History: Karma Cola is quite literally putting the craft in craft soda. It is perhaps the most thought-out cola in the entire world. The beverage originated in 2012 out of Auckland, New Zealand, and is crafted with ingredients from all over the globe. There’s a wonderful story too that we’ll explain, but let’s start here. Real kola nut from the Boma village in Sierra Leone. Vanilla bean from the Forest Garden Growers Association in Sri Lanka. Organic cane sugar from Maharashtra, India. Premium ingredients are almost always the biggest selling point to potential craft soda customers, and that list probably already has half of you searching for where to buy this soda. It’s as enticing as a college cheerleader carwash to a group of lonely middle-aged men. Trust me, my uncle gets his car washed a lot. Karma cola isn’t shy about telling the public what’s in its soda. In fact, they listed out every single ingredient in their cola in an email to us. Some of the additional ingredient highlights include organic lemon juice, organic malt extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, orange oil, and lime oil. Every ingredient in Karma Cola is organic and fairly traded, and no preservatives are used. Karma Cola Sales Manager of Sydney, Mitch Donaldson, says the company tried at least thirty different versions before they got the flavor right. He says the soda was designed to taste clean and not syrupy. One of the cola’s most important ingredients is one you might not recognize: malt. Donaldson explains, “The roasted spring barley malt extract we use for both colour and flavour gives Karma Cola a completely different spectrum of taste,” adding that it provides a depth you won’t taste in other colas. Another interesting note: all of the soda’s acidity comes from the fruit juices and oils inside it as opposed to something like phosphoric acid. Simply put, this is designed to taste sophisticated, to taste better. In addition to the malt and all the spices in Karma Cola, even the organic cane sugar leaves a little something extra for your tongue. Donaldson explains to us that after the sugar’s refining process is finished, it is still left with mild tasting notes “of caramel and chocolatey flavours.” And all of this is great – we realize it’s the part you care about most, so we started with it. But what’s truly remarkable about this soda is what goes on beyond the bottle.
“We always knew we wanted to create a great tasting drink, but what makes us unique is not just our flavour or artistic bottles, it’s what we give back to cola farmers in Sierra Leone,” says Donaldson. For every bottle of Karma Cola that’s sold, a portion of the proceeds go to the kola nut farmers in the Boma village of Sierra Leone. That money helped build the Makenneh Bridge that joined the old and new portions of the village to ensure safer transport of people and goods. According to Donaldson, the village was able to “rehabilitate 12 forest farms,” send “50 young girls to school annually,” “support an educational HIV/AIDS theatre group,” and “build a rice huller” to help create additional revenue. Good stuff. Their work hasn’t gone unnoticed. In 2014 Karma Cola was named “World’s Fairest Trader” by the Fairtrade International. You might also notice the tribal art on their bottle. It stands out. Their website notes “The blue and red iconic design represents the African water spirit, Mami Wata, who embodies both good and evil.” This is a soda that has all the makings of something special, even the backstory. Hopefully we drink the good and not the evil.
Where to get: Karma Cola is sold is nine countries: New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, China, the United Kingdom, Norway, Holland, Denmark and Sweden. Future expansion areas include more of Europe, Australasia, and the United States. For all you Aussies, you can find the nearest physical retailer of Karma Cola here. For the rest of you, including all Americans wanting to get their hands on this, email the company at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Nose: Spices; cinnamon; traditional cola, soft vanilla.
Taste: Spices; kola nut; sugar; cinnamon; nutmeg; mild bitterness; sugar. Spices flood the mouth and rush up into the nose on each sip. It’s the first thing you’ll taste and the biggest take away when drinking Karma Cola. It’s unlike any cola you’ve ever had in that regard. The spices are bold and varied; you’ll taste a different one at the forefront on each sip. We probably can’t identify them all by taste, but cinnamon and nutmeg are vivid. The kola nut flavor has a nice earthiness to it, but is attached at the hip to the soda’s cane sugar. So you’ll get that musky bitter taste, but it’s brief before the sugar rush hits. Definitely a sweeter cola, but not the sweetest of the bunch. Karma Cola uses malt extract for color and flavor. You’ll definitely taste this because when combined with the spices, it imparts a bit of a savory taste to the cola. The savoriness of the malt combined with the bitterness of the kola nut, the sweetness and drinkability of the cane sugar and the boldness of the spices, all converge on each other to form a cola with a most sophisticated flavor.
Finish: Bittersweet kola nut. Earthier than the body of the soda.
Rating: This is one of the best-tasting colas I’ve ever had in my life. What separates Karma Cola from your run-of-the-mill cola is its lush bounty of spices that fill the mouth upon every sip and define the soda. It’s like a symphony of flavor unleashed on your taste buds in every sip. Each drink brings a new taste. There’s lots of layers to this cola and they all meld simultaneously to form a cola that easy-drinking, yet bold in flavor. This is the hot new Russian girl with the sultry accent and porn star body you took on a date and miraculously made your girlfriend before other dudes could discover her. While Karma Cola may not be a household name in America, it has a familiar cola taste with a plethora of foreign flavors that make your mouth tingle in delight. The spices are divine. The cola taste is traditional and comfortable. The sugar is sweet and provides a nice contrast to the kola nut’s bitterness. This is drinkable, yet rich in flavor – a rare combination. I know there’s vanilla in this and I wouldn’t mind seeing it play a larger role to impart more of a creaminess. But that’s like asking Batman to take out your annoying neighbor. It’d be nice, but I’m busy doing other things. Karma Cola is an achievement in cola. In addition to its traditional cola flavors, it strays from the beaten path by adding a handful of various spices, malt extract, vanilla from Sri Lanka, and kola nut from Sierra Leone. It’s safe, yet challenging and should please both the casual soda drinker and culinary enthusiast. Karma Cola is a shooting star of a cola in galaxy full of red giants that need new discoveries like this one. And if you don’t get planet lingo, just know this is absolutely (inter)stellar and worth every penny.