Monday, November 7, 2011
Co-Up Guarana Zero
In the case of this soft drink, which I found at a shop in Shinjuku which sells products from Hokkaido, this is one of those rare items. I chose this one because it was the only sugar-free version, and I prefer to get my calories from chocolate and salty stuff. This cost 147 yen ($1.81) for a 500 ml. bottle.
I intentionally did not research what "Guarana" was before I sampled this. I didn't want objective facts to interfere with my subjective taste perceptions. If I expected to taste something, it might increase the chances that I'd detect it. I first gave it the deep inhalation test. That doesn't mean I snorted it, but I did come close to doing so in an attempt to pick up all of nuances of its bouquet. At first, I thought I detected a grape-like fruity aroma, then something medicinal. A final sniff reminded me of bubble gum. That was the impression that stuck with me as I prepared to dive in and take a sip.
A fruity bubblegum flavor definitely came through on the first sip. It had a strong shot of the flavor I recall from penny candy versions of said wads of gum, which is probably some particular chemical. That was followed by a strong chemical flavor and then what seemed like a hit of, shockingly, root beer. The sense of root beer was only at the very end. I'll give this points for at least having flavor depth, if nothing else.
After a proper tasting, I looked up guarana and discovered that it is a plant from the maple family which is known for its fruit and the fact that said fruit has twice the caffeine of coffee. Here is where we get to the appeal of such a beverage to the Japanese market, which excels in offering strong legal stimulants to keep businessmen awake all night as they labor away in their offices. It has always been rather ironic to me that a culture which is so anti-drug so heartily embraces certain drugs, alcohol and caffeine, with what appears to be complete ignorance of the fact that these are stimulants and depressants and not merely foodstuffs.
This is an energy drink by any other name. In the shop where I purchased this, there were a lot of varieties of guarana drinks made by various manufacturers, but I never see them stocked in regular stores. Since I don't drink energy drinks, it's very likely that some common ones, sold in little brown bottles in refrigerator sections of various stores, contain guarana extract and that is well-known among members of the peppy drinkers club. This is marketed in Japan as a health tonic and claims to fight obesity, arteriosclerosis, and improve stamina. Chances are, however, that what it'll help fight is sleep.
This was okay in terms of taste, but nothing I could see craving. I would only buy it again if I were severely sleep deprived and wanted to have something more potent than coffee or tea. The chances of that being the case are pretty much zero, but I wouldn't write this off as something I'd never have again.