Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

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Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby nisiprius » Tue Nov 20, 2012 7:16 pm

Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years. I really think Planet Money is terrific, I now prioritize it first on my iPod, before Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. Coke cost a nickel for a 6-1/2 ounce bottle from 1882 into the early 1950s. There are actually good explanations--it was a chain of several successive things that locked the price in. This text seems to be an abbreviated version. The whole podcast is here.

One of the lock-ins was Coke vending machines that were operated by a single nickel (and didn't make change). The podcast said that at the time there were something like 450,000 vending machines in the U.S. of which 400,000 were Coke machines. When Coke desperately wanted to raise the price, they unsuccessfully lobbied the Treasury to introduce a 7-1/2 cent coin. The podcast says that, also, Coke apparently had absolutely dead-serious plans to load vending machines so that every tenth bottle was empty. (Would the Bureau of Labor Statistics shopper catch that?)

Anyway, it's a great illustration of just how stuff happens in the real world that ought to be impossible according to economic theory.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby arcticpineapplecorp. » Tue Nov 20, 2012 8:02 pm

I enjoyed that podcast too. I liked the end of the podcast where he said the nickel coke is still with us (see below)

From the podcast: "Phil Mooney the Coca Cola Archivist pointed out this one strange thing--In many respects the nickel coke is sorta still around if you do it on a per ounce basis. Buy a 2 liter bottle for $1.29 or $1.39 in the grocery store on sale and that's pretty much close to the original nickel coke. It's very very close."
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby wshang » Tue Nov 20, 2012 8:56 pm

Horn and Hardart had a similar success/failure story with their legendary coffee. The consumer was so accustom to nickel fresh brewed coffee that for 38 years (1912-1950), the business ate the mounting losses. When it came time to raise the price from the convenient nickel, regular customers literally revolted. It was thought to be one of the causes for the demise of the Automat.

There also is an interesting related story how Coke introduced the sugary drink into Taiwan. Initially vendors were given the concentrate and told to tell that the customers the drink was free with a meal. Later, Coke make supersizing from the small to large size marginally more expensive. People loved getting something for nothing. In this way, an entire generation accustom to drinking tea were converted to drinking large volumes of carbonated, corn syrup. (Greed wins out again!)
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby Xanadu » Tue Nov 20, 2012 9:37 pm

Funny, I just listened to that one on my way home from work today. Enjoyed it thoroughly, as I do most of planet money podcasts
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby pkcrafter » Tue Nov 20, 2012 10:33 pm

Funny, the LOW COST is probably one of the main reasons that coke became the most well-known soda in the country. Indexed soda :shock: Very Bogleish.

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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby nisiprius » Tue Nov 20, 2012 10:53 pm

pkcrafter wrote:Funny, the LOW COST is probably one of the main reasons that coke became the most well-known soda in the country. Indexed soda :shock: Very Bogleish.

Paul
Even odder because Coke didn't position itself as low cost during my lifetime. I'm not quite old enough to remember the Pepsi jingle, "Twice as much for a nickel, too." During my lifetime, Coke and Pepsi were almost premium brands, and priced almost identically as nearly as I can remember. Royal Crown and a host of supermarket brands, house brands, etc. were cheaper. Anyone remember Super-Coola in cans with conical tops, like Cristy DryGas cans?
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I don't believe the Super-Coola cans had any kind of plastic liner and my recollection is that they had an absolutely foul off-taste. Heaven only knows what kinds of metallic content had been leached into it by the acidic contents.

Anyone remember when Howard Johnson's phased out Coke and introduced HoJo Cola, with big signs saying "The Only Cola We Serve is HoJo?"

I'm trying to remember the evolution of bottle sizes. The little 6-1/2 ounce bottles were standard when I was a kid. The 16-ounce "half-quart" size was introduced in the 1960s, and I remember thinking how sneaky it was to call it the "half-quart size" instead of "pint size."

Oh, why didn't I trust Google? Why did I Google on "Cristy Drygas" to find the kind of can I was talking about, rather than simply--you guessed it--Googling on "Super Coola?"
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby tetractys » Tue Nov 20, 2012 11:20 pm

I heard that on the radio the other day--very interesting!

And as we all know, although not mentioned on the program, there was a time cocaine was a legal ingredient. -- Tet
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby elgob.bogle » Tue Nov 20, 2012 11:24 pm

"Do you remember nickel cokes? Have you even heard of that? They're half between the 40's and tomorrow." Dubuque Blues - The Association - 1970 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP9Fz69Yin0

enjoy

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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby interplanetjanet » Tue Nov 20, 2012 11:33 pm

tetractys wrote:And as we all know, although not mentioned on the program, there was a time cocaine was a legal ingredient. -- Tet

Interestingly, Coca-Cola to this day has an exemption for the use of decocainized coca leaf extract (bought through the Stepan Company, which sells the extracted cocaine for pharmaceutical use to Mallinckrodt amongst others). I believe they are the only USA beverage company with such an exemption. If you've ever tasted coca tea (legal, in some parts of the world, and generally milder than a cup of coffee) you can easily discern a portion of Coca-Cola's taste that is unique to them and not present in other colas.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby Spirit Rider » Wed Nov 21, 2012 1:13 am

In the early sixties my friends and I would go to a local gas station for our cokes. The station owner had a coca-cola vending machine still dispensing 6 1/2 ounce cokes for a nickle. The vending machine was normally reserved for the gas attendants and the mechanics, but the workers and owner would let the neighborhood kids use the machine as long as you didn't leave the lot with the bottle (big deposit in those days).

