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Oh happy blog-readers, rejoice! No more must your seat-edges erode under nervous gluteal shifting as you await the upcoming episode of the Orange Soda Challenge. No longer must you endure the slow march of time, the hours passing leadenly, their echoes the tears of a stone statue dropping into an iron bucket. For lo! It has arrived! Lean back in your chair, relax upon the entire cushion, and read on…

What have we here, within this plain glass bottle, remarkable only in that it is brown instead of the usual crystalline clarity of the standard recyclable soda container? The glue-affixed paper label with its distressed “typewriter” typeface declares this beverage to be a “mandarin orange soda”, as produced by “maine root handcrafted beverages”. I know, I know: you expected me to continue with the joke wherein I provide an inventory of all text printed, suggesting the beverage’s moniker to be something of absurd length and verbosity. Look again — look, look at the photograph above! The entire label is words, and the exercise is futile! (Frankly, I have my doubts concerning the continued efficacy of that joke anyway.)

So. What, you may ask, is this curiously wordy elixir comprised of? The ingredients — sorry, the “handcrafted ingredients” — are listed across the bottle’s neck-label, rather than being relegated to a small box in one corner of the primary device. No doubt they are rather proud of their “carbonated pure water Fair Trade Certified organic cane juice and spices.” In fact, there is no question whatsoever that they are proud — puffed up like an inflated Tetraodontidae, no doubt — of their Fair Trade Certification. The fact is mentioned no fewer than four times, including once on the very bottlecap itself.

With the label taking such dire pains to assure me that the liquid within is handcrafted, pure, organic, Free Trade, and presumably free-range as well, I am possessed to wonder: did they perhaps concentrate too much upon the moral qualities of their beverage, and too little on the gustatory? Because I see no comment here reading, for example, “Delicious!” or “Very Tasty Certified”. Furthermore, their ingredients manifest contains no mention of oranges, unless orange is a spice.

“Godfrey Daniels!” I hear you cry. “You have acquired a beverage manufactured by… hippies!” Undoubtedly, this is indeed the case, for their operation is based out of… Portland!

Amidst your gasps, I chuckle wryly to myself, for you have been fooled: they’re from Portland, Maine. Still, it is undeniable that this flask is a bearer of hippie-water, for the front page of their website features a long-haired man wearing a green, yellow, and red headband, and one of the topic selection options in the sidebar is “bio-diesel”.

But, enough. I have spent too much time judging this book by its cover. I am a thirsty man, goddamnit! It is time to open this potential Pandora’s Bottle and see what waits within.

First, the scent: this liquid’s perfume resembles nothing else so much as orange-flavored baby aspirin. Indeed, I would say it is precisely the same odor. Is baby aspirin a spice?

The liquid within is syrupy, and sweeter than my preference. A certain fizz is present, but understated; it sparkles across the back of the tongue, but quickly flees, leaving you alone with a thick sugar-water texture that coats the inside of your mouth, and not very pleasantly.

Surprisingly, despite the “spices” and the general hippyishness, it does not taste like, for example, tree bark, or dried lichens. It tastes like sugar. To be sure, there is orange, but only in the aftertaste, and fleetingly — like the misty memory of a dream of an orange, which wavers and vanishes upon awakening. Except for ‘awakening’, read ‘swallowing’.

Perhaps I’m coming across as overly harsh. It’s not a bad soda. I would never accuse it of pissing on kittens, for example, or attempt to drag it before the Hague to submit to a war crimes trial. It’s certainly not as repugnant as Fitz’s Premium Swill. But it isn’t going to reign victorious in this competition, not by a long chalk.

Jesus how does Tycho do this every day? I’m like physically tired now.

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