When it comes to the Coke vs. Pepsi debate, I always prefer the Coke. I think it has less of a sugary aftertaste. Taster's Choice judges differed on their choices but all figured they could identify their favorite cola in a blind test.
They were wrong. Taster's Choice lined up seven varieties of regular cola. They looked about the same, but the tastes ranged from sweet to rust remover.
Our judges decided there's no need to spend extra money for well-known and well-advertised colas. They liked the store brands best.
The cheapest of the lot, a 2-liter bottle of Sam's Club (67 cents at Wal-Mart), was the top pick. Panelists gave it 84 out of 100 possible points. Four of the five said they will buy that instead of Coke or Pepsi on their next trip to the grocery store.
"This has just the right amount of fizz and not too much sugar," one judge said.
The fizz seemed to be the dealmaker for the Sam's Club brand. Judges found bubbles throughout their mugs. One described it as good zip.
"This is sweet and sassy — it could be the real thing," she said.
Ranking second with 78 points was the cola from Albertsons ($1.19 for a 2-liter bottle). Again, four of the five said they would buy the soda.
Judges found the Albertsons soda with plenty of bubbles and good color. A couple said the syrup was a little thin.
The regular cola from Publix (69 cents for 2 liters) received 65 points. Three of the four panelists said they will buy it.
Judges praised the color of the Publix soda and the texture — smooth but bubbly at the same time. It also got points for not being overly sweet.
"This is very assertive — bouncy and bold on the taste buds," said one panelist.
Also sampled were 2-liter bottles of Hannaford cola (77 cents from Sweetbay); Pepsi (98 cents from Wal-Mart); Classic Coke ($1.45 from Wal-Mart); and RC Cola ($1.38 from Wal-Mart).
Panelists were Nan Jensen, registered dietitian with Pinellas County Cooperative Extension; Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620; Jim Yockey, aesthetician at Anu You Institute; St. Petersburg Times food critic Laura Reiley; and consumer/foodie John Hehn, owner of All Brite Lighting & Power Design Inc. All foods were tasted blind.
Send suggestions for product tastings to Taste, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or e-mail them to email@example.com. Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past columns, go to www.sptimes.com/food.