There is a fair amount of what could be construed by some as "vegetable hate" in the text below, so as a disclaimer before this review, I would like to say that I absolutely love vegetables. In fact, when I cook for myself, I typically maintain a fairly strict and healthy vegetarian diet. Anyway, on to the content.
This drink has been sitting in my refrigerator for the past two months. I bought it at a local Asian market on the way home from a Vietnamese restaurant, and I have been avoiding it ever since. I always enjoy trying new beverages, and a lot of the "weird Asian drinks" tend to leave me at least pleasantly surprised, but there is still a certain sort of fear that comes with trying some of these beverages for the first time. Every so often, I let that fear get the best of me, particularly when the only information that I have at my disposal about the contents of the beverage is an image of a few leaves on the front of the can.
I finally caved in yesterday and decided to just go for it and give this one a taste. The only ingredients in the thing are water, pennywort leaf extract, sugar, and citric acid (which is somehow used as an "acid regulator"), so I received no help from the container in trying to figure out what to expect. After struggling to force the almost unecessarily sturdy can open, I was greeted by the smell of liquified green vegetables. I'm not entirely sure why this came as such a shock, but the unexpected pungency of the aroma almost turned me off to the drink completely. I managed to hold it together long enough to take a sip, though, and quickly came to the thankful realization that this is one of those weird drinks that tastes almost nothing like it smells.
The taste of the beverage is hard to explain, really. I would unhelpfully assume that it tastes like pennywort, but seeing as I have never had pennywort, I can not attest to that. The drink is significantly sweet, and although the "vegetable juice" taste is there, it's not horribly pronounced amidst the added sugar. In terms of taste, the the closest comparison is that of a fruit/vegetable cocktail like V8 Spalsh with a little bit less emphasis on the fruit. The liquid itself, however, is rather thick and viscous, and gives the drink a heft more along the lines of a nutritional supplement rather than an every day beverage.
Pennywort drink is not likely to be something that you will want to drink in large servings, if at all. The flavor has this sort of weird vegetable putridness that is not evident at first, but starts to become more noticeable the more that you drink. When I first started the can, I thought that I was going to like it, but after I got about four sips in I started to quickly get tired of the taste. I thought that perhaps it was just a drink that needed to be taken slowly, but even after almost an hour after opening the can, I still did not want any more of it and ultimately just ended up pouring it out.
This is a difficult one to recommend, even as an interesting rarity. Although I did like it at the beginning, it grew unappealing so quickly that I can't help but question if I actually liked it at the start, or if the incongruity between the taste and the smell was simply temporarily confusing my senses. Foco's concoction is enjoyable on some kind of a "not-quite-a-beverage" level, but as a beverage it kind of just gives me the feeling that maybe pennywort juice is one of those things that it's just okay not to drink. It's not terrible, and it certainly won't hurt you, but unless you have a strong desire to find out what pennywort tastes like, I think that this one is most likely safe to skip.
Verdict: Not recommended
Purchased: Golden Market [Columbia, SC]
Size: 11.8 fl. oz. [350 mL]