I was in Nagoya, a city with considerably higher vending machine diversity than my town back in Tohoku. You really never know when you’re gonna stumble on some weird limited edition drink in some back alley machine set up for the can collectors next door, or one really weird edition in one machine among a row of five different ones.
And on this day I stumbled on the Newtype Coffee. What does it mean? What could it be? It’s a Gundam drink with not one, but TWO can designs. And it’s sold exclusively as a warm coffee, so you can use it to heat up your hands in the blistering 12-degree-celsius mornings of absolute winter wasteland Nagoya.
I got three of them, because I have basically no impulse control and also because I wanted to tell you, yes you, exactly how this drink tastes so you can find it if you so want.
Sean Spicer, one of the first goons of the current White House administration to get sacked for publicity and ratings reasons, has a strange animosity towards Dippin’ Dots, that bad ice cream you sometimes buy at water parks. Just to know that this tweet exists, and that this guy went on to be on Dancing with the Stars somehow, brings a bright LED light to my cold, robotic heart.
I’m not really sure why I was excited for Crystal Pepsi.
It was some nonsense gimmick product, a fake health product released in a time before I was even born that made very little impact on the market and became mostly a forgotten relic.
That is, until nostalgia baiting kicked in. Nostalgic revivals of foods and drinks after they hit twenty-ish years old are pretty common in the United States, like when McDonalds brought back szechuan sauce, or when Crispy M&Ms returned to the M&Ms line.
Crystal Pepsi, though, was a bizarre one. It was marketed as a health product despite not being healthy at all, and its clear coloring is just… coloring. It’s just packaging and that’s it. The soda is caffeine-free, I guess, but there’s plenty of caffeine-free sodas these days, just colored differently. In the 2010s, there is growing resentment towards carbonated, sugary drinks and the health problems they help induce, and so any claim of being healthier than normal Pepsi would be met with wide scorn. Nostalgia for a dead product is all that could possibly sell a revival like this.
But despite all that, for some reason, I bought into the hype. I became so fascinated with such a stupid product that I was obsessed with trying it out for myself.
In Summer 2016, just two weeks before I was scheduled to move to Japan to study as an exchange student in Nagoya for a year, Crystal Pepsi had its limited-run revival. My friends and I immediately began scouring our local grocery stores and convenience stores to find some.
And… it was zilch. Many stores didn’t receive any in the first place, but everywhere we checked was out of stock. The run was so limited that stores were running out of their shipments in just the first day or two. It was very disappointing, and I was worried that we would never be able to find any–
And then there were a whole bunch of them just kind of sitting there in the local Walgreens.
So I bought like twenty of them.
And in the end… when I finally tried my first-ever Crystal Pepsi…
It was just Pepsi.
It was just Pepsi but clear.
I don’t even like Pepsi. It’s way too sweet and has a bad aftertaste, an opinion that is probably ingrained in my DNA as a Georgian (and a Georgian whose diabetic father exclusively bought Diet Coke).
So now I was stuck with a bunch of Crystal Pepsi bottles with a drink that I didn’t like that much, with just a couple weeks before I would be leaving the country. Luckily, I salvaged things with my greatest plan–a stupid prank.
When I finished a Crystal Pepsi bottle, sometimes I would refill the bottle with water and put it back in the fridge, in case my younger brother or a friend decided to drink one. They’d get some refreshing, healthy water, and also probably spit it all out as a gut reaction! It was an ingenious plan!
…Except nobody ever fell for it, except for me on a couple times where I didn’t pay enough attention to notice the cap seal had been broken.
I was hoisted with my own prank petard.
That’s a metaphor for this entire Crystal Pepsi debacle, honestly.