Coke and Diet Coke
I like Diet Coca Cola. I like it a lot. I drink it every day. I drink a lot of it. I guess it started when I was in university and had a meal ticket to eat in the dormitory cafeteria. Being non-caloric and freely available I guess I fell into drinking it in copious amounts as a diet strategy. I mean, it kept my stomach full (or, feeling full), thus dulling my appetite for food. And then along the way I suppose I became addicted to the caffeine. Now, people in Japan see me drinking Diet Coke every day and they assume that I like (love) Coca Cola.
And they ask me/say to me,“Do you love Coca Cola?” “Oh, you love Coca Cola!” which they take as a rock-solid truism, an obvious truth.
But for years and years and years I have been saying, “No, I do not like Coca Cola. I like Diet Cola.”
What I have been saying has almost never registered with people. On the very odd occasion when it has registered the usual response is,
“But they are the same thing!”
To which I say, “No, Coca Cola and Diet Coke are not the same thing!”
“How? What do you mean?”
“Look. C-O-C-A. D-I-E-T. It’s not the same at all, is it? Then there is the taste. They do not taste the same.”
“What do you mean? Sure they do.”
“No, they do not.”
So there have been occasions over the years when Japanese acquaintances have given me bottles/cans of Coca Cola as gifts, thinking I would be happy and expecting me to down it right away. It was evidence that they had completely mis-taken, or simply ignored my declaration that I liked Diet Coke, not Coke, and the end result was that I had to quietly put the gift in my bag and carry it home to dispose of down the drain.
I can taste the difference between regular Coca Cola and Diet Coke in an instant. Mainly, it is because the regular drink tastes a bit sour and sits heavy in my stomach, while the Diet version tastes fruity - thanks to the Aspartame (Nutrisweet) non-sugar sweetener which is something like 25,000 times sweeter than sugar by weight. Aspartame was invented about 25-years ago. When it appeared it suddenly allowed for a wide variety of diet soft drinks (and other diet, low-calorie, or non-calorie foods) when before practically the only low-calorie soft drink on the market was a version of Tab Cola. And it is true that before I drank Diet Coke - before Diet Coke was available - I drank a lot of Tab. Today, though, I don’t like the taste of it and can hardly believe that I used to drink it as much as I did at the end of the seventies and the start of the eighties.
In the last couple of years a new non-calorie version of Coke (and Pepsi) has emerged, “Coke Zero.” I can drink it, and I often do when I cannot find Diet Coke (which I fear will be increasingly difficult to come by as Diet Cola is slowly phased out). Again, I can taste the difference between it and the fruity Diet Coke right away. Coke Zero tastes almost exactly like regular Coke - a little sour - a taste that I do not favor. When I tell this to people they cannot believe me.
“But they are all the same,” they say once more.
“No, they’re not” I repeat.
There are many colas on the market. Coke, Pepsi, Tab, Dr. Pepper, Jolt and President’s Choice are just the best known.
I have drunk Pepsi occasionally, but only as a last resort because I hate the taste of it. It is foul stuff, like liquid chemical waste filtered through someone’s dirty underwear. Believe me, I know. I remember back in the 1980s when Pepsi Cola and Coca Cola began their most intense marketing war with “blind taste test” commercials on TV. Comedian Bill Cosby was the best known Coca Cola spokesman back then. Personally, I could tell the difference between the two instantly and chose between them accordingly.
Why has Coke Zero come about? Maybe the company thinks that so many crave for the original taste of the regular cola that they pursued the chance to duplicate it in a non-calorie form. Maybe they are anticipating men (like me) reverting from Diet Coke to Coke Zero out of some kind of embarrassment that the “diet” moniker might cause them. Maybe they think that a lot of male Diet Coke drinkers feel uncomfortable with a vague sense of femininity associated with a “diet” label. But I don’t feel that way. Diet Coke tastes better. It is sweeter, and I don’t like the sourness of the other. I could be wrong, but there you have it.