 4/10
LOOK: 2/10

PRICE: $2.99/4-12oz. btls ($.06/oz)
BUY IT: Right By Nature, Pittsburgh PA

1 comment:

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