I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I’d like to buy the world a Coke
And keep it company
That’s the real thing. (Vintage Coca Cola ad sung by the New Seekers)
Things go better with Coca Cola,
Things go better with Coke
Life is fun when you’re refreshed,
And Coke refreshes you the best.
Food goes better with,
Fun goes better with,
You go better with Coke.
The real live one puts extra fun
In you, and everything you do. (Vintage Coca Cola ad sung by Roy Orbison)
In years past, the beverage Coca-Cola enjoyed a positive reputation, not only as a drink that bonds people socially,
but also one that helps people lose weight:
Through the years, the products of the Coca-Cola Company have fallen from grace and are now viewed negatively by the public. Accused of such crimes as causing tooth decay and obesity, carbonated beverages are under attack by health and governmental officials who hope to discourage consumers from ingesting such drinks. Despite its reversal of reputation, I have continued to defend the Coca-Cola Company’s main product. I stuck with the company’s main product through the new Coke formula fiasco in the eighties. I stuck (albeit with reservation and dismay) with the product through its change from sugar to corn syrup as sweetener. I consistently and vigorously defend the right of people everywhere to drink Coca Cola, in 20 oz or any other size serving an individual desires to drink it, despite the demonization of “sugary drinks” by just about everyone who is anyone (as well as everyone who isn’t anyone) these days.
Even though I continue a patron of the Coca-Cola Company, despite years of disappointing changes to the Coke formula, the Coca- Cola Co. has been an even greater disappointment to me lately. I have remained loyal to the brand all these fifty some-odd years I’ve been in this world; however, the company continues to remain disloyal to me. When I was growing up, among my favorite childhood treats was an ice cold Coke. Not an ice cold RC, not an ice cold Pepsi, nor an ice cold root beer, but an honest to goodness ice cold Coke. My grandfather worked for the railroad in Savannah, Georgia and would sometimes take my sisters and me to the station where he worked. He would give each of us a dime to put in the Coke machine, and out of that machine came the coldest green-tinted bottles of Coca Cola. Truthfully, I believe I loved going to see the trains with him more for the Coke than for the thrill of seeing the trains pass in and out of the train yard. My mother would buy us girls a Coke when we were out shopping, and let us order one with dinner on those rare occasions when we ate out. She didn’t keep the soft drink in the house.
My Coca-Cola of preference, the only kind I keep in our house, since the Coca-Cola company switched to corn syrup as a sweetener in Coke bottled in the U.S.A., is Coca-Cola from Mexico. Coca-Cola bottled in Mexico is still sweetened with cane sugar. Mexican Coke is unavailable in most restaurants, however, so I drink Coke bottled in America if I want a soda when I go out (sometimes my desire for a Coke trumps my desire to avoid corn syrup.) My soda of choice, however, is always Coca-cola. When I attend a Missions game in San Antonio, I drink bottled water; the stadium serves only Pepsi products. Before I quit my job at UTSA, I had to take my own Cokes from home; the entire UTSA campus carries only Pepsi products. Many people (especially in the South) use the generic term Coke to mean soft drink, but when I go to a restaurant and order a Coke, I really mean I want a Coca-Cola. If the waitperson tells me up front when I order a Coke that the restaurant serves only Pepsi, I order just water or perhaps sweet tea (which doesn’t work too well up North sometimes – I once ordered a sweet tea in a restaurant in Michigan that didn’t serve Coca Cola, and the waitress didn’t know what sweet tea is. She told me she’d give me the tea and I could add the sugar myself. Sigh.) Occasionally I order a Coca-Cola at a restaurant that serves Pepsi only and the waitperson will be dishonest, though perhaps not intentionally so, and bring me a Pepsi without explaining when I order that the restaurant serves Pepsi instead of Coca Cola. I ALWAYS know when I’ve been served Pepsi. I’ll take a sip and send the drink back when the server returns to the table and verifies my judgment that the soft drink I’ve been served is, indeed, Pepsi. I am never wrong. I am, in short, a Coca-Cola loyalist.
