Oct 06

Food Science Day Two: 3 – The Big Taste Test

FT + Proven By Science + Pumpkin Publog22 comments • 1,863 views

I had noticed over the last few months that there had been an increase in both the amount and the variety of non-english (or “Uxbridge” [0]) Diet Coke that was making its way into the sandwich shops I frequent around the Covent Garden area. Not only that but there were real differences between the different nationalities. The time had come to gather as many varieties as possible, a small group of tasters, and find out WHICH WAS BEST!

AIM: To determine which country (from those available in the one week period before FSD2 in central London) makes the best Diet Coke.

APPARATUS: Seven cans of Diet Coke/Coke Light, One bottle Coke Light, some people with fine, educated palates, one person with allergy to aspartame

METHOD: Give each person a small amount of each, note comments, see what happens if we give some to allergy boy (pictured left).

Tower o' Diet Coke
(Key (done from memory): from top, Canada, Northern Ireland, GB, Netherlands, Macedonia, Germany, Poland, “Thai” (bottle))

Great Britain: We tasted this first to set a benchmark, obviously we all knew what it tasted like, it’s just normal Diet Coke, innit.

Northern Ireland: I hadn’t realised that there was a separate company making Coke for Northern Ireland, but Coca-Cola Bottlers (Ulster) started in Belfast in 1939, apparently. We thought this was flatter and more syrupy than the mainland stuff, quite sharp but with more of the nasty aftertaste.

Canada: In a non-european standard 375ml can, rather than the 330ml can we are used to, this was interesting for being in both English (Diet Coke) and French (Diete Coke). Frankly the worst of the bunch, barely any taste at all, like brackish water, no follow through, all mouth, no trousers were the comments of the assembled masses.

Netherlands: The first of the Coke Lights to be tasted and the difference was immediate. This tasted a lot more like full fat Coke, with a lot more body. It was pointed out that this would go well with a dark rum. My personal favourite.

Germany: Even sweeter than the Dutch one and more syrupy, also had more aspartame after taste.

By this point I realised that drinking this much diet coke in quick succession was a bad idea for someone with a mild caffeine intolerance such as myself, as you can see the comments have become a little sketchy, which, to be fair, was how I was feeling. Added to the fact that several of the group had also eaten rather a large number of sweets only shortly before this led to a feeling of mild hysteria in the room…

Poland: This one had a weird smell and taste and everyone was rather confused until we looked carefully at the can and realised it had a different balance of sweetners to all of the others, less aspartame and more of whatever the other one is, although giving some to aspartame-allergic boy still produced a spluttering and complaints of numb mouth.

Macedonian We have no idea why macedonian diet coke is available in London, but as it says it’s from Скопје on the side (this was the only can not in roman script) even my rudimentary knowledge of cyrillic can read this as Skopje. This was the most syrupy of the lot and generally held to be the best, but i think it’s a bit too brutal.

The last to be tasted was the bottle, which had a strange label in what we believe to be Thai script. However there was no marking on the cap and the label was held on by a slightly dodgy sticker giving the ingredients in English. We’re pretty certain it was bootleg as it basically tasted of normal fat coke (not that any of us had much in the way of tastebuds left after the onslaught) so it was disqualified.

CONCLUSION: It seems to be that the further east you go the heftier the diet coke/coke light gets, so if you want something with a bit more oomph than yr standard, go for one of the cans in foreign.

CONCLUSION SUPPLEMENTAL: Despite a grillion pound advertising spend aimed exactly at the core demographic of the tasting group (ie young men) not ONE of us thought to get any coke zero for this task proving that the brand will go nowhere…

[0] although UK coke is often referred to as Uxbridge coke, it is not actually made there. Unfortunately there is no easy way of finding out which of the 6 manufacturing sites each can is produced at, maybe that’s a task for FSD3…


  1. 1
    Andrew Farrell on 16 Oct 2006 #

    Also is it just me or did Dr Pepper Zero appear and disappear with ridiculous haste?

