Do you like drinks that may require chewing? Do you like liquids with blobs floating in them? Well, I do :). Like bubble tea. It took me a long time to try bubble tea, because for some reason when I first heard about it, I thought it meant the tea was carbonated. Which even for me, a big tea drinker, sounded rather unappealing.
However, once it was described to me (“…imagine a drink with slimy frog eggs or eyeball-like things in the bottom, and you suck them up a straw…”) I decided to try it. Wow! I now buy my own “boba” or tapioca balls. I just love it. Especially in Thai iced tea. I guess I like unusual textures, the soft chewiness. It’s no longer just drinking, it’s an activity. It also makes it last longer, you can’t just gulp it down. In some ways, I guess it compares with my liking for snack foods that require eating small pieces… popcorn, m&ms, toasted seeds, etc. There’s just something about it that’s more interesting. And I do like chewy, gummy types of candy (hard to find sometimes in halal form) because they last longer and you really have to work them with your mouth (one of the reasons I really like the Licorette candy I discovered recently). I’m starting to sound a bit crazy, but I know there must be a lot of other folks out there like this considering the following bubble tea has there are many shops to choose from here. I actually buy my own “bubbles” and cook them at home to add to drinks myself, either reconstituted bubble tea, homemade Thai iced tea, or regular tea with milk and sugar. Or anything! Yummy.
OKF Coco Coconut Drink
Anyway, back to the topic at hand. I’m not reviewing bubble tea today, but a new gummy chewy drink that is just delicious!
The other day I happened to see in the international foods store a drink called “Coco”. It said “coconut drink, natural.” Now, I do like most things coconut. But what really got to me was the suspended blobs, apparently of coconut floating throughout the drink. Unlike in bubble tea, they were suspended uniformly throughout the bottle, which only added to the appeal for some reason. (In bubble tea, the bubbles when you first put them in hot from cooking float to the top, but then they cool and sink to the bottom. I’ve always thought it would be nice if they remained suspended throughout the drink… for aesthetic purposes I guess :).
The coconut drink also reminded me of this pop I’d seen for sale… oh so many years ago. There as one period, maybe a month, maybe even less, when this new drink popped up in all the grocery stores. It was a clear pop but it had colored blobs (fluorescent blue, red, and I think yellow or orange, as far as I can recall) that were suspended evenly throughout the drink. I was fascinated with this and finally got some of it (I probably had to convince my mother first, like I said it was a long time ago). Unfortunately, despite the unique and bizarre look, it tasted fairly bad. Nobody could even finish a bottle. And soon, it had completely disappeared from shelves and I never saw anything like it again.
I did try another drink last summer that had suspended blobs, some to think of it. It was some sort of lemon honey flavor, and the “blobs” were basil seeds. Each seed had sort of a gel coating around it (these really did look something like frog eggs, though much smaller) and they were distributed through the entire drink. This sort of thing just doesn’t look as good if the blobs are all clustered together, and it requires you to drink them from the top or bottom.
Unfortunately, though it tasted better than the long ago colored blob pop, the basil seed drink was not very good. I managed to finish most of it after chilling it, but although the texture was interesting, the actual taste (of the surrounding liquid, not the seeds themselves) left much to be desired.
Back to the coconut… the plot thickens…
Not so with my new-found coconut drink! I usually don’t like very chilled drinks, so I allowed it to reach room temperature before opening. It was very refreshing! There was a coconut flavor, the water part of the drink was just like slightly flavored water, not too sweet, not too sour, with a subtle coconut taste. It did not taste like drinking coconut milk, for instance. The amount of flavor was probably comparable to most sports drinks, not as sweet but the same sort of watered down effect (much better tasting though). The blobs were bits of “Nata de coco”, based on the ingredients list. Nata de coco is a kind of coconut gel made from fermenting coconut juice, and strikes me as being sort of like what the inside part of a coconut would be like if it wasn’t quite solid. While it is fluffy and sort of jelly like, you can really sink your teeth into it, and then it’s like a piece of coconut. (Note: despite the fermentation being part of the process, there is no alcohol in Nata de coco, this is discarded and boiled out during the process of making it).
The full ingredients list is as follows: Mineral water, Nata de Coco, Coconut Juice, Organic Cane Sugar, Calcium Lactate, Natural coconut flavor, Citric Acid, Vitamin C, Sodium Citrate, Gellan gum.
And yes, it’s marked Halal
Researching the ingredients further revealed that Gellan gum, another gelatinous product, this time created by fermenting seaweed (again, no alcohol in the end product), was likely the agent that caused the Nata de Coco to suspend in that lovely way throughout the drink. This article also gave me the name of that short-lived colored blob drink I remembered: Orbitz. If only they could have made it taste better… There are some fun reviews floating around the internet of people who remember its taste better than I :P.
I didn’t realize until reading up on ill-fated Orbitz, that it was manufactured by the makers of another of my favorite no-longer existent drinks: Blackberry soda made by Clearly Canadian. It had a long run than the floating balls, but disappeared years ago as well (I’ve seen similar products since, but they don’t taste the same). That one, I felt the loss of keenly! I don’t drink a lot of pop, but the blackberry flavored one was excellent. Actually there was a kiwi flavored pop I used to love too by a different manufacturer (probably from Australia or New Zealand… it had a green bottle with a kangaroo logo)… also vanished.