I don't know what the going rate was at other vending machines. I just know for the limited change we might have had in our pockets, it was a great deal for me and my friends. I was frugal and a saver at an early age. Unfortunately, I only saved in banks. Just imagine if I was educated about investing in the seventies instead later.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby Valuethinker » Wed Nov 21, 2012 5:03 am

What is depressing is that a drink which is so manifestly bad for us became so generic.

The 2 litre bottle in particular and the super sized drink.

But then there is bottled mineral water ;-).

In Emerging Markets Coke has the virtue of being uncontaminated by bacteria-- a safe drink. And in hot climates, you need fluid and the occasional jolt of sugar is OK.

There is a school of history (I don't know how convincing) that the switch from drinking beer to drinking tea and coffee was part of the European rise to world dominance and the industrial revolution-- instead of being addled after lunch by the alcohol in beer, your workers had increased energy and focus due to caffeine.

Coke is sugar + caffeine so the short term energy effect is doubled.

Interestingly Brasilians drink coffee to *calm down* before going to bed, or so I have read. Suggesting that even for drugs like caffeine, the effect of prior beliefs on what the drug will do to you, has a strong impact on the actual effect of the drug.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby nisiprius » Wed Nov 21, 2012 8:12 am

Valuethinker wrote:What is depressing is that a drink which is so manifestly bad for us became so generic.
I blame the supersizing of the portion more than the drink itself.

Let me defend Coca-Cola. Think of it as our native herb tea, traditionally drunk chilled and heavily sweetened.

It doesn't have that much caffeine in it, I actually think the bottling companies want it to have a reputation for being stronger than it is. I'm not really familiar with British tea-drinking, so you will have to tell me how many cups of tea and how heavily sweetened the average Brit actually drinks in a day. Orwell says of workers in Wigan in the 1930s "The basis of their diet, therefore, is white bread and margarine, corned beef, sugared tea, and potatoes--an appalling diet." I've read at least one book that indicates that sweetened tea is in fact a meaningful contribution to British caloric intake. So, how much caffeine goes along with that?

Doing math on numbers from this source, rounding a bit:
6-1/2 ounces of Coke, the traditional size: 20 mg.
6-1/2 ounces of tea, a reasonable teacup full, 40 mg, range 30-100.

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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby dumbmoney » Wed Nov 21, 2012 9:53 am

arcticpineapplecorp. wrote:I enjoyed that podcast too. I liked the end of the podcast where he said the nickel coke is still with us (see below)

From the podcast: "Phil Mooney the Coca Cola Archivist pointed out this one strange thing--In many respects the nickel coke is sorta still around if you do it on a per ounce basis. Buy a 2 liter bottle for $1.29 or $1.39 in the grocery store on sale and that's pretty much close to the original nickel coke. It's very very close."


2 L = 67.63 fluid ounces, right? So that's 67.63/6.5 = 10.4 nickle bottles. 10.4*0.05 = 0.52
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby bottlecap » Wed Nov 21, 2012 11:02 am

I'm not so sure that Coke is any worse for anybody than anything else on the market. Have you seen the ingredients for juice lately? Much of it has just as much sugar as cola and the same nutritional value, ie., zero. As nisi suggests, if you put sugar in your tea or coffee, I would guess its nearly as sweet and contains more caffeine than a Coke.

The interesting thing to me is not that this is a story of how something supposedly happened that turns economic theory on its head (it doesn't), but what other economic factors went into keeping the price so low. I understand the idea that a silly contract and vending machines might have helped keep the price low, but vending machines can be retooled (or scrapped) and contracts can be broken. If Coca Cola thought it could increase its prices enough, surely they would have breached the contract and moved on. If the lawyers thought that Coke could be sold for much more, surely they would have renegotiated the contract sooner than engage in a scenario where everyone was making less money.

I would think that the costs of new vending machines or breaching the contract might have encouraged Coke to look else where to stay afloat, but neither of those things explains why Coca Cola didn't do this if, as the synopsis of the paper implies, that the price was far under "market" value. Moreover, if the price charged was less than the cost to make it, either Coca Cola would have gone out of business or it would have had to improve its distribution and cost structure. I guess the third possibility is that at 5 cents initially, Coke was overpriced or had a large profit margin.

Finally, if Coca Cola's actions were to intentionally keep prices low, for whatever reason, this kind of "dumping" would likely be prohibited as some violation of anti-competitiveness laws vis a vis other cola makers. It's no defense to say to regulators, "But I make a bad contract, so I have to drive competition out of the industry." I know that the Sherman Act was in place, but honestly don't know whether it, at that time, would have prohibited this practice. But the fact is that Coca Cola and even other soda manufacturers continued to grow, expand and make a profit during these years.

Perhaps the paper will address these issues if I can download it, but there had to be a lot more going on than a contract with two lawyers and vending machine technology. Interesting nonetheless.

JT
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby flamtap » Wed Nov 21, 2012 3:51 pm

Caffeine and sweetner isn't what makes Coke so bad, it's the phosphoric acid. You know that tingle you get in your mouth and throat when you drink a Coke? That's not from carbonation, that's from phosphoric acid. Some say that most of the sweetner in Coke is actually there in order to counteract the worst of that acidity. But they want you to get that tingle. That's all it's there for.

