coconut

Joia: Pineapple Coconut Nutmeg

History: There is an undeniable link between the craft beer and craft soda movements. No one would debate you if you argued micro-brewed IPA’s, stouts, and lagers led to the renaissance of soda and sparked the craft and gourmet trend in soft drinks. But what about cocktails? One could argue there’s more creative wiggle room in that atmosphere and more flavors for mixologists to morph. Former Kraft and General Mills marketing executive Bob Safford certainly thought so. Now Bob Safford doesn’t drink. Still, he saw all these herbs and spices and flavors going in to unique, artisan-based cocktails and thought, “why not soda?” Well, if you want something done right… you know the rest. Not an expert an soda, Safford connected with Joe Heron, who did have a background in carbonated beverages. And in 2010, Safford founded Boundary Water Brands as a starting point to refine his ideas for a sophisticated craft soda with, in his words, “complex, adult-oriented flavors.” “For Mark, it was highly personal,” said Joia co-founder and mixologist Carleton Johnson. A year later, Joia All Natural Soda was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The name, pronounced “Joy-a,” was created with the intent of expressing the company’s passion and joy for their products inside each bottle. Joia launched with four flavors that were whittled down from over 100(!) recipes. Today there are six and all of them incorporate combinations of fruits and spices and are void of “preservatives or stabilizers. Nor are there any artificial ingredients or flavors.” According to Safford, the sodas are complicated to keep stable during production because they contain so many different elements. Sounds a lot my wife at the end of every month. According to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, in 2011, BevNet named Joia the soda of the year. We chose to review their Pineapple Coconut Nutmeg because who doesn’t like to get a little tropical when it’s hot out? One thing we like about Joia is their commitment to quality. “I believe that the majority of beverages that are consumed will always be about taste and refreshment… and that’s where Joia excels,” says Safford. It’s a good start; now let’s see what our mouths think.

Where to get: To find the nearest physical outlet to you where Joia is sold, use the store’s online locator. For the rest of us, Amazon and Soda Emporium have the hook up online.

Nose: Pina Colada; pineapple juice; coconut oil.

Taste: Pineapple; coconut; citric acid. This tastes like a liquid piña colada. The pineapple-coconut combo that forms the basis of most piña coladas is definitely prominent. Pineapple is up front. There’s a little bit of a bitter bite to it that I’m guessing is the nutmeg’s influence. Coconut comes next, infusing itself into the pineapple and creating that signature tropical flavor. The coconut stays long after the tart pineapple colada flavor fades and has some creamy notes attached to it. The carbonation is full of petite, little bubbles that help intensify the soda’s citric acid. The nutmeg is subtle, but you’ll take away the pineapple-coconut flavor most from Joia’s tropical elixir.

Finish: Tart pineapple-coconut that fades into a creamy, sweet piña colada flavor.

Rating: I often find myself fantasizing of lounging on the beach, staring at models, sipping on piña coladas, not worrying about my diet and letting the beads of sweat drip off me, forming a puddle of satisfaction in the sand. Then I remember it’s Monday and my 350 pound boss waddles in and pushes my deadlines up because that’s life when you aren’t on the beach. Joia must know these things. They’ve created a soda that transports you to a tropical paradise from any average setting. Pineapple Coconut Nutmeg exhibits a bold, tart pineapple flavor before transitioning into traditional piña colada and finally fading out with creamy coconut. The nutmeg is a minor player, but it adds a tartness to the pineapple and some nuttiness to the coconut. Fans of pineapple, coconut or piña colada flavors will love this little slice of bottled paradise. One area we think there could be improvement in is that tartness I mentioned. The citric acid in this is strong at some points. I think if that was toned down, the tropical flavors would shine more and the subtle flavors would be more apparent in the profile. Not everyone will be a fan of its tropical fruit flavors, but those who like fruity soda aren’t likely to be disappointed. Coconut and pineapple are both underutilized flavors in the world of craft soda, and as more and more natural sodas continue to pop up, companies will be looking to Joia as a blueprint. Drink this over ice with a straw or chilled straight out of the bottle. Hot weather is also an ideal pairing. And if you’ve had a Monday like me, throw some rum in there. Enough of those and you’ll be daydreaming of beaches and models again in no time.

