The first Coca-Cola was served in 1886 at a pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia. These days Coca-Cola is regularly ranked as one of the top, if not the top, global brands.Coca-Cola claims it sells 1.6 billion servings of the drink every single day raking in profits of billions each year. Coca Cola is one of the key beverages (after beer, wine, spirits, coffee and tea)  in Tom Standage’s book ‘The World in a Glass: Six Drinks That Changed History.’ “Coca-Cola encapsulates what happened in the 20th century: the rise of consumer capitalism and the emergence of America as a superpower,” Standage writes. “It’s globalization in a bottle.”

Coca Cola is definitely an example of a marketing success. Everybody remembers the Coca Cola adverts (the earliest one I can remember featured a group singing “I’d like to buy the world a coke,” somehow implying that if we all drank this brown sugary stuff we’d be doing our bit for world peace.) Even more surprising is that this company who produce a drink which no-one could believe is in any way healthy, was one of the principal sponsors of the London 2012 Olympic Games.The company seem to have acquired this lucrative deal by claiming that it  ‘shares Olympic Values which embody the discovery of one’s abilities, the spirit of competition, the pursuit of excellence, a sense of fair play and the building of a better and more-peaceful world…’ Funnily enough it neglected to mention in its self-congratulatory press statement that earlier in 2012  the company was targeted by campaigners following an investigation by the Ecologist which revealed squalid living conditions and low pay for African migrants harvesting oranges in southern Italy, many of them destined for processing into juices or concentrates used in soft drinks for Coca-Cola’s other brands.

But what about the drink itself? Why do so may love it so much? The simple answer I think is not that it is so delicious but that it is addictive. In the beginning, Coke was manufactured using Cocaine hence its name. The main consumers of Coca-Cola were overseas troops, fighting in the war. Cocaine, of course, helped to keep them on their toes, but many unaware soldiers came home addicted. Naturally Coca Cola is no longer made with cocaine but they need to change their secret formula but still include an ingredient to impart that ‘hit.’ The answer was caffeine, together with the rush of sugar (ten teaspoons of sugar per can). Writer Wade Meredith has written about what happens to one’s body on drinking a can of Coca Cola and I think it is worth reproducing his findings in full:

  • In The First 10 minutes: 10 teaspoons of sugar hit your system. (100% of your recommended daily intake.) You don’t immediately vomit from the overwhelming sweetness because phosphoric acid cuts the flavor allowing you to keep it down.
  • 20 minutes: Your blood sugar spikes, causing an insulin burst. Your liver responds to this by turning any sugar it can get its hands on into fat. (There’s plenty of that at this particular moment)
  • 40 minutes: Caffeine absorption is complete. Your pupils dilate, your blood pressure rises, as a response your livers dumps more sugar into your bloodstream. The adenosine receptors in your brain are now blocked preventing drowsiness.
  • 45 minutes: Your body ups your dopamine production stimulating the pleasure centers of your brain. This is physically the same way heroin works, by the way.
  • >60 minutes: The phosphoric acid binds calcium, magnesium and zinc in your lower intestine, providing a further boost in metabolism. This is compounded by high doses of sugar and artificial sweeteners also increasing the urinary excretion of calcium.
  • >60 Minutes: The caffeine’s diuretic properties come into play. (It makes you have to pee.) It is now assured that you’ll evacuate the bonded calcium, magnesium and zinc that was headed to your bones as well as sodium, electrolyte and water.
  • >60 minutes: As the rave inside of you dies down you’ll start to have a sugar crash. You may become irritable and/or sluggish. You’ve also now, literally, pissed away all the water that was in the Coke. But not before infusing it with valuable nutrients your body could have used for things like even having the ability to hydrate your system or build strong bones and teeth.

A superior drink would be a glass of water but Coca Cola has become a symbol of Western society; East Germans quickly reached for Cokes when the Berlin Wall fell, while Thai Muslims poured it out into the streets to show disdain for the U.S. in the days leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Probably the most useful thing to do with a can of Coca Cola is to pour it down a blocked drain or use it to clean a blackened pan.