Has anyone ever tried the Coke make with pure cane sugar rather than corn syrup? I've heard it's Coke as it's meant to be. I'm going to track some down. Yes, despite the phosphoric acid, I'm a big fan of Coke...in moderation, of course. :wink:
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby Random Poster » Wed Nov 21, 2012 4:08 pm

flamtap wrote:Has anyone ever tried the Coke make with pure cane sugar rather than corn syrup? I've heard it's Coke as it's meant to be. I'm going to track some down. Yes, despite the phosphoric acid, I'm a big fan of Coke...in moderation, of course. :wink:


In my experience, it is relatively easy to track down in Mexican supermarkets or any grocery store that is either close to the Mexican border or has a large hispanic clientele. I think that Coke also tends to release cane sugar coke for wider distribution during various religious holidays.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby Leesbro63 » Wed Nov 21, 2012 4:17 pm

You can find it in March/April. Marked "Kosher for Passover". Because it's Jewish custom to refrain from eating certain grains like corn. So they make special Passover Coke with real sugar. Look for it in stores near Jewish neighborhoods. (Costs more, by the way)
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby Jerilynn » Wed Nov 21, 2012 5:29 pm

Valuethinker wrote:
Coke is sugar + caffeine so the short term energy effect is doubled.



Actually the caffeine is the only significant drug. The idea of a 'sugar rush' is vastly overstated.

Chocolate contains caffeine, so if your kid goes berserk after eating a bag of M&Ms, it's due to the caffeine not the sugar.

It's easy enough to test. Give kid A 2 cans of Coke, Kid B 2 cans of Diet Coke and Kid C 2 cans of sprite. Kids A and B get revved up, Kid C doesn't.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby Jerilynn » Wed Nov 21, 2012 5:48 pm

bottlecap wrote:I'm not so sure that Coke is any worse for anybody than anything else on the market. Have you seen the ingredients for juice lately? Much of it has just as much sugar as cola and the same nutritional value, ie., zero. As nisi suggests, if you put sugar in your tea or coffee, I would guess its nearly as sweet and contains more caffeine than a Coke.

JT

Speaking mostly as a dentist.

Sugar is universally 'bad' in drinks. Diet Coke is better healthwise than Coke. Sugar-Free Koolaid is better than the stuff where you add sugar. All juices, sport drinks, etc with sugar in them are bad.

Aspartame is the most researched food additive in history, it's been shown to be safe. I use it in my coffee, oatmeal, soda, koolaid, etc.

That said, soda is generally bad for people to drink (kids, especially) because of the low pH and it's effect on tooth structure, BUT that gets buffered pretty quickly after consumption. The sugar, on the other hand, gets metabolized by oral bacteria that KEEP the pH low.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby stoptothink » Wed Nov 21, 2012 5:49 pm

flamtap wrote:Caffeine and sweetner isn't what makes Coke so bad, it's the phosphoric acid. You know that tingle you get in your mouth and throat when you drink a Coke? That's not from carbonation, that's from phosphoric acid. Some say that most of the sweetner in Coke is actually there in order to counteract the worst of that acidity. But they want you to get that tingle. That's all it's there for.

Has anyone ever tried the Coke make with pure cane sugar rather than corn syrup? I've heard it's Coke as it's meant to be. I'm going to track some down. Yes, despite the phosphoric acid, I'm a big fan of Coke...in moderation, of course. :wink:


I don't think I'd consider consuming something with 40+ grams of pure sugar(or worse, HFCS) and provides no satiation or nutrition part of a healthy diet. The consumption of phosphoric acid has several negative health consequences, but IMO they pale in comparison to the direct correlation between excess sugar consumption and obesity, insulin resistance, and their myriad of comorbidities. If people were consuming a single 12oz coke a day (or half that as people did in the old days) it would be trivial, but those who do drink it generally consume more than that at a single sitting.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby stoptothink » Wed Nov 21, 2012 5:54 pm

Jerilynn wrote:
bottlecap wrote:I'm not so sure that Coke is any worse for anybody than anything else on the market. Have you seen the ingredients for juice lately? Much of it has just as much sugar as cola and the same nutritional value, ie., zero. As nisi suggests, if you put sugar in your tea or coffee, I would guess its nearly as sweet and contains more caffeine than a Coke.

JT

Speaking mostly as a dentist.

Sugar is universally 'bad' in drinks. Diet Coke is better healthwise than Coke. Sugar-Free Koolaid is better than the stuff where you add sugar. All juices, sport drinks, etc with sugar in them are bad.

Aspartame is the most researched food additive in history, it's been shown to be safe. I use it in my coffee, oatmeal, soda, koolaid, etc.

That said, soda is generally bad for people to drink (kids, especially) because of the low pH and it's effect on tooth structure, BUT that gets buffered pretty quickly after consumption. The sugar, on the other hand, gets metabolized by oral bacteria that KEEP the pH low.


I occasionally teach basic dental hygiene classes in the community as part of my job. I am shocked that so few people realize that what you eat has just as much to do with dental health as your brushing/flossing habits. I often see toddlers with more cavities than teeth because their parents put them to bed with a bottle or worse, get them hooked on soda before they can walk.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby Default User BR » Thu Nov 22, 2012 4:05 am

Jerilynn wrote:Chocolate contains caffeine, so if your kid goes berserk after eating a bag of M&Ms, it's due to the caffeine not the sugar.

Not really. Cocoa solids contain a small amount of caffeine. The milk chocolate in the M&Ms has very little due to it being mostly sugar and milk. One source says about 145 mg per pound (about a cup of coffee's worth). A typical 12-oz soda contains 30-50 mg.


