Observations about energy drinks

A long time ago, when I was more enthusiastically reviewing my ridiculous collection of energy drinks, I received an e-mail from someone, asking something along the following lines: "Why do you drink and review energy drinks when you think they all taste like crap?"

Allow me to address this.

I don't think they all taste like crap. I think most of them taste like crap.

Energy drinks, by their nature, have a great tendency to taste terrible. This is because the key ingredients that give energy drinks their energiness taste, with few exceptions, like shit.

Caffeine is a very bitter tasting chemical. That's why most caffeinated beverages are extremely sweet (such as energy drinks), or have their own bitter flavour to mask the caffeine (like coffee or tea).

B-group vitamins, a group that includes our friends thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folic acid and B12 (among several others) taste horrible. Have you ever been curious enough to chew on a Berocca tablet? That's b-group vitamins. They are not tasty.

Taurine is made from bile. Sorry to spoil that one for you, but it's true. It's mostly synthetic these days, but still. If someone tells you "that's not real vomit, it's synthetic vomit", I don't think you'll be okay with it going into your dinner. Needless to say taurine has a hideously unpleasant flavour, and contributes big time to the unique and apparently desirable flavour of Red Bull.

An example of a good energy drink.

The trick for manufacturers of energy drinks is to create a flavour that either masks or compliments these unpleasant flavours. Most energy drinks take the "overpower it with something sweet and fruity" approach. Some take the "embrace the flavour, enhance it, make it salty and sweet" approach, like Red Bull. Others take a completely different tack, and throw in peculiar Amazonian berries and things you can't pronounce in the hopes of creating a unique flavour they can call their own. Sometimes this works. Most times it doesn't.

Limitations bear creativity. Without a box to think outside of, and envelopes to push, new flavours and concepts can't be created. The fact that energy drinks are made to suffer is what makes them fascinating to me. Sometimes I come across a good one.

It makes me happy.

Exotic Beverage Review: Fanta Spider

What has eight legs and tastes like filmy milk? For those unfamiliar, a "spider" is a combination of soft drink (soda) and ice cream, forming a kind of carbonated thickshake. I've always been really opposed to the idea, due to my belief that soda and dairy deserve to be well separated at all times. This stuff is called "choc orange", which I assume means it's meant to represent orange Fanta mixed with chocolate ice-cream, although the colour of the beverage doesn't represent that at all. Orange fanta and chocolate ice cream would produce something that looked like shit and would sell few beverages.

It's kind of apricot in colour and vaguely milky. Somehow, I was expecting it to be thicker, but it's the same consistency as every other soft drink. It's also not especially bubbly.

It tastes like Jaffas. Precisely like Jaffas. The smell of carbonation is the only thing that makes it smell like anything other than a handful of small red balls that taste like orange.

I was really hesitant to taste this stuff. Like I said above, I have some reservations about the whole "spider" concept. Anyhow, taste I did. It's...really odd. I wouldn't actually call it pleasant, to be honest. It's got a number of layers to it. I shall explain, in the order in which they hit you:

It's almost opaque, but it's not thick.

1. Weird consistancy. It kind of feels like there's a skin of ice over the surface of the drink, even though there isn't. I think this could be to do with the fact that it smells completely different to how it tastes, so as you sip it, your brain switches from smell receptors to taste receptors, or something.

2. Milk. It tastes like milk. Not specifically chocolate milk, though. Just..dairy in general.

3. Cheap chocolate. About a nanosecond after the milk flavour appears, the beverage remembers it's supposed to be chocolate flavoured and begins to produce the taste of really cheap chocolate, like those crappy lil solid chocolate Easter eggs everyone gets squillions of. It's not really pleasant, but it's definitely chocolate.

4. Orange. Hiding beneath all of this is the Fanta itself, which kind of breaks through as soon as the bubbles leave your tongue. And it's also not incredibly pleasant. I don't like this drink.

Okay, so the aftertaste has been pretty effectively nailed. If you erased my memory for the past five minutes, I could be easily convinced that I just sat down to a meal of Easter eggs and washed them down with a quart of Fanta. Usually with bizarre drinks, the taste is tolerable and the aftertaste is thoroughly unpalatable, but in this case, it's the reverse.

It's not totally unpleasant, I guess, but I just don't like it. That said, it is everything that it claims to be.