After I shared the announcement of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Byte, a limited edition “pixel flavored” soda that is supposed to have something to do with the metaverse, a Coca-Cola representative contacted me and asked if I'd like to try a can. I said sure, and they mailed me one.
I'll get right to it: The soda tastes a bit like grape flavoring to me. It's very fizzy, and much sweeter than I expected for a sugar-free drink, so much so that it starts to simulate the stickiness of high fructose corn syrup as the carbonation recedes. It reminded me slightly of grape cough syrup (it was also more viscous than I expected) or grape Pez.
I haven't had either of those things in a long time, though, so maybe I'm mistaken about their flavors. After looking at other Coca-Cola Byte taste tests, I'm worried that I might not be qualified to taste soda. Another person who tried it said it tasted like angostura bitters and “herbs and spices.” It didn't taste anything like those things to me. It tasted like grape. Cnet, meanwhile, said it just tasted like a sweeter Coke Zero.
Here's what Coca-Cola Byte truly reminded me of: When I was 13 or so, I used to get one of those jumbo Pixy Stix (long plastic tubes full of flavored sugar) from an ice cream truck on the way home from school and then lie on my bed with it sticking vertically out of my mouth, as if I were at the bottom of a pond with it as my snorkel, and eat the entire thing. During that process, some amount of saliva inevitably got into the opening, dissolving the escaping sugar and forming a sludge which blocked the tube and had to be squeezed out. (In severe cases, scissors could be used to cut the tube above the blockage, or open the other end.) Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Byte didn't precisely taste like grape Pixy Stix, but drinking it reminded me of that sludge, somehow.
So, it's not bad. I liked it. Granted, I used to be a five-a-day Diet Coke drinker, and now I only allow myself to have soda of any kind once a week, so it would've been a treat no matter what its flavor was.
Did it taste like pixels, though? I don't think so. Pixels don't taste like anything, but if they did, I think they would taste like pennies and lime.
Coca-Cola also says that Coca-Cola Byte has a “bright upfront” which is “reminiscent of powering up a game,” and a “refreshing finish” that “makes for a perfect gaming companion.”
People don't really say that they're “powering up” games anymore, so while trying to decide if it really was reminiscent of that, I once again thought of the past: drinking Bawls while playing Warcraft 3 at an internet café. Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Byte doesn't taste like Bawls, although to be honest I can't remember exactly what Bawls tastes like. I know it's made with guarana, though, and there's none of that in Byte. Somehow, though, the metaverse Coke activated my Bawls-related neurons. Maybe it tastes like 2002?
Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Byte is only available for purchase online, and two 12 oz cans cost $14.77. That means the can I drank cost about $7. I'm not sure there's any can of soda I'd recommend for $7, except maybe one that, instead of soda, contains $8.
Some people hold on to cans of special edition Coke and sell them to collectors—someone recently sold a case of Stranger Things Coke for $50, for example—and the Coca-Cola rep told me that fewer than 25,000 of these Byte cases are available. There are probably better investments than novelty Coke, but it's an option.
All things considered, Coca-Cola Byte is a pretty decent representative for the metaverse. Its scarcity has been controlled to create the impression that it's valuable, but it exists only to be desired, and is actual qualities seem impossible to define—the more you try, the more it fizzles away into nothing at all. (Or a sort of grape flavor, maybe.)