I was originally going to call this post, “Various Korean Soft Drinks,” since I purchased them at a Korean grocery (the same one where I got the dandelion dish, see January 12, 2015 post). But, once I got them back, and read the labels more carefully, I realized I couldn’t, as four out of five were from other Asian countries. So here we are. I’ll start with some info about some of the companies that put out the drinks, and include my reviews near the end.
Calpico is a Japanese company. Its name in
Japan, and most
non-English speaking countries, is Calpis, based on a mixing of the (English)
word calcium, and the Sanskrit word for butter flavor (sarpis). My American import bottle has the name change
because the manufacturers figured a beverage which sounded like “cow piss”
wouldn’t be that appetizing. Their logo
is rather new, too, as one of their older ones was considered to be an
offensive racist caricature. Their basic
drink flavor is modeled after the Mongolian traditional cultured milk drink,
Yeo, meanwhile, is a Malaysian company, which is super big. They have licenses to produce all the Pepsi sodas, as well as Gatorade and Red Bull. Additionally, the company makes a large chunk of its money from investment holdings, and housing construction.
Ramune is another Japanese company. Its drinks are mostly distinctive for their unusual bottle design. It’s a Codd-neck bottle, which was developed by an Englishman, Hiram Codd, back in 1872. It has a bizarre twisted top, which has a chamber with a glass marble in it. Evidently, collectors find obtaining the bottles to be a challenge, as kids often break the bottles to get the marble. Ramune has been available in over 30 flavors, including champagne, chocolate, corn potage (!), Disco Dance, octopus, wasabi, and “mystery.”
Lotte Chilsung is actually a South Korean company. Back in the late 1980’s Hong Kong movie star Chow Yun-fat was in a famous commercial for their Milkis drink, saying, “Saranghaeyo, Milkis!” (“I love you, Milkis!”).
As usual, I’m using the
scholastic grading system, of “A” for excellent, “B” for good, “C” for average,
“D” for unsatisfactory but passing, and “F” for failing, with pluses and
minuses as needed.
Calpico, non-carbonated, original flavor: D. Weak, sort of lemon-y, not good. Bland, not worth it. Slogan is, “Refreshingly sweet and tangy,” but I didn’t find this to be so.
Yeo’s White Gourd Drink (with real white gourd juice) non-carbonated: D+. Weird. Sweet, but thin. Better than Calpico, but still not very good.
Ramune’s, carbonated, peach flavor: Does taste like peach, but weak and bland again. The bottle, though, is really cool—I’m going to save it as a souvenir.
Foco Sugar Cane Juice (non-carbonated, made in
Oddly oily, sweet but not overwhelmingly so. Alright, but not great.
Lotte Milkis, carbonated, milk and yogurt flavor: B-. Hard flavor to pin down—almost more lemon-y than yogurt or milk flavored. Slightly sour. Not bad. Best of the bunch by far.
Summing up then, I wasn’t impressed with Asian soft drinks in general. I found most of them to be rather boring and weak tasting. None were truly awful, but I think I’d only consider buying the Lotte Milkis again. Granted, this may be a cultural difference. Perhaps American palates, like mine, are used to the (evidently) sweeter soft drinks we commonly have here. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that Asian drinkers of American soft drinks find them to be unpleasant, and too sweet. But, even recognizing this possible cultural difference doesn’t change my taste buds, of course, so these were my impressions. And, clearly, I would try still try other Asian sodas if/when I get the chance.
Speaking of cultural differences, I looked up the details on a story I’d first read in a Dave Barry column years ago. He’d heard that the Pepsi slogan, “Come alive with the Pepsi generation,” was translated into, “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead,” in Chinese. And that “Coca-Cola” was rendered, again in Chinese, into “Bite the wax tadpole.” Alas, both are urban legends (as I guess any Chinese readers can attest). Apparently, using Chinese characters to represent the sounds of these names or slogans could have resulted in these (mis)translations, but the companies did enough research and didn’t actually use these. Some individual shop owners may have used these phonetic translations on signs (which also could have resulted in “Coca-Cola” being “female horse stuffed with wax,”) but the official company slogan was changed to characters which spelled out, “let your mouth rejoice.” The full story kind of ruins the fun, doesn’t it? But unfortunately we don’t have these morbid or oddly random, yet almost poetic slogans. And no “cow piss,” even.