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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby Valuethinker » Thu Nov 22, 2012 6:48 am

bottlecap wrote:I'm not so sure that Coke is any worse for anybody than anything else on the market. Have you seen the ingredients for juice lately? Much of it has just as much sugar as cola and the same nutritional value, ie., zero. As nisi suggests, if you put sugar in your tea or coffee, I would guess its nearly as sweet and contains more caffeine than a Coke.


That might be true of a Starbucks Vente creation, but not of an ordinary cup of coffee or tea, unless you really sugar it.

And of course hot drinks are generally drunk more slowly.

The interesting thing to me is not that this is a story of how something supposedly happened that turns economic theory on its head (it doesn't), but what other economic factors went into keeping the price so low. I understand the idea that a silly contract and vending machines might have helped keep the price low, but vending machines can be retooled (or scrapped) and contracts can be broken. If Coca Cola thought it could increase its prices enough, surely they would have breached the contract and moved on. If the lawyers thought that Coke could be sold for much more, surely they would have renegotiated the contract sooner than engage in a scenario where everyone was making less money.

I would think that the costs of new vending machines or breaching the contract might have encouraged Coke to look else where to stay afloat, but neither of those things explains why Coca Cola didn't do this if, as the synopsis of the paper implies, that the price was far under "market" value. Moreover, if the price charged was less than the cost to make it, either Coca Cola would have gone out of business or it would have had to improve its distribution and cost structure. I guess the third possibility is that at 5 cents initially, Coke was overpriced or had a large profit margin.



I think it is the third ie that Coke as a drink was so profitable they could afford to hold the price low on one part of their distribution channel.

Replacing hundreds of thousands of machines, many not owned by Coke, would have been no mean task. Also as you replaced some machines, then you'd have 'cheap' machines and 'expensive' machines which would have caused a world of problems with consumers and distributors.

Finally, if Coca Cola's actions were to intentionally keep prices low, for whatever reason, this kind of "dumping" would likely be prohibited as some violation of anti-competitiveness laws vis a vis other cola makers. It's no defense to say to regulators, "But I make a bad contract, so I have to drive competition out of the industry." I know that the Sherman Act was in place, but honestly don't know whether it, at that time, would have prohibited this practice. But the fact is that Coca Cola and even other soda manufacturers continued to grow, expand and make a profit during these years.

Perhaps the paper will address these issues if I can download it, but there had to be a lot more going on than a contract with two lawyers and vending machine technology. Interesting nonetheless.

JT


Not all dumping cases were prosecuted, or, if prosecuted, successfully so.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby Valuethinker » Thu Nov 22, 2012 6:55 am

nisiprius wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:What is depressing is that a drink which is so manifestly bad for us became so generic.
I blame the supersizing of the portion more than the drink itself.

Let me defend Coca-Cola. Think of it as our native herb tea, traditionally drunk chilled and heavily sweetened. e


It's a very good point. And America is *hot* in a humid way (or desert like in some parts) and so you want a *cold* drink that is safe to drink.

The supersize is likely the problem. One reads that as many as 25% of calories a day might be sugar or sugar substitutes (growing body of opinion that High Fructose Corn Syrup is *worse* in all respects than sugar. Earl Butts, President Nixon's Sec of Agriculture, drove forward cheap food and one of the ways he did it was to encourage HFCS production-- food purchases as a per cent. of household budgets (ex restaurants etc.) have dropped in half since the early 70s, I believe).

Tea and coffee use boiling to make a safe drink to drink. Bottling of pop is another way.

It's also the case that the US was generally the first country to have mass consumer product marketing-- as I understand it, the cigarette industry virtually created Madison Avenue.

Until the invention of the cigarette machine, there was no mass market for tobacco products-- or at least not a high value one. Once cigarettes could be produced in their millions, you had to create a market to consume them. Once you have men smoking, you had to find a way to get women to smoke.

As with all consumer products, one tends to stress trendiness, 'coolness' etc. And so it was with early cigarette ads aimed at women-- young single women, setting out boldly into the world and taking office jobs, etc.

That's really in the nature of creating any brand.

Coke I suspect followed a similar pathway.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby interplanetjanet » Thu Nov 22, 2012 8:09 am

Valuethinker wrote:That might be true of a Starbucks Vente creation, but not of an ordinary cup of coffee or tea, unless you really sugar it.

And of course hot drinks are generally drunk more slowly.

These days, the black tea I consume the most of originates from a grove of old-growth (400+ years old) tea plants in Yunnan. The expense in buying good (looseleaf) tea is remarkably small when you compare it with the cost of beverages (especially coffee based) that you can have made for you. The smell is indescribable - intense, layered and complex.

Once upon a time, I tended to put milk in my tea. After starting to drink this variety, I am almost totally unable to add anything to it - adding anything lessens it.

They should have sent a poet. I do love a good bowl of high-quality matcha as well, but that's a different sort of experience entirely.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby Valuethinker » Thu Nov 22, 2012 11:37 am

nisiprius wrote:I'm not really familiar with British tea-drinking, so you will have to tell me how many cups of tea and how heavily sweetened the average Brit actually drinks in a day. Orwell says of workers in Wigan in the 1930s "The basis of their diet, therefore, is white bread and margarine, corned beef, sugared tea, and potatoes--an appalling diet." I've read at least one book that indicates that sweetened tea is in fact a meaningful contribution to British caloric intake. So, how much caffeine goes along with that?


Dibs to you for quoting 'beyond the Fringe' ;-).

