Friday, April 29, 2011

Further Delays

I hate to do this, but I am going to have to push off today's post again.

It is exam week and I have been awake since yesterday morning. I still have another final to take in an hour, and I'm not going to have a chance to write a review for today.

I apologize for the continued delays, but Drinkable Review will be back to its usual schedule next Tuesday.

Thanks for your patience.

- Hayden

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bundaberg Peachee

After seeing a review of Bundaberg Peachee on this episode of the BevNerd video podcast, I decided that I really wanted to give it a try. I found it at my local World Market, and fell upon some great luck, as they happened to be selling four packs of the beverage for half price at the time. 

Aside from the fact that it is very good, there's really not a whole lot to say about Bundaberg Peachee. That's not to imply that this is a bad thing. In fact, it is the complete opposite. Bundaberg's Peachee is a very simple and straightforward drink. Peachee is an all natural brewed peach soda, and of all the sodas that I have had in my life, this one may be the most true to its source material. When you open the screw top container (a nice touch, for reasons that I will address later), the exact smell of freshly cut peaches wafts out of the bottle. There is no hint of artificiality here; if you close your eyes and inhale, it's impossible to tell that you are not smelling actual peaches. The taste is a bit more removed, but not by much. Peachee pretty much tastes like fresh peaches. The taste and sweetness are both there, and aside from the carbonation, the beverage tastes almost exactly like the original fruit. 

The only thing about Peachee that I did not particularly favor was the sweetness. The beverage is all-naturally sweetened, but it is very rich and syrupy. Of course, sticking with the theme, this sort of sweetness is also a quality of peaches in general, but the thickness of the sugar in Bundaberg's Peachee makes it a bit difficult to drink an entire bottle in one go. The heavy consistency from the brewing process and the sedimentary material in the drink also contribute to this overall "thickness." However, to finish my thought from earlier, I believe that Bundaberg realizes this, as they have implemented a metal screw-top lid rather than the typical bottle cap, allowing the consumer to easily re-seal the bottle and save some for later.

Overall, I really like Peachee. It's a great beverage, and it's one of the most truly natural fruit-flavored sodas that I've had in a long time. The only reason that I would hesitate to recommend this to someone is the somewhat overwhelming sweetness, but as long as this one is taken in smaller servings, I think that everyone is likely to enjoy it.

Verdict: Recommended, but in small servings

Purchased: World Market [Columbia, SC]
Size: 11.5 fl. oz. [340 mL]
Price: $2.99 [Four-pack, discounted, regularly $5.99]

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hey everyone. I hate to do this, but I need to move today's post to tomorrow. I've been out all morning running errands, and I've still got some things to do today, and I don't think that I'll be able to get the review up in a timely manner. Check back tomorrow for my review of Bundaberg Peachee.



Friday, April 22, 2011

Taylor's Tonics Chai Cola

This caught my eye while I was shopping at my local World Market a few days ago, and from the moment that I saw the label, I knew that I was not going to be leaving without one. Chai and cola is definitely an interesting and unique combination. I'm actually somewhat surprised that this was the first Chai cola that I have ever seen, as a relatively accurate prediction of the flavor popped into my mind upon seeing it.

Taylor's Tonic Chai Cola is a naturally seasoned and brewed mix of chai tea, cola, and herbal ingredients. Upon opening the bottle, I could smell the heavy aroma of the chai spices almost without even having to pick up the bottle. The drink has a fair amount of sedimentary material in it that settles out at the bottom, and requires "rocking" before consumption to redistribute some of the spices. Overall, I really like the taste of the chai and cola combination. However, the drink is a little bit on the heavy side. The sedimentary content that is mixed back into the drink during rocking does thicken the fluid a bit, making the drink a little bit more of a commitment. Due to the thickness, I've found that it is difficult to drink this one quick enough to enjoy it, as it takes me so long that the cola starts to equalize to room temperature about halfway through, making it even harder to finish a serving. The spices also add to the heaviness, and although I enjoy the taste, it does tend to get old a little bit fast.

As a novelty, this is a really great beverage. It's definitely worth a try to have the experience once, but I don't know that this one will be a repeated purchase for me. Overall, I think that this drink would benefit from being produced in a smaller serving size, as right now the 12 oz. serving is a bit much.

