Kofola… Isn’t Very Good

Back around 1959 or soon thereafter, the powers that be in the Czech Republic were looking for something to do with some sort of caffeinated byproduct of the coffee roasting process. They turned the problem over to a chemistry lab which developed KOFO syrup. Shortly thereafter Kofola was born, and Eastern Europe rejoiced that their children could also rot their teeth on carbonated sugar water.

Kofola boasts some 14 “natural” ingredients, and while the various references agree on the number, I could find no list stating what all of them were. The Wikipedia article (and the dozen other places that quote Wikipedia without citing it) focuses on things like apple extract, while others mention cardamom and licorice. They are proud to have less sugar than Coca-cola (almost certainly beet sugar in Kofola’s case), and essentially the same amount of caffeine as Coke, which is pretty tame by today’s standards.

According to the boys at Kofola, they are every bit as popular as the American invaders, but in my personal experience I don’t see how that could be true. Maybe it’s a city-country thing. More likely it’s a generational divide, and the people who drink Kofola were the ones who learned to like soda when the western options were limited. Among the people I know, however, Kofola drinkers are rare enough that in my years here I had never tasted Kofola. I decided this was one of the things I had to do before my return to the US.

I went to the corner store to buy a small bottle of the stuff. While I stood scanning the soft drink choices I noticed that the 2-liter bottle was the same price as the 1/2-liter bottle. Hm… I paid my money and hauled the big boy home. After all, if I liked the stuff, I wouldn’t want to regret not getting more for the same price.

I held my anticipation in check, deciding that my first taste of the stuff should be chilled. I wedged the bottle in the freezer next to the carp and waited. Before long I felt tired so I moved the drink from freezer to fridge and went to sleep.

The next morning I was up at the crack of midmorning and ready to try Kofola. I poured a glass, sniffed, swigged. As you might recall from the title of this episode, Kofola isn’t very good. I can also say that it defies description. Anyone who buys into Dr. Pepper’s claim as the most original soft drink in the world has not had Kofola. Perhaps if the communists had asked a kitchen to develop the syrup rather than a chemistry lab things might be different. Perhaps. Perhaps the recipe is “the fourteen things they had a surplus of in 1960.”

Now I have in my refrigerator most of two liters of Kofola (I had a second glass of the stuff to see if it might be one of those flavors that grows on you), and two carp. In the spirit of Communist Czechoslovakia, perhaps I should find a recipe that combines the ingredients I have a surplus of. CArp au Kofola, anyone?


14 thoughts on “Kofola… Isn’t Very Good

  1. I like Kofola and prefer it to Coca Cola and Pepsi. Also, I had some carp one Christmas and it was actually pretty tasty. The fish soup they made from the carp was also pretty good.

    • I think it’s something I would have to get used to. Maybe Coca Cola was the same way but I don’t remember the ‘breaking-in’ period. Carp can be good – but isn’t always.

  2. Ya know as a young’un, I used to fish the river often. I was taught by my dad-squirrel, that Carp is a trash fish and the best thing to do when you caught one was to toss it into the weeds. Let the raccoons make a meal of it. Perhaps Kofola too, is best tossed aside to let more desirable sodas flourish.

    Coke was better when it had the proper measure of Colombian marching powder included.

    • Just a point of clarification Czech Carp aren’t the same mud sucking greasy beast we have here in the USA. While related they generally don’t have the same “dirty” taste.

  3. I am 20, born after the revolution and grew up in completely capitalist society with access to all the western drinks. Yet, I love Kofola so much – it is no. 1 soft drink in the Slovak market, present at every summer music festival and very popular among people of all age. It’s not us trying to hold onto the old – Kofola was not present in the market for some time in the 90s and was reintroduced back in early 2000s – to me, it was like a new brand. It’s all about the great taste – by far not as sweet as pepsi or coke, so much more refreshing as well. My drink of choice back home, it’s common to get a half liter with a meal in a restaurant – no matter whether you’re eating pizza or something traditionally slovak… :)

    • Seems like there’s an opportunity here to cater to a niche taste in a large country, but even more to say, “Dr. Pepper, your idea of original is… well, not.”

      (My first draft of that quote was far more profane. Suffice to say that Pepper, M.D., is not as far outside the soda box as they want us to believe.)

  4. As a Czech, I do love Kofola, but maybe you should have tried tap Kofola in a restaurant instead of a bottled one. The tap one is SO MUCH better. :D

  5. Foreigners, mainly Americans and limeys, in the Czech Rep tend to glom together rather than try to assimilate. Many don’t even speak Czech. If the people you were hanging out with didn’t like Kofola, you were probably in one of those expat groups.

    I can say that, as a person who went to Czech school and has many Czech relatives, Czechs who don’t like Kofola are the exception.

    Carp is pretty nasty, though – if you go the the Czech Rep again you should try utopenci, pickled sausages. They’re delicious.

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