Ok this is very class based, and I don't have the right class experience.

But based on my observation of an East London family, 6-10 cups of tea a day, all with 1 spoonful of sugar.

Orwell's description of the British diet was, in fact, probably apt at the time. It's been displaced by fast food and a more 'American' diet, but the basic logic is that those sorts of calories are now far cheaper, and so we eat more. Again, also, super sizes.

It's not just Coke. I can never get over what a Starbucks (here) considers to be a 'medium' coffee. And some of the flavoured ones are worse. I forget how many calories my Starbucks cappucino is (175?) but it's a decent slug of my daily caloric intake.

Sugar in tea is much less likely if you go up the social scale. Far enough up, tea in mugs is (was) a non starter.

Part of this is probably climate-- Coke is a nicer drink on a hot day, tea is a nicer drink on a cold and wet one. The Great British Climate.*

I do think with caffeine it's not just how much you ingest, it's how quickly. Say the average cup of tea has half the caffeine of the average cup of coffee-- you are likely to ingest caffeine much more slowly.

* counterargument. The highest tea drinkers per capita are Ireland (fits the pattern) and Australia (absolutely does not). Australia, through its large Irish and lower class English immigration, picked up the habit big time.

This is also apparently why it took so long for Australian wine to make it big-- beer drinking culture domestically. Despite the perfect climate and soils. Eventually, as in California, Italians and other immigrant groups brought the culture, but basically post WW2.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby Valuethinker » Thu Nov 22, 2012 11:39 am

interplanetjanet wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:That might be true of a Starbucks Vente creation, but not of an ordinary cup of coffee or tea, unless you really sugar it.

And of course hot drinks are generally drunk more slowly.

These days, the black tea I consume the most of originates from a grove of old-growth (400+ years old) tea plants in Yunnan. The expense in buying good (looseleaf) tea is remarkably small when you compare it with the cost of beverages (especially coffee based) that you can have made for you. The smell is indescribable - intense, layered and complex.

Once upon a time, I tended to put milk in my tea. After starting to drink this variety, I am almost totally unable to add anything to it - adding anything lessens it.

They should have sent a poet. I do love a good bowl of high-quality matcha as well, but that's a different sort of experience entirely.


The trick with tea, and coffee, is to drink a little and very well-- which is precisely what we don't do, generally.

American boiler ring coffee is a horror-- boiled and burnt to a taste of despair. All those Hopper paintings ;-). But, then, Tim Horton's in Canada is virtually a national religion, and it outdoes you-- and with *donuts* to go along with it ;-).

The hottest IPO in Canadian history was Tim Horton's. Tells you something ;-).
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby Valuethinker » Thu Nov 22, 2012 11:42 am

Jerilynn wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:
Coke is sugar + caffeine so the short term energy effect is doubled.



Actually the caffeine is the only significant drug. The idea of a 'sugar rush' is vastly overstated.

Chocolate contains caffeine, so if your kid goes berserk after eating a bag of M&Ms, it's due to the caffeine not the sugar.


I suspect this is very person specific. I am not (AFAIK) pre diabetic, but I can track my energy level on my blood sugar, and the (short term) effect when I have a strong jolt of sugar.

Form of sugar seems to matter too-- white sugar the quickest kick.

It's easy enough to test. Give kid A 2 cans of Coke, Kid B 2 cans of Diet Coke and Kid C 2 cans of sprite. Kids A and B get revved up, Kid C doesn't.


It was received wisdom when I was a teenager that caffeine in pre adolescents was a relaxant not a stimulant. Teenagers of course have that weird body clock-- the teenage body literally does get up later and go to bed later, it's not just societal permissiveness.

What I suspect was actually happening is that there is a lot of ADHD out there and since caffeine serves to focus the mind, that tends to fight ADHD-- at least in the short turn.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby Valuethinker » Thu Nov 22, 2012 11:46 am

stoptothink wrote:
I don't think I'd consider consuming something with 40+ grams of pure sugar(or worse, HFCS) and provides no satiation or nutrition part of a healthy diet. The consumption of phosphoric acid has several negative health consequences, but IMO they pale in comparison to the direct correlation between excess sugar consumption and obesity, insulin resistance, and their myriad of comorbidities. If people were consuming a single 12oz coke a day (or half that as people did in the old days) it would be trivial, but those who do drink it generally consume more than that at a single sitting.


The evidence on artificial sweetener appears to be that it *increases* appetite.

Your body is readied by the sweet taste for the sugar, doesn't get it, and so wants more.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby Valuethinker » Thu Nov 22, 2012 11:50 am

interplanetjanet wrote:If you've ever tasted coca tea (legal, in some parts of the world, and generally milder than a cup of coffee) you can easily discern a portion of Coca-Cola's taste that is unique to them and not present in other colas.


If cocoa tea is the stuff they serve in Ecuador for altitude sickness, it really is helpful.

Whilst generally I don't advocate the use of drugs (and the Mormons are on to something-- caffeine is a drug, just try going gold turkey off caffeine some time; alcohol is certainly a potent drug) cocaine in that form and concentration seems pretty harmless ie it has a therapeutic value.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby oxothuk » Thu Nov 22, 2012 1:03 pm

Random Poster wrote:In my experience, it is relatively easy to track down in Mexican supermarkets or any grocery store that is either close to the Mexican border or has a large hispanic clientele. I think that Coke also tends to release cane sugar coke for wider distribution during various religious holidays.


