Long live free cola!
Published 17 April 2018 by Elsa Ferreira
Less sugar and preservatives, more transparency and a militant approach… Makery attended a workshop to make your own soda.
London, from our correspondent
Can the bubbles of your soda be political? Yes, think the art collective Arts Catalyst and Company Drinks, company producing sodas made in London founded in 2014 and community led, that organized on Thursday April 12 a workshop to make your own soda. With local products if possible and without preservatives.
Leading the workshop, Cam Jarvis and Oribi Davies, from Company Drinks. They regularly organize workshops and trips with communities from Barking and Dagenham, a working-class neighborhood in Eastern London, particularly grade-schoolers and elderly people. Urban picking sessions, fruit picking in Kent, an echo to a seasonal work tradition for the the older folks, and even gleaning, an ancestral practice consisting in collecting fruit leftover by the machines after the harvest.
This introduction-taster is the opportunity to mention accessible resources and the composition of sodas. “Our production cycle is transparent, explains Cam Jarvis, and people can get involved at every step.” After the picking comes the recipe, then the label design, thought out by the young in the workshop, then honed by Square Root London, a company also based in the East end of London.
Around the table of the day’s workshop, the average age is closer to thirty plus. Ten or so people sometimes attracted by the Company Drinks project, sometimes by urban picking, the musicality of bubbles or simply by a self-proclaimed “addiction to sodas”, explains one of the participants who wishes to know more about the secret ingredients of his favorite drink and take, he hopes, more informed decisions.
Picking day in Kent, 2017:
In the late 1950s, #raspberries were brought down from Scotland to London on a steam train known as the Raspberry Special. #facts
A post shared by Company Drinks (@goingpicking) on
Open source Coca
Secret ingredients will be discussed with the tricky challenge of reproducing the original Coca recipe, without, it seems, never really equaling it. In order to counter the American giant, a free recipe of cola is available and distributed under GNU GPL license. Open source beer is even more generic. The Danish project Free Beer, supported by the art collective Superflex and IT students from Copenhagen, launched the movement in 2004. In 2016, to support the tendency to brew one’s beer at home, the Scottish brewery Brew Dog shared its two hundred beer recipes, explained its co-founder James Watt.
Soda can take even more political aspects. Company Drinks mentions these European regulations that prevent the company from marketing its soda made from Japanese knotweed, a plant that doesn’t belong to the food grade in Europe. Yet, “in order to sell in large quantities, a product should be classified as food,” specifies Cam. They are however very proud of their signature drink, the plant being usually more renown for its invasive characteristic than for its sweet taste.
The discussion moves to Genuino Clandestino, a network of associations, collectives and individuals that campaign for a local, peasant and responsible agriculture, created after Italy adopted a series of hygiene standards so strict that a large number of famers found themselves breaching the law. In this agriculture that upcycles waste, plays with expiry dates or works on bio-sourced materials, says Oribi Davies, European standards are set to protect consumers. But Cam Jarvis adds “for companies working with waste, it’s very complicated and frustrating: certain companies could truly benefit from a relaxing of these rules.”
A future not so far away, they say with a sour laugh. In Brexit country, Company Drinks elaborated a Sour Brexit soda during the referendum campaign “to open the discussion”. Already in the British countryside, seasonal workers, often European workers, deserted the harvest with a 29% shortfall of workers, leaving fruit to rot in the fields.
Company Drinks is about to launch a series of debate-lunches, the “digesting politics” during which the participants will discuss politics or food and why we eat what we eat… “You can really challenge the limits when you use food as a starting point,” thinks Cam. So, it’s up to you!
– Fruit of your choice;
– Carbonated water: you can buy fizzy water directly or add bubbles to tap water with your soda fountain.
You will also find recipes for home made soda with baking soda (about 2 teaspoons per liter of water)
1/ Technique. You should be aware, we cheat a little. The production of soda is complex, it is prepared with yeast and pasteurized beverages. Bubbles affect the taste, explains Cam Jarvis, who admits leaving the production to “experts hands at Square Roots that know how to extract and mix our sometimes unusual ingredients.” To start with a “simple” soda, we will prefer to make a concentrated syrup to which we add carbonated water.
2/ Flavors. It is best to pick your fruit and other ingredients yourself. At worst, a trip to the store will do. Do not hesitate to use spices, herbs and be inventive in your choice of flavors.
3/ The concentrated syrup. Once you have chosen the fruit, you make a concentrated syrup. The steps (particularly the quantity of sugar) depend on the chosen fruit but Internet is full of recipes. For example, here for a concentrated syrup of apples (or mint, or flowers), or there for the OpenCola recipe.
4/ The mix. All you need to do is mix the concentrated syrup and the lemonade. Adjust the taste. You can add food coloring (make sure it is made from natural ingredients) to make the color of the soda correspond to the chosen flavors.
Talk about politics. Drink!
Soda isn’t enough for you? See our DIY to brew your beer!
More information about the Company Drinks workshops