Way back in the mists of time, I wrote a couple of articles about both convenience foods and drinks that you might encounter in Japan. It’s been almost a year since I arrived back in NZ, but for some reason it has only just occurred to me that there might be ‘tastes of New Zealand’ which are not instantly familiar to overseas readers. In order to rectify that omission I went out and taste-tested several drinks which are Kiwi classics (and a couple which are not-so-classic). What do New Zealanders drink?
Lemon & Paeroa
Peru has Inca Kola, Scotland has Irn-Bru, and New Zealand has Lemon & Paeroa (although to be fair it’s made by the Coca-Cola Company these days. Fun fact – “Lemon & X” drinks used to be a staple of many small towns which claimed a mineral water spring nearby, but this is the only survivor. I might be the only person who remembers “Lemon & Te Aroha”, and even then I wondered why they bothered as L&P was clearly better. The brand is a quintessential NZ icon, and it trades on that in its advertising.
When you take a swig, the first taste is very sugary. It tastes sort of like Sprite or Mitsuya Cider (if you’re in Japan), but there’s an almost soapy overtaste to it. Despite the name, there’s no noticeable taste of lemon to it, or Paeroa either (which is probably just as well, if not surprising: I doubt it’s been made in Paeroa for 50 years). The drink doesn’t have any aftertaste to speak of, but it does leave your throat feeling a little warm – maybe this is because of all the sugar, though.
Overall its certainly not a bad taste, quite neutral and inoffensive, and it definitely has a nostalgic appeal for most Kiwis. This is the taste we all remember from summer car trips to the beach or afternoons at the domain.
Yes, it’s Australian, but it’s another familiar taste in NZ. Once you get the weird pull-tab off there’s a strong initial taste of ginger. However the aftertaste is surprisingly mild and it disappears quite quickly leaving only a warmth in the throat. This is another soft drink which is extremely sugary… although maybe I just notice that more these days because I avoid fizzy drinks more than I used to.
Credit where it’s due, though; the taste is genuinely like home-made ginger beer. The Australian version is smoother and sweeter, but there is a definite resemblance. Having said that, it’s not the most popular drink around. I doubt the brand will ever go away, like L&P, but it’s trading on its established market I think.
Apparently Japan isn’t the only place that gets special, limited edition soft drinks, because I came upon this quite by chance. The first taste is of coke, but with a mouth aroma that very much resembles Bundaberg. It has less bite on palate than either, but the drink is loaded with so much sugar that it’s virtually impossible to tell what you’re tasting anyway. The aftertaste, on the other hand, is distinctly gingery compared to normal coke, but the ginger taste is quite faint and not hot at all. Barely lukewarm, in fact, although the warm sensation does persist for a while.
Frankly I don’t think this deserves any hype at all, but it’s interesting to see Coke taking the risk of a limited edition here.
L&P Chilli & Lime
When you get the cap off it smells like L&P, but there’s a small but noticeable spicy overlay. The first taste resembles nothing so much as slightly less flavourful L&P with a faint lime taste. Then the chilli hits: it’s not hot, exactly, but certainly warmer than the Coke ginger. This heat fades fairly fast, but the back of my throat still had a burning sensation long after I had finished drinking. Of course the drink is obviously loaded with sugar, but the traditional L&P taste seems muted (perhaps it is overlain by the lime). There’s a faint, vaguely citrus aftertaste, but it’s hardly noticeable compared to the warmth at the back of the throat.
Overall, I have to see this is an Interesting taste excursion: L&P trades on nostalgia and kiwiana, so this is a bit of a surprise. But it’s a new flavour departure for the brand, and sheer novelty might be enough to get people to try it and then decide they like the different taste.
Just Juice Orange & Mango
The search for a typical Kiwi fruit juice led me to… well, it was either this or Freshup, I’m not willing to subject myself to the horrors of Raro for an article.
The first taste lives up to what it says on the bottle: there really is a strong mango flavour, right down to an almost creamy texture. The label claims to have no added sugar, but it’s still very sweet. Said sweetness lingers at the back of your throat, leaving a fruity aftertaste that is a bit phlegmy but disappears fast.
In terms of overall quality, it’s… ok. Not cheap and terrible juice (we have plenty of other brands for that), but not glorious top-line stuff either. The bottle says that it’s been reconstituted, and for juice that has been made up from feedstock it’s perfectly good – sweet, fruity, and quite refreshing. But it’s not ‘real’ fruit juice, and don’t expect it to be any better for you than a fizzy drink (this still has 11% of your recommended daily intake of energy: for comparison L&P was 13%, so there’s not much difference).
Question of the post: What’s the best local soft drink where you are? What would you tell a visitor to avoid at all costs?