With over 4 million articles, Wikipedia is an invaluable resource, whether you're throwing a term paper together at the last minute, or boning up on your Paraguayan War history (seriously, it's a great story). But follow enough links, and you get sucked into some seriously strange places. We explore some of Wikipedia's oddities in our 4,307,529-week series, Wiki Wormhole.
This week’s entry: Cola
What it’s about: The ubiquitous soft drink blamed from everything to the obesity epidemic to the high-casualty Cola Wars. The page touches briefly on history, ingredients, and health effects, but is mostly a list of brands from around the world.
Strangest fact: Americans tend to think of Muslims as being very culturally sensitive about their religion, but the popular Mecca Cola uses the name of Islam’s holiest city to hawk sugar water in countries across Asia.
Controversy: Only the biggest controversy of them all: pop or soda? The page also touches on the high fructose corn syrup controversy, noting that Pepsi is marketing “throwback” versions of Pepsi and Mountain Dew with real sugar, and Coke drinkers often seek out either the Mexican or Kosher For Passover Coca-Cola varieties, both made with sugar. Unmentioned is the widely-held theory that the New Coke debacle was a smokescreen so the company could replace the original recipe (made with sugar) with Classic Coke (made with corn syrup) and consumers would thank them for it (which they did).
Thing we were happiest to learn: Germans love David Hasselhoff. Also, caffeine. Two German soft drinks, Afri-Cola and Fritz-kola, have the highest amount of caffeine allowed by law (more than three times as much as Coke). Though Afri-Cola changed its formula to one with less caffeine in 1999, the company was soon persuaded to change it back.
Thing we were unhappiest to learn: While currently available colas from around the world are listed here, Wikipedia has no single page covering defunct sodas. We’d love to see a shrine to the likes of disgusting-but-strangely-addictive Blue Pepsi, OK Cola (Coke’s failed attempt to reach Generation X, with cans designed by Ghost World/Eightball writer Dan Clowes), and 7-Up Gold (which David Letterman often insisted was simply “club soda mixed with ordinary turkey gravy.”)
Also noteworthy: Besides being sweetened with either high fructose corn syrup or sugar, most colas are flavored with cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, various citrus oils, and phosphoric acid—which Wikipedia helpfully points out is a possible cause for the kidney disease associated with cola consumption.
Best link to elsewhere on Wikipedia: While most brand-name sodas have closely guarded “secret” recipes, there are also “open source” colas, whose recipes are widely available for anyone with the right ingredients and their own method of carbonating water.