Pretty easy to track down at Costco here in Colorado.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby tetractys » Thu Nov 22, 2012 2:04 pm

oxothuk wrote:
Random Poster wrote:In my experience, it is relatively easy to track down in Mexican supermarkets or any grocery store that is either close to the Mexican border or has a large hispanic clientele. I think that Coke also tends to release cane sugar coke for wider distribution during various religious holidays.

Pretty easy to track down at Costco here in Colorado.

That's the kosher stuff. I think it comes with a yellow cap and is available wherever kosher is demanded. -- Tet

PS. When will Costco begin supplying the 55 gal. drums of coke, salsa, shampoo, etc?
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby Mrs.Feeley » Thu Nov 22, 2012 5:25 pm

interplanetjanet wrote:These days, the black tea I consume the most of originates from a grove of old-growth (400+ years old) tea plants in Yunnan. The expense in buying good (looseleaf) tea is remarkably small when you compare it with the cost of beverages (especially coffee based) that you can have made for you. The smell is indescribable - intense, layered and complex.


<groaning at the thought of your wonderful tea> When I started drinking tea, maybe 2-3 cups a day without milk or any sweetener, my dental hygienist told me to cut it out, warning that it would turn my teeth brown. Please tell me that's not the case and I can return to my orange pekoe!
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby interplanetjanet » Thu Nov 22, 2012 5:35 pm

tetractys wrote:
oxothuk wrote:
Random Poster wrote:In my experience, it is relatively easy to track down in Mexican supermarkets or any grocery store that is either close to the Mexican border or has a large hispanic clientele. I think that Coke also tends to release cane sugar coke for wider distribution during various religious holidays.

Pretty easy to track down at Costco here in Colorado.

That's the kosher stuff. I think it comes with a yellow cap and is available wherever kosher is demanded. -- Tet

I think oxothuk is talking about Mexican Coke in glass bottles. Costco here carries it year-round in cases of 24, and I'm about the same distance from .mx as much of Colorado (but there is a large regional Hispanic population).

There is an Indian drink made from cane sugar, "Thums Up", that I can best describe as similar to Coca-Cola but flavored with rosewater and aniseed. It's actually fairly tasty, but does give a bit of a surprise the first time.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby interplanetjanet » Thu Nov 22, 2012 7:06 pm

Mrs.Feeley wrote:<groaning at the thought of your wonderful tea> When I started drinking tea, maybe 2-3 cups a day without milk or any sweetener, my dental hygienist told me to cut it out, warning that it would turn my teeth brown. Please tell me that's not the case and I can return to my orange pekoe!

I don't have any professional experience in dentistry, but I used to work in an office populated with a large percentage (>50%) of workers from India. I would guess that their median tea consumption was 2-3 cups and had been since childhood, and seldom have I seen so many gleaming white smiles.

I think that it probably does stain, but much less than cigarette smoking does (and possibly less than coffee). Regular cleanings probably mitigate this to some degree.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby interplanetjanet » Fri Nov 23, 2012 1:47 am

Valuethinker wrote:American boiler ring coffee is a horror-- boiled and burnt to a taste of despair.

In all fairness, percolated boiled-to-death coffee has been a distant memory in the USA for much of my own life. While there are a number of coffee chains across the USA that sell essentially coffee flavored dessert drinks, if you walk down a grocery store's coffee aisle here you not infrequently find a dazzling array of whole-bean coffees and a grinder, with instant/powdered "coffee" taking a distant second place. My experience in northern Europe was mostly the opposite.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby Valuethinker » Fri Nov 23, 2012 3:31 am

interplanetjanet wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:American boiler ring coffee is a horror-- boiled and burnt to a taste of despair.

In all fairness, percolated boiled-to-death coffee has been a distant memory in the USA for much of my own life. While there are a number of coffee chains across the USA that sell essentially coffee flavored dessert drinks, if you walk down a grocery store's coffee aisle here you not infrequently find a dazzling array of whole-bean coffees and a grinder, with instant/powdered "coffee" taking a distant second place. My experience in northern Europe was mostly the opposite.


Janet

Folgers?

You are not trying to tell me the American 8 cup coffee maker is a dead issue? That the first person in the office puts on in the morning and it runs all day?

McDonalds? Certainly here their coffee has all the burnt bitter flavour we all remember.

'coffee flavoured desert drinks' is a good way of describing it.

The thing you notice in America, with *all* food, is the size of portions (food and drink).

I am not sure where you were in Europe, but in any European country I have visited (not all) coffee is usually Italian-style ie 'Americano' (hot water on espresso, so dubbed because that's how GIs in Italy liked it).

Quality varies. Britain, being a tea drinking country, about the worst. HOWEVER whereas 25 years ago a restaurant would serve you powdered (Nescafe) for dessert without blinking an eyelid, that's no longer the case. The meanest cafe (not even run by Italians) does cappucino.

The locals still love their white coffees though (basically coffee with milk).

If you have the builders in, they still want 'real coffee' ie Nescafe. A legacy, I was told, of rationing during WW2, when the only coffee available (there was a tea ration, but no coffee ration) was from American GIs ie powdered coffee.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby interplanetjanet » Fri Nov 23, 2012 5:30 am

Valuethinker wrote:You are not trying to tell me the American 8 cup coffee maker is a dead issue? That the first person in the office puts on in the morning and it runs all day?

I haven't seen one of those in an office I've worked in in well over a decade. These days, Keurig's "K-cup" and competitors have a remarkable presence, at least in the areas I frequent. I won't go so far as to say that they've displaced coffeepots entirely in offices, but I would say that in many areas coffeepots that are left on to stew are looked upon with no small amount of disdain.