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Boots Beverages: Coconut Cream Soda

History: Get your beach towel, your sunglasses and sunscreen, and throw on that swim suit. Now put it all back because we’re just drinking soda here, you freak. But hey, we’re not only sampling one of the most unique flavors on the market today, we’re also going to bring the island vibe to you as we do it. See, we’re nice. Coconut Cream Soda: it’s one of those flavors that makes your ears perk up when you hear it. Kind of like when my wife yells out my name, only this doesn’t give me nightmares. Coconut is a very divisive flavor among foodies, but those who love it are die-hards. Mark Kristen, owner of Boots Beverages realized this and decided to to take a chance. He says, “I guess it’s the same insanity that’s inspired all our flavors.” The company, started by his father Elwood “Boots” Glenn, began with seasonal flavors like strawberry, peach and lemon. Boots Beverages’ first run as a business ended in 1962 in large part due to a decline in popularity of deposit bottles. Kristen, already a third generation businessman and operator of Kristen Distributing in Bryan, Texas, decided to reintroduce the company in September of 2013 with an emphasis on 1950’s flavors infused with modern gourmet appeal.

The company’s top-seller is its Sarsaparilla, with Coconut Cream not far behind it. The tropical paradise you thought you were in for at the beginning of this review may yet reveal itself in the form of this soda. And according to Kristen, it’s by design. “We envisioned someone going to the trouble of splitting the coconut and getting the juice out.” He also notes they are going for additional tasting notes of coconut cream pie and its crust. You’ll see the tropical inspiration on the bottle. You’ll also notice a picture of a woman. That’s Kristen’s late aunt Katy. “That tugs at my heart strings,” he says after a pause. Never married, Katy worked for Kristen’s father during Boots Beverages’ initial run. Often he couldn’t even afford to pay her, so she ran a small ice cream parlor. Kristen frequented it. “I ate so many of her dreamsicles that there’s no way she could’ve made any money,” he jokes. Her photo on the label is a small tribute. As for the future, Boots Beverages has been in the lab cooking up five new flavors. Two of them could be here as early as September. If early reports are any indication, they may be on to something. Kristen notes his buddy’s six year-old daughter offered up a serious barter. “I’d like to trade you a pony for those new flavors,” she said. We can’t legally offer a pony, but we’ll assemble the team, test the black market and see what offers we at Five Star came come up with. Nothing to see here, government.

Where to get: You can currently buy Boots Beverages Coconut Cream Soda in Texas and St. Louis, Missouri. The company is currently working on expanding distribution, but hasn’t announced future channels yet. In the meantime, the Internet has you covered. Hit up the company’s website for 12-packs, Crown Valley for 6-packs, and Soda Emporium for single bottles.

Nose: You ever had coconut cake? No? You’re weird then, but that’s what this smells like to a tee. It’s got a sweet coconut frosting olfactory thing going on.

Taste: Coconut cream; sugar; mild piña colada. Whoa, coconut. Hey girl. The coconut cream flavor is immediate, bold, and sweet. This is intensely sweet coming in at 43 grams of sugar per bottle. The coconut has a very tropical taste to it, reminiscent of the coconut portion of a piña colada. This does not taste like coconut pie to us, for those wondering. Think more along the lines of clear cream sodas infused with tropical coconut flavor.

Finish: Coconut piña colada. The finish on Boots Coconut Cream Soda is long-lasting and thick. The drink ends with a little bit more of a tropical note than the main body and coats the tongue for 10-20 seconds. While the body of the soda doesn’t taste like pie, there is a little bit of a pie crust taste at the very end.

Rating: Coconut is one of those flavors that gets people excited when it’s in a supporting role, but as the centerpiece of a soda, bottlers shy away. Perhaps they’re worried it’ll come off too much like carbonated suntan lotion. Whatever the case may be, there isn’t a lot with which to compare Boots Beverages Coconut Cream Soda. Its flavor doesn’t hold anything back and knows itself. It’s coconut cream soda, and dammitt it wants you to know that. This is a sugar storm of creamy, candy coconut that is bold and has flavor staying power. There are also some really nice tropical notes that float about in the background of each drink. Cream soda connoisseurs: put this on your list because there’s nothing like it out there. For the rest of you, there are some factors to consider. First, this is sweet. Very sweet. But it does really capture that tropical island coconut flavor and manifest it in soda form. I’d suggest treating this like a first date and taking it slow. Unless you’re my ex, in which case, chug as fast as you can and use a lot of tongue. Sorry, PTSD. As a sipper, this is a wonderfully unique cream soda to be enjoyed. Second, the flavor. Not everyone likes coconut and this is not only strong in sweetness, but also flavor. It might even benefit from some ancillary tasting notes, like key lime. If you don’t like coconut, do not pop the top. In our opinion, this is too original not to try. If you like coconut or tropical sodas, keep your pants on and buy like 24 of these. The flavors are simple, but work well. Paired with a little rum, you’ll be in paradise in no time.