Coke. The Real Thing?
Kate has been harping at me to write something about my epic
endeavor to analyze and criticize Coca-Cola around the world. I find it amusing
to compare each countries Coke (and of course I do mean “Classic” coke not
the stuff they tried to fob off on us a few years back). I mentioned my passing
association with this scientific study, of which I am the only participant, to a
fellow cruiser and he was baffled. He was an American or Canadian, I can’t
recall, but he was unaware that Coke is actually produced and bottled,
under license of course, in a variety of different countries around the
Let me also specify here that I am speaking about Coke in cans
as distinguished from Coke in refundable, refillable bottles. In at least two
places we found that Coke in cans was imported while Coke in bottles was
produced and bottled locally. In the case of Independent Samoa, for example,
Coke in cans is imported from New Zealand where it is bottled, but Coke in
refundable bottles are filled at the Vailima Brewery (Vialima being the locally
brewed beer which is quite good and is made with the assistance of a brewmeister
from Holland). The Vailima Bottled Coke was undrinkable to my taste and bore
little resemblance to any Coke Classic found in cans I have tried.
This interest in Coke around the world all began in Mexico last year. When we left San Diego, as we have done each time we leave any place with a supermarket, we stocked up on everything we could think of, including cases of Coke. We even converted our second shower into a storage room so we could stack cases of coke in it (ok, we also store fruit juices, beer, UHT milk cartons and paper products in that storage locker now). It all started when I bought the first Coca-Cola Classic in Mexico. It was different. The very fact that it could be different fascinated me. I am easily fascinated. The weird thing was I could not decide if I liked it. But instead, I knew I had no choice as when we left Mexico for the South Pacific the lord knew there would be cases of Coke stacked in the aft shower and they were going to have to be purchased in Mexico.
I soon because quite adapted to the Mexico Coke and didn’t think of it for months. One day while re-arranging some food lockers we chanced upon 2 sixes of US Coke, from San Diego. After properly chilling the cans to app. 41degrees (Fahrenheit) an impromptu taste test was begun. I have to say that on that day I concluded the Mexican Coke was inferior, but acceptable. We polished off the last US cokes soon after and stocked up on Mexican Coke to last 2 months.
In French Polynesia our first meeting with the local Coke took place in Makemo in the Tuomotus. A quick inspection of the can showed it was produced and bottled in Papeete, Tahiti, as are all other Coca-Cola products sold in French Polynesia. I found the flavor mild and weak. I dug up an old Mexican Coke (which we were now running short on) and ran the taste test again! If only I had saved one US coke and had a three way. By the way, it strikes me now that the reader may find that I am some kind of a kook carrying on like this about soda pop. Far be it from me to stake any claim to sanity on this issue.
Well, in time I became used to the Tahiti Cokes and found them
quite serviceable. I occasionally came up with a hidden Mexican Coke and reveled
in the difference of it, concluding now that I prefer the Mexican coke to the
French but not to the US version. It was then my world was shaken when I arrived
in PagoPago, American Samoa. Being an American territory, and a welfare state,
every ounce of food practically is shipped into this island from the USA. And
which Cokes do you think hey sell? American Cokes of course. Produced,
apparently, in Atlanta, GA.
Now, we are in Wallis. A French territory almost 1500 miles from Tahiti. Just short of the International Date Line and administered from New Caledonia another 1000 miles to the West, Wallis is a single island in the sea where French bread is spoken. Of course, I was spellbound entering the Supermarche the first day I went to the town. I made straight for the soft drink cases and opened the door to grab a Coke. You could not have surpassed my reaction if I had read the product had been bottled in Beijing, China! It may have been the Arabic writing which first clued me in, I saw it from the window before even opening the case. But I never would have guessed that Wallis is supplied with product from the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Casablanca, Morocco. Africa that is.
Why is this? Who can say. It is beyond the scope of this study to evaluate this question. Though a good bit of curiosity exists among the study group’s Executive Committee to stretch the investigation into the motivations and goals of the Coca-Cola company in allowing (or encouraging?) regional differences in Coke Classis. A new study may be piggybacked upon this one to help determine the answer to that question.
I must say that my first impressions are not positive. Though I am sure it will make a fine accompaniment for Rum and Coke, the Moroccan Coke seems weak and Pepsiish to me, perhaps the deepest criticism one can have in this field. For now the researchers will be content with examining the true nature of the difference between Moroccan Coke and American Coke. We may even have a few Tahiti Cokes lying about somewhere!