I knew what Beverly was before I ever set eyes on the place. (And if you don’t know what Beverly is, I’ll get to that.) For many of the fans waiting outside one of downtown Atlanta’s most popular tourist desinations, a chance to try beverages from The Coca-Cola Company's global portfolio is the main reason they’re standing in the longest line in Pemberton Place.
For those of you not in the know, the "Taste It!" room features a diverse array of more than 100 beverages made by The Coca-Cola Company around the world. There are five tasting stations arranged geographically – Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America – and each offers sparkling and still beverages to sample that are unique to that region. From Bibo Candy Pine-Nut (Africa) to Guaraná Kuat (Brazil) to Fanta Melon Frosty (Thailand), your taste buds can take a round-the-world journey in a matter of minutes.
And I did just that.
It’s all a blur, to be honest. The next thing I knew, I'm in the middle of my second round, comparing tastes with my coworkers. And that's not even taking into account the six Coca-Cola Freestyle machines in the back corner of the room, which each have three times as many choices as all of the international options combined. And, of course, they save the best for last; everyone is handed a complimentary Coke in a contour glass bottle on their way out.
So that’s what this post is: a roadmap to help you make the most of your “Taste It!” room experience. I know from personal experience that Madagascar’s Bonbon Anglais tastes a lot better going down than it does mixing with Korea’s Minute Maid Joy and 50 others while you wait in line at a crowded gift shop.
Full disclosure: this is my favorite Coca-Cola product, and it’s featured in the North America section of the “Taste It!” room, so I considered it fair game for this list. I love to drink “the kind of xxx you can consume in front of your mother,” according to the bottle. It’s a smooth, acai-blueberry-pomegranate blend and a nice contrast to the exotic global flavors that can be a bit overbearing to the average American taste bud.
3. Thums Up (India)
Most people’s reaction to trying Thums Up is to say that it tastes like Coca-Cola. In fact, the two actually competed in India in the early-'90s. Coca-Cola left the Indian market in 1977 but returned 17 years later for a three-way cola war with its primary competitor and Thums Up, an upstart cola that had risen to nationwide popularity in Coca-Cola’s absence. Coca-Cola eventually acquired Thums Up, which remains a hugely popular drink in India marketed as a “manly” beverage: one of its TV ads features its brand ambassador, famous Indian actor Salman Khan, impressing an attractive woman by casually driving an all-terrain vehicle out of an airplane and parachuting to a convenience store that sells Thums Up. Pretty cool stuff. I compared it to classic Coke at the “Taste It!” room and enjoyed the extra spice of India’s macho-cola. Definitely try it if you’re looking for a Coca-Cola with a subtle kick that may give you superpowers.
As far as the “Taste It!” room goes, Africa has a pretty strong argument for being the home of the best sparkling soft drinks, and if you’re tasting them in order, there may not be a more delicious triple-whammy than the aforementioned Bonbon Anglais from Madagascar, Tanzania’s Stoney, and Uganda’s Fanta Exotic. Of those three, and probably the whole room, Fanta Exotic is by far the most flavorful…maybe excessively so. A lot of people think it’s too sweet. The thing is, when you’re three continents down at the “Taste It!” room and closing out your fourth, any taste shocking enough to make you forget how full you are is a blessing. It’s the last selection in the Africa section and the only drink in the room I saw someone lick off the back of their hand.
1. Lemon Crush (Bahrain)
If you happen to be at the “Taste It!” room during peak hours, it will probably take you awhile to try everything. Each continent’s station usually features one group trip of 20 or so folks jockeying for position, one group of teenagers pleading with their friends to stop drinking whatever he or she is drinking and "Go try Beverly!", and at least one older couple just trying to work their way in. In one such situation, I stood and waited with an elderly man for a few minutes as we waited for the traffic to clear. Then we each took a sample of Lemon Crush at the same time and nodded to each other in approval. It’s probably the tartest-tasting drink at “Taste It!,” which for me is a major plus. Apparently it was for that gu,y too.
Net-net: Even when it’s a packed house, the World of Coca-Cola “Taste It!” room is worth the trip. Your taste buds will thank you.
Witt Wells is an intern at The Coca-Cola Company.
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