Saturday, April 18, 2009

Red Bull Cola

"Cola? Really? Is he really at such a loss for ideas?"

No, I have plenty of ideas... and plenty of good subjects lined up for when I can scrape together enough time to write about them. So stay tuned for more excitement!

Right now I just ask that you humor me for a bit.

red bull cola

It wasn't my intention to educate you about the oddness that is cola and this still isn't my primary aim, but the fact of the matter is that cola is undeniably strange. It's like the chai of soft drinks, a sweetened infusion of exotic ingredients. Sugar and spice and everything nice. And looking at the cola consumption amongst the youth of today, I'd concur that it is indeed what little girls are made of. As for the snakes and snails and puppy dogs' tails bollocks, I for one have never eaten and will never eat a dog's tail (outside of a nuclear holocaust) so I call into question the validity of that ancient assessment of little boys.

Cola is named for the kola nut, the seed pod of a number of species of African trees that are close relatives to the godly South American cacao tree. The kola nut, like its cousin, contains caffeine and it is for this very reason (and also perhaps because it has euphoric qualities) that its bitter extract has long been used as an additive to soft drinks. However, it is reported that these days many of the major cola companies use an artificial kola flavor and crush up generic No-Doz for the caffeine.

Fun Questionable Fact: Most pure, isolated caffeine found in your favorite alertness pills and energy drinks is a byproduct of the decaffeination of coffee and tea.

red bull cola

So why write about Red Bull Cola? Go to the store, or our kitchen, and read the ingredient lists on the back of any major cola brand. You're bound to see something like this:


What the hell does all of that mean? What are natural flavors? Here's what the FDA has to say about that from their Code of Federal Regulations:

The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional...

Through additional rules and regulations, there is no requirement to list the foods from which these flavors are derived. But the recently released Red Bull Cola is one of the few brands of cola that proudly flaunts all flavor constituents on the label and therefore, despite my typical blanket avoidance of soft drinks, I was compelled to purchase a pack for private experimentation after a quick skim through the ingredients. So let's read through them, shall we:

Water, Sugar, Carbon Dioxide, Caramel...

So far this is pretty standard...


Ok, that's a strange one. Galangal is a root with what is described as an earthy citrus flavor with hints of pine and soap. It's used in Chinese medicine as a stimulant and aphrodisiac. Odd, but that's not what got my attention...

...Vanilla, Mustard Seed, Lime, Kola Nut, Cacao, Licorice, Cinnamon, Lemon, Ginger, Coca Leaf...

Coca leaf? Coca leaf! The scourge of the modern world, primary ingredient in Coca Tea and source of the dreaded compound cocaine (from which novocaine and many other incredibly useful painkillers were derived). No wonder Red Bull gives you wings.

red bull cola

Well, the coca leaves are, of course, decocainized but here we all thought that colas no longer used such ingredients. We've been taught to believe that the cocaine in early versions of Coca Cola was a myth. Turns out they still use coca leaves in their flavoring as well. We've also been taught that the USA has a blanket policy barring the import of this despicable vegetation. As it happens, the unprocessed leaves are imported and then the cocaine is removed in domestic factories. So, in essence, the USA is the largest importer and processor of coca leaves in the world. And like the processes used to decaffeinate coffee beans and tea leaves that result in the production of pure caffeine that is used in pills, drinks, and other stimulating foods, cocaine is undoubtedly a byproduct of the decocainization process. So what happens to it all? What indeed...

But let's finish up on these ingredients:

...Orange, Corn Mint, Pine...

As in pine tree? Isn't that crap poisonous?

...Cardamom, Mace, Clove, Lemon Juice concentrate, Caffeine from Coffee Beans

What a strange cocktail of exotic spices, the most surprising of all being the coca leaf, and it just happens to be the most popular drink in the world. But there's potentially a more sinister side to it all beyond the multinational/globalization issue that people are always up in arms about. It seems as though the cola industry might be supporting the drug trade. Them and the bakers of poppy seed muffins. Madness.

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