  2. 2
    Al Ewing on 17 Oct 2006 #

    I have tasted Coke Zero and it’s pretty much exactly the same as full-fat Coke. There’s a slight hint of aspartame there, but otherwise it’s a valid alternative. Unfortunately the advert is so horrifically wrong on all levels that I can never drink it again without wincing.

  3. 3
    alext on 17 Oct 2006 #

    Back in the days when I used to drink coke, I remember Spanish coke being pretty sickly, and Saudi Arabian coke being almost undrinkable.

    Next year you could test how different coke can taste if it comes from a can, glass bottle, plastic bottle etc.

  4. 4
    Kat on 17 Oct 2006 #

    My schoolchum S’s mum used to work at Coke offices in Uxbridge. This meant that S got all the collectable promotional Coke yo-yos during the yo-yo craze of 1990, including a Gold Spinner of which we were all supremely jealous. I had a Sprite one.

  5. 5
    Tom on 17 Oct 2006 #

    Polish coke is a bad business: I didn’t try the diet variety as at that point I was still on the man coke. The offie near us has NI diet coke, much to my dismay.

  6. 6
    Kat on 17 Oct 2006 #

    Has anyone sampled a goth Kitkat yet? We saw said dark chocolate treat advertised outside a newsagent in Westferry but inside said shop there was a distinct LACK of gothic snack products. How disappointing.

  7. 7
    mark c on 17 Oct 2006 #

    I like coke zero and the man in costcutter on ho’way rd says everyone is drinking that and hardly anyone is drinking diet coke any more.

  8. 8
    Emma on 17 Oct 2006 #

    I’m not sure the Coke demographic people would consider the tasters to be ‘young’ men…

  9. 9
    Tom on 17 Oct 2006 #

    Unfortunately Emma is largely right – “20 to 29 year old men” seems to have been the ad brief.

  10. 10
    Sarah on 17 Oct 2006 #

    Hey Steve are you going to do an honourable mention of the Nigerian full fat syrup-fest as well? I think it should be mentioned, despite being a rogue FSD element…

  11. 11
    alext on 17 Oct 2006 #

    I have had the goth kit kat twice. It’s nice, but not as good as it should be by rights — the texture of the dark chocolate is much firmer than yr usual kit kat, so there’s a bit too much contrast between shell and interior. Now, don’t get me started on the peanut butter chunky kit kat.

  12. 12
    Emma on 17 Oct 2006 #

    Is the peanut butter in the peanut butter chunky kit kat smooth or chunky?

  13. 13
    CarsmileSteve on 17 Oct 2006 #

    OI! do yr own experiments if you want to talk about kit kats ;)

  14. 14
    Vicky on 17 Oct 2006 #

    I can’t remember which one I liked best now, I think I was with you Steve, the dutch one. It felt like we drank far more than that at the time.

    I think next time portion contol is key, not just for rationing caffeine and sugar rushes, but also to make it easier on bladders!

    Poor diet cola lovers in Canada though, it was really foul.

  15. 15

    i think the next stage of the experiment shd be directly bladder-related!

  16. 16
    Steve Mannion on 17 Oct 2006 #

    I have finally eschewed Coke in favour of Fentimanns Curiosity Cola. Twice the price, twice the taste (and only half the E numbers)!

  17. 17
    John BULL on 18 Oct 2006 #

    UK Diet Coke /= “normal Diet Coke,” you Brit imperialists!

  18. 18
    Brian on 9 Apr 2007 #

    is it the guy that plays micheal in alan partridge on the new kitkat chunky peanut butter advert?

  19. 19
    Kazeloic on 2 Jul 2008 #

    Hi webmaster!

  20. 20
    Kazelnig on 3 Jul 2008 #

    Hi webmaster!

  21. 21
    Kazelhsi on 3 Jul 2008 #

    Hi webmaster!

  22. 22
    where can i buy on 12 Aug 2008 #

    Hi webmaster!

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