We drink some weird things in Japan.

This isn’t entirely what I intended to do today, particularly just after another food review, but the planned post is proving to be tougher and more complicated than expected so here is a quickie for you.

For the past few years Pepsi has been producing a special limited edition drink each summer. When I arrived they released a cucumber soda that I sadly didn’t get the chance to try. Last year they brought out a bright blue “Blue Hawaiian” flavour that tasted almost entirely of chemicals.

This year they have something completely different, Shiso Soda.

Shiso (also known as perilla) is a kind of Japanese leaf that is related to mint. It has a really unique flavour, sort of a cross between basil, mint and sprouts with something wholly unique thrown in. Said flavour is really incredibly strong and Shiso tends to be one of those herbs that completely overwhelm a dish. Consequently I do not use it much (although I do know a nice pasta recipe using it). It is not, however, in the slightest bit sweet. Furthermore it has a texture pretty much identical to a stinging nettle and stings your mouth a little when you eat it.

An odd choice for a bottle of pop, wouldn’t you say.

But what really makes the Shiso soda worthy of a blog entry is that this year Coca Cola have seen fit to try and directly compete in the weird summer drink market with their own entry. Green Tea Diet Coke plus catechin (and no, I’m as in the dark as to what a catechin is as you are).

So how do they stack up?

Well being the slightly more normal entry I thought I’d try the coke first.

It smells pretty much exactly how you’d expect. It smells of Diet Coke and faintly of green tea.

But it tastes just like Diet Coke. Now, in fairness I haven’t drunk diet coke in a while no do I have a bottle here to compare and contrast but from memory this is just Diet Coke. If there is a green tea flavour then it is subtle in the extreme.

What about the Shiso Pepsi?

Well first strike against it, it is a violent green colour. That never bodes well and puts me in mind of that Final Fantasy Potion I had last year.

The packaging is much nicer than the coke bottle though. In fact for a soft drink it is almost understated. Look at the sheer amount of text Coca Cola has to cram onto the bottle. That is astonishingly ugly even before the design, horrible clashing colours and clashing styles are factored in. I count at least five different fonts on that bottle which is simply unforgivable.

The Shiso bottle is much simpler in design. All laid out in a simple line format and with less fonts and a nice design that complements rather than clashes with the font.

Can you tell that I am trying to put off drinking it?

It smells unmistakeably of Shiso too. To try and convey that imagine some nettles, cucumbers and plums left to sit in a box together. Shiso is almost like that.

And it tastes, entirely of Shiso. The flavour is pure Shiso to the extent that it isn’t even sweet. It even makes the roof of your mouth tingle in the same way Shiso does.

I’m not certain that is a good ambition for a soft drink to aim for though. The flavour is nice enough but it distinctly savoury and the notion of a savoury drink is more than a little bit off putting. Even most beers are sweeter than this.

Ultimately I don’t think it works. The taste isn’t bad as such but it is so odd that is pretty much impossible to drink a whole bottle of the stuff.

No, I think I shall be sticking with my Pocari Sweat thank you very much.


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