Back to Coco the Coconut Drink (which isn’t carbonated, though I keep comparing it to pop): Definitely recommend if you’re into what I’m into: weird gelatinous floating things, that actually taste great! The total bottle (16.9 fluid ounces) is 2 servings of 75 calories each (you could easily drink the whole at once, which is still on the low-end with 150 calories compared to “equivalent” drinks). This was lovely on a winter day but would be even better in hot weather.
Further adventures – OKF Aloe Vera King drink
Intrigued by the Coconut blobby drink, I also grabbed another bottle by the same brand which was “Aloe” flavored. I was less enthusiastic about this, but decided to give it a go. In part, I’ll admit, because I’d heard aloe helped “get things moving” (I don’t know how accurate this is, Activia makes a far louder claim and didn’t do much for me in that department). Normally, I do not think of Aloe as a food item. I have some aloe vera gel that I use for burns and sunburns, and I used to use to make my own baby wipe liquid which worked quite well. I did try some “natural” aloe that somebody brought back from a health food store once, and found it revolting. It was extremely bitter and not at all gel like. Other than that, the plants are nice.
However, I thought I’d give this a shot and see how it compared with the coconut stuff, which I thought it more likely that I would enjoy (and did!).
The Aloe Vera drink I tried was kiwi flavored, in memory of the kiwi soda I once enjoyed. In fact as I mentioned I was slightly leery of trying the straight aloe vera flavor (which was available, as well as Aloe Vera combined with numerous other options besides kiwi).
This one, though the same brand as the Coconut (OKF), had a more complex title, first in spanish ”Bebida de Aloe Vera” then “Aloe Vera King” followed by “Aloe vera Getränke” and was also marked “Natural” and “World Sales No. 1 Brand.” I wasn’t dreadfully encouraged by the latter due to the fact that I couldn’t imagine that many kiwi flavored aloe drinks in floating around the world in competition, but I could be wrong.
As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. The drink was a far cry from the plain aloe I’d tried! It was actually quite a bit sweeter than the coconut drink, and slightly tart. There were pulpy bits floating in it, but they weren’t as chewy as the coconut, they just sort of mushed or didn’t even require chewing (I feel sure they were bits of aloe leaf, not bits of kiwi). The overall effect was very much like drinking white grape juice, with pulped up bits of grape mixed in, but without the slightly bitter edge grape juice sometimes has or the aftertaste. I checked, it does not actually contain grape juice, unlike so many fruit drinks.
The ingredients list is as follows: Water, Organic aloe vera gel powder (21%), Aloe vera gel (8%), organic cane sugar, honey, Calcium Lactate, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Gellan gum, Natural Kiwi Flavor.
The total bottle was slightly more caloric than the coconut drink, at 95 per serving or 190 for the entire bottle at once. This was not surprising as it was definitely sweeter tasting than the coconut water, which was not nearly as sweet as fruit juice (to which the aloe drink was very comparable). Personally, I don’t drink a lot of fruit juice these days and I found it a bit too sweet for my taste. Also, it didn’t to me have a very distinctive kiwi flavor. However on the whole, the flavor was pleasant, and it was far more agreeable than I had been expecting an aloe flavored drink to taste. The floating bits were far less noticeable than with the coconut drink, about as noticeable as the pulp in a strawberry lemonade. I could stop and chew a piece of it (which broke apart easily unlike the coconut, I couldn’t really sink my teeth into it). For someone whose not as much a fan of chewable drinks this would probably be a positive trait. I didn’t find the pulp at all off-putting, just not particularly notable.
To liven up the second half of the bottle with a fun experiment, I dumped in a tablespoon of chia seeds and left it to soak for a while. Chia seeds, in case you didn’t know they were good for more than growing “fur” on clay animals, also form a slimy coating in water (similar to basil seeds, based on that basil seed drink I had, but unlike basil seeds the coating is more gluey and somewhat less appealing). Also key, they don’t suspend themselves throughout the water like basil seeds do, they tend to clump unappetizing at the top and bottom of the glass. They do have a good pack of fiber though, an amazing 4g per tablespoon! And in this case when I returned later and shook up the bottle with the Aloe drink in it, due to the wonders of my new friend Gellan gum, the chia seeds had distributed themselves more or less evenly throughout! Hmm… I wonder if I can buy Gellan gum on its own. Or basil seeds! I’ll be on the lookout…
All in all, the coconut was the clear favorite for me in this comparison, and is something I’d buy again actually (insha’allah), though I don’t often go for bottled drinks. It was incredibly refreshing (in part perhaps due to the less sweet taste) and I quite enjoyed the chewy suspended bits. I doubt I’ll buy the aloe kiwi one again just as neither the sweetness or particular flavor grabbed me, but I will certainly look over the selection of other flavors for this brand to try if I see it again!