Verdict: Worth a try

Purchased: [World Market]
Size: 12 fl. oz. [355mL]
Price: $4.99 [4-pack]

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Crystal Light Pure

Last week, Kraft Foods sent me a sample package of Crystal Light Pure to try out. Crystal Light Pure is a new offering in Kraft's popular series of Crystal Light powdered drink mixes. Crystal Light Pure functions much like its predecessors in that each serving comes in single serve pouches and are mixed with a bottle of water and shaken (or stirred, if you are one of the lucky few whose thoughts are not haunted by James Bond's infamous martini request every time the option between the two methods arises) until the solution becomes homogeneous. Where Crystal Light Pure differs from the rest of the Crystal Light brand, however, lies in the ingredients.

Crystal Light Pure, unlike many of the other water enhancers currently offered on the market, utilizes all natural sweeteners, flavorings, and colorings. While regular Crystal Light is sweetened mostly with aspartame, Crystal Light Pure is sweetened with a mixture of sugar and Truvia (a solid, crystalline stevia extract derivative). Now, I am not a big fan of stevia. In fact, I tend to actively avoid the stuff. I was hesitant after realizing that Crystal Light Pure contains Truvia, but I am happy to say that the stevia is not overpowering in the slightest. This is the complete opposite of what I am accustomed to in my typical encounter with stevia-sweetened products (i.e. teeth-shattering sweetness, thick and syrupy aftertastes that linger for hours, etc.), and it was nice to finally find a beverage that is proportioned to take into consideration the extreme sweetness of stevia-based sweeteners. A little bit of stevia goes a long way, and I think that the team behind Crystal Light Pure has struck a solid balance between the two sweeteners. 

I was sent samples of the three flavors shown above: Strawberry Kiwi, Mixed Berry, and Lemonade. I have had the opportunity to try each flavor twice now, and I have to say that the lemonade is definitely my favorite so far. Ironically, I find the strawberry kiwi and mixed berry flavors to be a bit too tart for my tastes. The flavors themselves are not bad; they just tend to leave my mouth a bit dry (an effect somewhat reminiscent of the artificial sweeteners found in standard Crystal Light). I am beginning to think that this is more an effect of the "add powdered drink mix to water" methodology than anything else, and I may need to just start mixing the packets with a bit more water than is recommended. Crystal Light Pure is intended for usage with standard 16.9 fl. oz. water bottles, but I have found with most of the water enhancers that I have tried recently that I usually like them better after diluting the recommended serving size with an extra ounce or two of water. 

From a design standpoint, Crystal Light Pure has its ups and downs. First and most obvious is the increased size of the serving pouches (pictured below next to a typical Crystal Light pouch).

To give the packaging a rough "engineering estimate," I would say that the new pouch is approximately 250% larger in volume than the previous packaging. I understand that this is likely just an aesthetic decision made to differentiate the Pure line from the standard line, but there is a lot of empty space in the new pouch, which, to stick with the engineering theme, stands out to me as primarily just a waste of material. The new pouch also takes up a good bit more room in a bag or pocket than the old pouch, and the extra space for air in the larger pouch likely makes it more susceptible to unintended puncture-related accidents. These are not deal-breakers by any means, and ultimately it feels mostly like nitpicking on my part, but it did stand out as a bit of an odd design choice when I opened the boxes.

On another note, my mixing experience with Crystal Light Pure has been changed for the better and for the worse from the artificial powders. On the good side of things, I have found that the naturally-flavored Crystal Light tends to dissolve a lot faster and does tend to not clump up in the water as some of the artificially flavored versions do. This results in less shaking overall to mix up the drink, which is always a welcome change. However, I have noticed more "settling" from Crystal Light Pure, a process by which undissolved particles that are too small to see with the unaided eye sink to the bottom of the container and collect in a heap of grit that must be constantly shaken back into the beverage with each drink. I have, however, been mostly using 16 fl. oz. containers to mix the beverage so far, and this may also be a problem that would be easily solved by simply adding a bit more water (or a bit less powder).