McDonalds? Certainly here their coffee has all the burnt bitter flavour we all remember.

I haven't been in one since Clinton was president, I honestly don't know.

I am not sure where you were in Europe, but in any European country I have visited (not all) coffee is usually Italian-style ie 'Americano' (hot water on espresso, so dubbed because that's how GIs in Italy liked it).

When I was talking about instant coffee I was mostly referring to the UK. I don't mind an Americano, but it's not what "coffee" means to most Americans. While sales of espresso-derived drinks have skyrocketed over the last ten years in the USA, I think conventionally brewed coffee (drip or French press, I use an Aeropress) is still consumed in larger amounts.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby mcblum » Fri Nov 23, 2012 11:49 am

In a lab I worked in for twenty years, the 1st person in put on the coffee urn. I was good for about an hour and gradually got darker,bitterer and more burnt. Initial cost was five cents but was free after ten AM. We used to joke about not spilling on the floor as it would remove wax....
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby Jerilynn » Fri Nov 23, 2012 2:19 pm

Mrs.Feeley wrote: When I started drinking tea, maybe 2-3 cups a day without milk or any sweetener, my dental hygienist told me to cut it out, warning that it would turn my teeth brown. Please tell me that's not the case and I can return to my orange pekoe!


'brown' is an exaggeration, but it's clear that tea, coffee, red wine, etc will discolor teeth. The good news is that it's not permanent and can be reversed quite easily with at-home bleaching.
Cordially, Jeri . . . 100% all natural asset allocation. (no supernatural methods used)
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby sommerfeld » Fri Nov 23, 2012 2:27 pm

Valuethinker wrote:
interplanetjanet wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:American boiler ring coffee is a horror-- boiled and burnt to a taste of despair.

In all fairness, percolated boiled-to-death coffee has been a distant memory in the USA for much of my own life. While there are a number of coffee chains across the USA that sell essentially coffee flavored dessert drinks, if you walk down a grocery store's coffee aisle here you not infrequently find a dazzling array of whole-bean coffees and a grinder, with instant/powdered "coffee" taking a distant second place. My experience in northern Europe was mostly the opposite.

You are not trying to tell me the American 8 cup coffee maker is a dead issue? That the first person in the office puts on in the morning and it runs all day?

It's certainly not dead, but it's not the only game in town any more. The 3-pot, 3-burner 8 cup automatic drip maker with pre-ground coffee can still be found, but you may also find:
- whole bean grinders next to the coffee maker (hit a button, and it grinds enough for one pot)
- pump thermoses instead of the traditional glass carafe on a burner (keeps it warm for a few hours, doesn't burn it, less chance of spills when filling your cup)
- single-serving machines of various flavors (pods, flavia packets, etc.)
and at the high end:
- push-button grind-and-brew-to-order machines (often with buttons to select from a variety of coffee-flavored dessert drinks)
- espresso machines (and their own specialized grinders).
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby protagonist » Fri Nov 23, 2012 4:32 pm

The ultimate decision in corporate responsibility :

I can picture the stiffs at that fateful board meeting in 1903 with their handlebar mustaches arguing: "Which would be more profitable? Should we remove the cocaine? Or should we remove the bubbles?"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coca-Cola# ... 93_cocaine
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby stoptothink » Fri Nov 23, 2012 5:21 pm

Valuethinker wrote:
stoptothink wrote:
I don't think I'd consider consuming something with 40+ grams of pure sugar(or worse, HFCS) and provides no satiation or nutrition part of a healthy diet. The consumption of phosphoric acid has several negative health consequences, but IMO they pale in comparison to the direct correlation between excess sugar consumption and obesity, insulin resistance, and their myriad of comorbidities. If people were consuming a single 12oz coke a day (or half that as people did in the old days) it would be trivial, but those who do drink it generally consume more than that at a single sitting.


The evidence on artificial sweetener appears to be that it *increases* appetite.

Your body is readied by the sweet taste for the sugar, doesn't get it, and so wants more.


I have seen the evidence, and as much as I would like for it to be true, the validity standard is pretty weak.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby nisiprius » Fri Nov 23, 2012 7:15 pm

I would be mildly curious to compare the taste of ordinary (corn syrup sweetened) Classic Coke and one sweetened with cane sugar... I always keep an eye out around Passover but I always forget. Love to set up a blind taste test for myself with two equally chilled bottles, etc. But I am almost sure I would fail. Various life experiences have given me a healthy skepticism regarding the sensitivity of my palette. One significant one involved what might be called an "accidental blind taste test."

The family was in the car, we were doing McDonald's takeout, and my kids were about junior high school age--maximum obnoxiousness and very complicated orders. Anyway, we ordered our drinks, which were of course served in opaque cardboard cups with lids on them. The lids did constitute a bit of a handicap because you didn't get the "nose," but still. So, we're eating, and I'm thinking to myself. "hmmm... my Coke tastes a little funny. I wonder why?"

And then my son says: "Dad. I think you have my root beer. Because I have a Coke."

So, there you have it. I was able to recognize that it wasn't quite the taste I was expecting, but I was able to drink a root beer and perceive it as an off-tasting Coke.