Which brings me to my latest quarrel with the Coca Cola Co. But now – now – I’m really upset: almost speechless with disbelief – as near to speechless I can ever be – at the latest news to come from the Coca Cola Co. Ok, I’m kind of upset that the label of the newest Coke (the lower calorie, more environmentally friendly, more natural stevia sweetened) is green instead of the iconic red and white. But I’m much more upset that, in response to the Mexican government’s decision to tax sodas in an effort to fight obesity (or so it claims as the reason for the tax), the Coke Cola Company plans to replace cane sugar with corn syrup as sweetener in the Coke produced in Mexico. Instead of fighting the dubious obesity / “sugary” drink / tax solution rhetoric and defending its patrons as well as its product against the government’s punishment of the product and the people who enjoy it, the company has decided to counter the higher cost caused by the tax by using a less expensive sweetener to reduce the cost of the beverage. A company spokesman says no perceptible difference in taste exists between the Coke sweetened with cane sugar and that sweetened with corn syrup, a statement that reveals that either those who run the Coca Cola Company are out of touch with their own products, or they hope to brainwash those in the know into believing the company’s line and giving up our cane sugar-sweetened Mexican Coke without a fight.
For you see, a difference between the two differently sweetened Cokes does exist, and the taste is only one of the differences. The cane-sweetened Mexican Coke has a lighter taste than the Coke sweetened with corn syrup. It’s refreshing and quenches one’s thirst more easily and satisfactorily. It also stays carbonated for a much longer period of time. I am a devoted connoisseur of Mexican Coke. The few times people have blind tested me, to see if I can determine the difference between Coke sweetened with cane sugar and that sweetened with corn syrup, I have passed the test. I can always discern between the two. I purchase Mexican Coke by the case from Costco; in fact, I always have two cases on hand. As soon as I use up one case, I get another so that I always have one from which I’m taking Cokes and one that’s remains full. This way, if Costco runs out or doesn’t stock any Mexican Coke for some reason, I have a bit of a stock left to drink.
I NEED Mexican Coke. It’s my favorite post-run drink. After my runs in the triple digit temperatures we have about four months out of the year in South Texas, I’ll sometimes down two ice cold bottles of Mexican Coke within thirty minutes of a run. Leaving aside the health concerns related to corn syrup as a sweetener, Coke sweetened with corn syrup has another undesirable characteristic. It leaves a sticky film in one’s mouth; it doesn’t refresh the same way that sugar-sweetened Coke refreshes. Nothing, but nothing, is more satiating of thirst after a work out in such extreme temperatures than Mexican Coke. I sometimes use Mexican Coke as my hydration while I’m running. It has sodium as well as sugar ( a carb), and it tastes better than any sports drink. Since sometimes even corn-syrup sweetened Coke cannot be found at the end of races, Phillip and I pack an ice chest with ice, a bottle opener, and several bottles of Mexican Coke so that I can have my favorite post-work out beverage after I cross the finish line of a race.
One time I volunteered to man a support table for a marathon training group on its twenty-one mile long run. Although the training group’s leaders provided the supplies for the table, I took along bottles of Mexican Coke that I kept cold in the ice chest. I offered Mexican Coke to the runners who stopped by my table; many of the runners preferred the Coke to water or the sports drink. At the after-long run celebration, many, many runners thanked me for making Mexican Coke available to them; it was just what they needed as refreshment at that point in their long run. (When I find Coke at support tables at trail races, I always drink the Coke rather than other beverage offerings, but I find that the corn syrup –sweetened Coke at those tables, because of the corn-syrup stickiness, quenches my thirst less well. I wish trail race directors would discover Mexican Coke – not as convenient or inexpensive as 3 liter bottles, but well worth the inconvenience and price!)
Thankfully, in response to the loud cry of Mexican Coke lovers’ opposition to the change, Arca Continental (Coca Cola’s Mexican bottler) has announced that the Mexican Coke imported to the United States will remain sweetened with cane sugar. Let’s just hope that this compromise will remain for infinity, but let’s also hope that the company comes to its senses and keep the Coke meant to stay in Mexico sweetened with cane sugar, too. The people of Mexico who enjoy Coca-Cola would surely find a way to pay for the cane-sugar sweetened Coke, even with a price increase from the new soda tax.