Overall, I like Crystal Light Pure. I definitely prefer it to the original artificial alternative, although I do still think that Kraft's MiO is my favorite water enhancer so far. I am not going to not recommend the mixed berry and strawberry kiwi flavors, but of the three flavors that I have tried so far, I have really taken to the lemonade and would probably recommend that as a good starting point. 

Although I generally do not have a problem with consuming the occasional artificial ingredient, it is always nice to see large corporations such as Kraft taking an interest in offering natural alternatives for those who prefer to avoid the artificial flavors and colorings. I definitely recommend giving Crystal Light Pure a try, especially if you are in the market for a more natural method of occasionally embellishing a serving or two of your daily water intake.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: Sent by Kraft Foods
Size: 16.9 fl. oz. [7 pouches/box]
Price: About $4.00 per box [Based off of prices found on]

Check out Crystal Light Pure on the Crystal Light website.
Or follow Crystal Light Pure through Twitter or facebook.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Inca Kola

Inca Kola is a beverage that I have been looking forward to trying for quite some time. I heard about Inca Kola quite some time ago, but then kind of forgot about it. So, when I unexpectedly came across it at a local grocery store, remembering that I'd been looking for it was a nice surprise. Unfortunately, the taste of the drink was not such a nice surprise.

I didn't really have any expectations going into the beverage other than the assumption that it was cola flavored. Seeing as how the name contains the word cola (or rather, "kola"), I thought that this was a safe assumption, but I was incorrect. Inca Kola barely tastes like cola at all. I'm not sure if the beverage is supposed to taste like cola or not, but the truth of the matter is that it tastes like bubble gum. It is difficult to tell what the company's intentions are with the flavor, as all of their marketing seems concerned only with the fact that the drink is of a grossly artificial yellow hue. The can touts it simply as "the golden carbonated beverage," which gives no indication as to what the consumer is supposed to be tasting. This leads me to believe that the misspelling of "cola" is intentional, much like the common usage of the term "krab" when referring to imitation crab. Also, the color is not so much "golden" as it is "pure Yellow 5," so I don't even know that that part of the description is entirely accurate. There is a slight twinge of cola in the aftertaste, but the bubble gum taste is entirely overwhelming and I think that it may just be coincidental. 

Overall, I found Inca Kola to be a bit of a disappointment. I can see how someone may enjoy the rather unique taste of the beverage, but I did not like it at all, and it is difficult for me to recommend. Unfortunately, Inca Kola comes across to me as not much more than an empty source of sugar and artificial coloring.

Verdict: Not Recommended

Purchased: Publix [Columbia, SC]
Size: 12 fl. oz. [355mL]
Price: $3.99 [Six-pack]

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ambro Relax

I recently received a sample case of Ambro Relax, a new relaxation beverage from Ambrosia Beverage. "Relaxation beverages" are a fairly new phenomenon in the beverage industry, and are specifically intended to do the opposite of the all-too-common energy drink: relax the consumer. I have not tried many of these beverages yet, but Ambro Relax stands out as not only exemplary of this new industry segment, but also as a delicious beverage in and of itself.

Released in 2010 by the Ambrosia Beverage group, Ambro Relax is a naturally flavored, carbonated relaxation drink intended to, as one would expect, calm and relax the user rather than pump him or her full of stimulating chemicals. Ambro Relax is strawberry-mango flavored, which is an interesting and unique combination. I don't think that I've ever had strawberry and mango together before, and I must say that I really like the resulting taste. The strawberry is a good bit more prominent, but the mango is definitely still there to add an interesting background taste. The flavors work well together and are well balanced, with neither element overwhelming the other. 

The relaxation supplements are mostly natural and include things such as passionflower and valerian extract, as well as a tiny amount of melatonin (only 2.5 mg per serving). The supplements barely affect the taste of the beverage, and are not very noticeable amongst the natural fruit flavorings of the drink. The primary taste that stuck out to me was the little bit of sucralose that is included in the sweetening. Ambro Relax is sweetened with a combination of sugar and sucralose (presumably to maintain a low sugar content), and while the taste of the artificial sweetener is noticeable, it is easy to overlook and does not harm the overall taste of the beverage. As an added note, I also really like the color scheme and design layout of the packaging. The can design is sleek and eye-catching, and the very minimalist "solid-color" approach of the graphic is indicative of the beverage's relaxing nature.