Now, as to coffee, given the universal insistence on scrupulous cleanliness on all equipment I once did a blind taste test in my home, controlling most conditions, except that one cup was a dirty coffee mug that had been filled repeatedly with coffee over the course of many days and had a layer of hardened brown grease in it, and the other was freshly washed, clean coffee mug. I could not detect any difference in taste. It is my belief that oil and water don't mix, and that scuzzy brown coffee grease does not dissolve in fresh coffee. If it did, a repeatedly-refilled-never-washed mug at work would stay clean, because the new hot coffee would be constantly washing off the oily film left by the previous cupful.

Meanwhile, there seems to be a lot of physiological variation in how good coffee tastes to me. Again, brewing it at home, same coffee (yes, Folger's), same brewing device (yes, 8-cup drip coffeemaker--even if it is a Technivorm), same drinking temperature. But on some days it just tastes great, hits the spot, it's all I can do not to say "Aaaahhhhh," like someone in a commercial. Other days it tastes weak or gummy or slightly off. I'm pretty sure it's not the coffee, I'm pretty sure it's me.

For me, drinking temperature is critical, though, and indifferent coffee that's just the right temperature tastes way better than good coffee that isn't.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby talzara » Fri Nov 23, 2012 11:35 pm

nisiprius wrote:I would be mildly curious to compare the taste of ordinary (corn syrup sweetened) Classic Coke and one sweetened with cane sugar... I always keep an eye out around Passover but I always forget. Love to set up a blind taste test for myself with two equally chilled bottles, etc. But I am almost sure I would fail.


You would not be alone. I've tried Passover Coke, and I couldn't tell the difference even non-blinded. I couldn't even tell a difference in the aftertaste -- which is supposed to be a dead giveaway. I'm sure Coca-Cola ran taste tests before introducing Coke Classic.

I can taste a difference in Coca-Cola in glass bottles. Probably because of different carbonation levels, but possibly also for psychological reasons.

Incidentally, Passover Coca-Cola is made in the US primarily from beet sugar. European Coca-Cola is also primarily beet sugar. If you want "real" Coca-Cola, i.e., made with cane sugar, then Latin America and Asia would be your best bets.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby Default User BR » Sat Nov 24, 2012 12:59 am

Pepsi occasionally has "throwback" versions of Pepsi and Mountain Dew, which are supposedly made with original formulas (at least for Dew) and cane sugar. I don't drink sugared soda, so I've never compared.


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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby VictoriaF » Sat Nov 24, 2012 11:57 am

protagonist wrote:The ultimate decision in corporate responsibility :

I can picture the stiffs at that fateful board meeting in 1903 with their handlebar mustaches arguing: "Which would be more profitable? Should we remove the cocaine? Or should we remove the bubbles?"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coca-Cola# ... 93_cocaine


"Hoja de Coca no es Droga" (on a t-shirt seen in Peru).

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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby nisiprius » Sat Nov 24, 2012 12:09 pm

talzara wrote:I can taste a difference in Coca-Cola in glass bottles.
I am certain of this. But to me the change started when they went from the heavy, thick, bottles to "no deposit, no return" bottles, and I don't think they've ever really gone back. Carbonation pressure seems to have gone down every step of the way, thick glass to thin glass to cans to PETE bottles.

In Ye Olde Days when you poured a Coke and lifted it, this sounds a little gross but you felt tiny pinpricks of Coke droplets all over your face, the air in the whole room was perfumed with sweet spice, and the droplets dancing in the air above the Coke went on dancing for a minute. The sensation as the stuff hit your tongue and the enzymes or something released the CO2 all at once was just short of painful.

Putting a scoop of ice cream into a float was an event. Instant generation of about four inches of a head with about the heft and solidity of Styrofoam.

I'm not sure whether that constellation of sensations amounts to a taste, but it was quite wonderful and I miss it. You'd think you could still experience this at a soda fountain... but it doesn't seem to be the same, or perhaps I am not the same. Anyone know? Do the Cokes at, say, McDonald's, or the kind of dispensing machine that fills a paper cup, use the same technology and CO2 pressure as the old soda fountains did?
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby protagonist » Fri Nov 30, 2012 11:46 am

[quote="nisiprius"]I would be mildly curious to compare the taste of ordinary (corn syrup sweetened) Classic Coke and one sweetened with cane sugar... I always keep an eye out around Passover but I always forget. [/b]

This is not scientific, and I am not quoting sources (bad). But the Coca Cola in Venezuela where I winter is still sweetened with cane sugar. And the general consensus (defined as "that of me and my immediate buddies") is that it tastes much better than its American equivalent.

I also strongly believe that canned beverages taste far worse than bottled beverages. Is this a prejudice or is there science behind it? You would think that with today's technology the alloys used in the cans would not leach anything one could taste.

And one of these days I will figure out how to properly use the "quote" feature in this blog. Sorry, nisiprius.
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Re: Planet Money: Why Coke cost a nickel for 70 years

Postby protagonist » Fri Nov 30, 2012 1:47 pm

In a similar vein, I have a running bet (bottle of Chopin) that it is impossible to distinguish your favorite premium vodka from the cheapest swill (in our upcoming test, Chopin vs Mr. Boston at $6.99/bottle) , since vodka is nothing but ethanol and water. This hypothesis has been confirmed repeatedly in rather unscientific taste tests (e.g.: http://www.monzy.com/vodka-research/ . And this taste test on ABC's 20/20: http://abcnews.go.com/2020/video?id=5216328 Supposedly Dateline NBC also ran a vodka test where people could not tell cheap from expensive. )

It is probably wise for a Boglehead to buy Mr. Boston, perhaps run it through your Brita filter, and pour it in a Chopin bottle for parties.
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