Coffee – not for me. Tea – I can take it or leave it. Coke – I can feel my teeth rotting. Diet Coke is my source of caffeine of choice. Yum. Unfortunately, in all my travels around the world I’ve found it hard to get in some surprising places, and available in some even more surprising!
In South Africa there is no such thing. Ask for a Diet Coke like I did one of my first days here and you will get the same response I got, “No, sorry, we don’t have that.’. No matter you can see the silver can in the fridge behind the counter, it doesn’t exist.
I quickly learned that it is Coke Light, not Diet Coke. You’d think people could figure that out, right? And why the different names, anyway? I did a little research to try and figure that out. Apparently, Diet Coke is sweetened with Aspartame (NutraSweet), where Coke Light uses a blend of aspertame and cyclamates, which were banned in the US and the UK. At least that’s the story.
Regardless of the distinction, there is definitely a taste difference. I don’t know if it’s the sweetners used or something else in the recipe, but it just does. I used to be a hard core Diet Coke fan – when I first had to drink Coke Light I almost quit my addiction totally – it felt like it left a bad taste in my mouth. But then, after drinking both in Liberia (I couldn’t be picky, whatever showed up on the shelves when there wasn’t a shortage went a long way towards boosting my caffeine levels!) and then going back to the US, I sometimes found Diet Coke to be a bit funny tasting.
People get themselves pretty worked up about things like this, though. There is even a discussion group on diet coke vs. coke light. I think, like most everything else in the world, it’s what you get used to. Now I’ll take either – I like whichever one is poured over a big glass of ice best!
Except Coke Zero, of course. Blech.