As far as relaxation is concerned, my experience with the results was subtle. I do feel more relaxed after drinking an Ambro Relax, but it is not an overwhelming or sleep-inducing relaxation. Luckily, causing relaxation levels on the magnitude of exhaustion is not the intention of Ambro Relax, and I would say that it serves its purpose quite well. I just feel better after drinking an Ambro Relax. I feel less stressed and more easy-going and just less heavy overall, which is always a welcome feeling, especially under the constant rigors of what are now the final phases of my engineering curriculum. I wouldn't recommend using Ambro Relax when one is on a deadline or does not necessarily need to be "relaxed," but I would easily recommend it to people to try out during their down time or when they need to "destress" after a period of excitement.

I really like Ambro Relax. This is definitely one to keep an eye out for in the future.

Verdict: Highly recommended

Purchased: Sent to me by Ambrosia Beverage group
Size: 8.4 fl. oz. [250mL]
Price: Approximately $2.00 per can

Check out Ambro Relax today on facebook and Twitter.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Malta Goya

First off, I apologize for the blurriness of the picture. I only took one and it looked fine on my camera, so I didn't worry about it. It is therefore only natural according to Murphy's Law that the picture actually be out of focus.

Anyway, I spotted Malta Goya several days ago in the Latin foods section of a local Wal-Mart. I've seen it before and unconsciously never really thought much of it, but I decided to pick one up this time. I have had one malt beverage before in my life, but it was a long time ago, and I think that it was some sort of weird powdered mix, so I don't really remember anything about how it tasted. I wasn't really sure what to expect from a carbonated malt beverage, but I was finally able to give this one a try a few days ago, and there is no way that I could have prepared myself for the taste with which I was met.

This is going to sound dramatic, but Malta Goya tastes like bran cereal. A friend of mine who I was with at the time agreed, specifying further that it tastes very much like the bran flakes out of Raisin Bran cereal, in particular. The drink is sweetened, but...even sweet bran flakes still taste like bran flakes.

The only word that I can think of to describe Malta Goya is "strange." I only took a few drinks of it before pouring the rest out, but throughout the drinks that I did have, I could not shake the feeling that this should not have been a beverage. It honestly tastes like a food, and it is difficult to get over the idea that you are drinking a bran-flavored substance in liquid form.

Verdict: Not recommended

Purchased: Wal-Mart [Columbia, SC]
Size: 12 fl. oz. [355 mL]
Price: $0.89

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Coming Soon: Ambro Relax

I was recently sent a sample pack of Ambrosia Beverages's new Ambro Relax relaxation beverage. I received it yesterday afternoon, and I'm definitely looking forward to giving it a try soon (probably later tonight). The review will be up on Tuesday, but in the meantime feel free to check out Ambro Relax on its website, or through Twitter or facebook

Have a great Thursday, and I will see you back here tomorrow for my review of Malta Goya.

- Hayden

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fentimans Ginger Beer

I have a wildly varied history of experience with Fentiman's products, so I was a little wary going into this one. I am glad to say, however, that I came out of it very satisfied with the end result. My primary concern was that the spiciness of the ginger was going to be overwhelming. This has been my experience with other ginger beers so far, but Fentiman's has impressed me again with their take on the product. Like their other products, the ginger beer is botanically brewed, which adds an interesting and pleasant flavor to the fairly standard ginger taste. The ginger gives the drink just the right amount of bite (fringing on the "just-almost-a-little-bit-too-much-bite" boundary), and the flavor does not linger long in the aftertaste, giving the beverage a pleasantly sweet and tasty finish. 

Fentiman's ginger beer is delicious, bit it is a little bit more spicy than some of the alternatives. If you are not a big fan of ginger, then this is probably not the drink for you. However, if you do like the taste of natural ginger or are looking for a new and interesting beverage to try, this is one to add to your list.

