Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mexican vs. U.S. Coke: The blind taste test

All tests were carried out completely blind. ... Tasters were asked to pick their favorite from within each sample set of two.
  • Test 1: Mexican Coke in glass bottle vs. American Coke in a can
  • Test 2: Mexican Coke in a cup with ice vs. American Coke in a cup with ice
  • Test 3: Mexican Coke in a cup with no ice vs. American Coke in a cup with no ice
  • Test 4: Mexican Coke in a can vs. American Coke in a can
  • Test 5: Mexican Coke in a can vs. American Coke in a glass bottle
  • Test 6: Mexican Coke in a glass bottle vs. American Coke in a glass bottle
  • Test 7: American Coke in a can vs. American Coke in a glass bottle
...

The spread of results I got from this initial testing was surprising to say the least, and answered one thing for sure: There is a perceivable difference in the flavor between Mexican and American Coke, despite the best efforts of the Coca-Cola company to convince us otherwise. ...

From within this set of tests, there was an overwhelming preference for American Coke over Mexican Coke. The average taster picked regular coke two to one over Mexican coke!

So that settles it. America reigns supreme in the Coke flavor wars, right? Not so fast. Looking closer, we see something even more interesting: Half of the tasters seemed to have no real preference between American and Mexican Coke, while the other half of the tasters unanimously chose American Coke as their favorite for nearly every test, regardless of the vessel it was served in. We'll call these folks the Tasters—the ones who let their tongues and noses do all the deciding.

The Tasters pick out American Coke as superior to Mexican Coke a full 7 times out of 8.

When you take the Tasters out of the pool in order to determine what the other half are basing their tasting decision on, everything becomes clear: the other half of the tasters unanimously picked Coke served out of a glass bottle as their favorite for nearly each and every test, regardless of whether the liquid in there was Mexican or American Coke. We'll call these folks the Feelers—the ones who care more about the tactile sense of the bottle against their lips or in their hands than the minor differences in flavor or aroma that the product inside may have.
--J. Kenji López-Alt, Serious Eats, on the case for American Coke in glass bottles. See also the hipster illusion in Mexican Coke.


The entire principle of a blind taste test was ridiculous. ... Because in the real world, no one ever drinks Coca-Cola blind.
--Malcolm Gladwell on perhaps measuring the wrong thing