The Famous SAR Coca-Cola Taste Tests: 2011
By Dan Shea

Those of us who travel around the world have discovered something; usually independent of each other. The fact is that Coca-Cola, while it uses its secret formula everywhere, tastes better outside the U.S. Not only that, but different places have different qualities in the Coke that many can discern and enjoy. Why, exactly do we care, how did it get like this, and what’s it got to do with Machine Guns?

How things got this way is a bit complex. Sugar tariffs and price manipulation have been going on in the United States since the early 1800s, with many iterations. By the 1970s, there was a move to stop the manipulation of what many considered (rightly or wrongly) to be a give-away of public funds to the sugar producers (corporate welfare) and an impediment to importing cheaper sugar. When Jimmy Carter became president, the manipulation was already basically removed in 1974. Carter led a governmental interference with the food chain in the U.S. appointing many people who had “different” ideas about how the public should be eating. This eventually led to the heavy carbohydrate “Food Pyramid” in 1992 – the one the U.S. uses today. The Congressional leadership from the Carter years led us back to the subsidies and tariffs, and by 1984, it was simply too expensive to use white sugar in many products, including Coca-Cola. Coke changed to corn syrup, as did Pepsi and many other mainstays. Draw your own conclusions about obesity in America as there are many who blame it on this corn syrup event, but there are a lot of scientists who say that’s bunk. We’re good with guns, so that is outside our bailiwick and also outside the point of this story.

Many of us remember the Coca-Cola of our youth with fond memories, and talk about today’s “Mexican Coke” and “Yellow-cap Kosher Coke” with reverence. The fact is, only real Coke-ophiles can tell the difference. The rest of the world makes Coca-Cola with white sugar, supposedly staying true to the original flavor. So, that’s how we got here, and why we care. What’s this got to do with machine guns? Not much, other than perhaps the Coke-Pepsi wars in SouthEast Asia during the 1970s.... But there are a lot of people in our community who travel internationally, and all of us, for many, many years, have discussed this. Discussed it to the point of arguing, gesticulating, bringing Coca-Cola back from all over the world in our suitcases, and yes, organizing impromptu blind taste tests when we’re all together.

Such was the event at the SAR West show in Phoenix in 2011. Our esteemed Senior Editor and world traveler, Robert Segel, had been waxing poetic about how good Israeli Coca-Cola was, and this author had been in Israel recently and brought back some locally made Coca-Cola from there, in the glass bottles no less. As it happens, this author had also recently been in the PLO territories on some weapons business (machine gun tie-in), and discovered that the Palestinians have other products than what weapons U.S. people see in the news - they make their own Coca-Cola and are quite proud of it! So, samples were brought back to the U.S. and saved for the SAR West show, and they were properly chilled in their bottles...

The day came, and Mr. Segel, unaware that the challenge was being set up, was led to the table. We had “IDF Coke” and “PLO Coke” prepared for him, with tasting cups and he was to judge which was a better Cola. A small crowd of Coke-ophiles gathered, and the test began. An equal amount was poured into each cup, with “IDF” or “PLO” on the bottom and nowhere else. It was thought by some that Mr. Segel might have some prejudice towards “IDF” so this had to be blind, in front of witnesses. The cups were mixed up, and Mr. Segel turned around and began the test. The crowd grew silent...

After Robert Segel finished comparing the two unknown cups, he then picked one up and declared a winner. As we turned it over, it said “IDF.” Thus, the official taste test win was given to Israeli Coca-Cola over Palestinian Coca-Cola. However, there were a lot more cups, so more volunteers were drafted. Next up was famed Coke-ophile Dr. Philip H. Dater from Gemtech and Antares Technologies. Dr. Dater has sampled Coca-Cola from Jordan to Jakarta, from Istanbul to Tanzania, from Boise to Bangkok, and back again. The crowd grew silent, as Dr. Dater made his judgment.... It was “PLO!” now, we had a tie... so this author went and chose... “IDF” so it was two to one... and various members of the crowd continued the challenge, with it neck and neck, until finally the Israeli Coca-Cola received one more vote, and won the contest...

Watch this space for more up-coming Coca-Cola wars... could it be North Korea versus South Korea? Turkey versus Greece? Taiwan versus China? Who knows... But you’ll read it here in the irrelevant part of our site!

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review SAW (March 2013)
and was posted online on January 18, 2013


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