Verdict: Recommended

Purchased: World Market [Columbia, SC]
Size: 9.3 fl. oz. [275 mL]
Price: $1.69

Saturday, April 2, 2011

On disabling comments

As I'm sure many of you may have noticed by now, I made the decision earlier this week to disable comments on the reviews. It was a difficult decision on my part, because I always love hearing from readers, but I think that, for the time being, it will be better for the review to leave them off. This is a design choice that I've been struggling with for some time now, and a recent turn of events has made that decision somewhat easier on my conscious.

While I don't necessarily feel the need to defend my decisions about how I run the blog, I do feel that those who were not involved deserve an explanation. The short version of the story is that a discussion about artificial sweeteners and their positive and negative attributes was started recently in the comments of one of my posts. As per usual during an internet argument, some of the later comments turned a bit sour and condescending, and I decided once and for all just to disable the feature.

I don't particularly believe in internet censorship (within reason, of course), but I also don't feel that the comments section of my reviews are the best place for that sort of discussion, especially if the companies that I endorse are going to end up being insulted and accused of malevolence. I am not here to change anybody's mind about specific ingredients that are used in modern beverages. My primary intention with this blog is to inform readers of what sorts of beverages are available on the market and simply if I feel that they are worth your money. As a result, I feel that the reviews themselves are not necessarily up for debate, and having a big, long discussion about the benefits and detriments of a single element of the beverage in question directly under the post itself muddles the original intention of the review.

Now, all of that being said, I do sincerely enjoy the discussion. I am still in the process of moving the site over to its dedicated URL, but due to the heavy load from my curriculum this semester, that is not likely to happen until this summer. When I do get the site moved, however, I am hoping to implement a forum for those who are interested to discuss whatever sorts of things that they want to discuss about the beverage industry. Until then, communication between readers will unfortunately be more limited, but I am greatly looking forward to finally getting the new site together and hopefully being a part of these sorts of discussions in the future.

I thank all of you for your patience while I wait for a chance to get the site moved over to its new home, and I hope that each of you continues to enjoy and find useful the reviews to be posted in the coming months. If anyone has any questions, grievances, or comments, or if you simply want to talk about beverage news or experiences, I welcome you to send me an email at the address listed in the sidebar.

Again, thank you all again for reading, and I look forward to seeing you back here for next week's reviews. Hopefully I'll be able to recommend one of them this time.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Coco Exposed

I'm not even really sure where to start on this one. My brief time with Coco Exposed was definitely one of the more "interesting" beverage experiences that I have had in the past few years. There is a lot going on in this drink, and none of it is particularly appetizing.

First of all, I should probably say that I didn't realize that this was coconut-based. I'm really not sure how I managed to miss the coconut on the front of the packaging, the words "pure coconut water" in the description, and the fact that it is called Coco Exposed, but...I did, somehow. If I had not contracted temporary coconut blindness, I probably never would have picked this one up. I don't really like coconut water, and this one really didn't help very much to change my mind. 

Coco Exposed is a beverage that consists of - get ready for this - coconut water, aloe vera, and wheatgrass. Now, there are plenty of beverages out there that combine many more flavors than that, but coconut, aloe vera, and wheatgrass are all very different and very strong. I bought this thinking that it was just an aloe vera beverage with wheatgrass, because I like aloe drinks a good bit, but there is just way too much going on in this bottle for the aloe to save it. The drink, frankly, tastes like it would be better suited as a delicious, toasty cake rather than being trapped in its current liquid form. It reminds me very much of the soft coconut macaroons that are commonly found on the dessert bar of most Chinese buffets. The chunks of aloe in the drink don't help either, as the beverage already tastes like it should be of a soft and spongy consistency and having pieces of another solid that is entirely different in every way mixed into the experience only furthers the already overwhelming sensory confusion. I could taste the wheatgrass, but it was kind of insignificant amidst the overpowering taste of the coconut, and seeing as I've never had wheatgrass before, I'm not sure if it added or subtracted from the experience. I think that I would advise all but the most curious or courageous of drinkers to really just avoid this one.

Verdict: Not Recommended

Purchased: World Market [Columbia, SC]
Size: 11.8 fl. oz.
Price: About $1.50

As an added note, you may want to be careful when searching for this online. Some of the results that I got back were, to put it politely, "not safe for work."