Different people have different mental associations with Coca-Cola. For me, it’s a trip in a bottle to my favourite local watering hole in Koubri, Burkina Faso.
Sweltering heat, choking dust storms, and non-stop honking and scooter exhaust can wear down even the most patient of souls. Solution? Grab a seat in the shade at the bar counter under a straw-roofed patio, watching as the barkeep digs around in the propane-powered fridge for a bottle of Coke so cold, it’s turning to ice. Slide a 500 CFA bill over the counter, then listen to the hiss as the server cracks open the bottle. Exchange smiles, grab hold of the well-worn glass bottle, and take a swig. It’s like walking into an air-conditioned hotel room in the middle of the desert.
As the glass Coke bottle has been a part of my recent life, I know that the common plastic replacement is no comparison. So I did a bit of a happy dance when I spotted a fancy new fridge at a convenience store on the University of Alberta campus, fully stocked with glass bottles of Coca-Cola, Coke Zero, Sprite and Diet Coke (curses, spits). And they’re not the tiny novelty bottles that pop up in stores around Christmas. These are 355 ml bottles, the same size as a regular Coke can. And the price? A reasonable $2, tax and deposit included.
Since they started carrying them, I’ve been back a number of times in an effort to show the shop owners that it’s worth keeping the cooler around. I’m hoping it’s working.
For all the kids out there unfamiliar with glass, a quick primer on how to enjoy a glass bottle of Coke:
Chill it: The whole point of glass is that it holds the cold, wrapping the liquid in the refrigeration provided by the specific heat capacity of the bottle. (Right, scientists? Don’t ask me. I have an English degree.) In plain terms, drinking from an ice-cold bottle just feels right.
Pop the cap: You’ll need a bottle opener, as these aren’t twist-offs. The shop where I get my Coke bottles has an opener behind the counter in case you want to enjoy it right away. Check the rim for rust, which can show up depending on age and storage conditions. Wipe off any rust before proceeding.
Drink: Bottle to the lips, then take a sip. Careful not to generate suction, or the bubbles will rush to the top and spill over. It’s better not to form a seal around the bottle, but to sip with some airspace at the top of your lips. Repeat. Enjoy. By comparison, plastic just doesn’t cut it.
Personally, I want the glass bottles to survive and flourish. I want my eventual kids and grandkids to be able to know what it feels like to drink from a glass bottle filled with something other than beer. I don’t care that it costs more. I’d rather drink less pop and enjoy every bottle a bit more. It’ll never quite take me back to Africa, but $2 per bottle is also a lot cheaper than a ticket to Burkina Faso.
RATINGS AND DETAILS
Cost: $2 per 355 ml bottle on the University of Alberta campus.
Value for cash money: Based on volume of liquid per dollar spent, not great, considering 591 ml bottles are the same price. Even less great when a two-litre bottle is an option at home. But the value is in the experience.
Availability: Very limited in Edmonton.
Nutrition?: It’s Coca-Cola. What more do you need to know? About 160 calories per bottle, near as I can tell.
Intangible awesomeness?: Hell, yesssss. Nostalgia, deliciousness, and all that. Holding it in your hand, you feel like you’re in a Coke commercial.
The verdict: Why not? It’s a special treat, which is good, as I’m trying to convince myself that cola isn’t an everyday beverage. When you reach for a bottle, why not savour it a little bit more, sipping it the way it was originally meant to be sipped?