While on my Mitsuwa pilgrimage, as I perused the shelves populated by exotic varieties of Ramune and melon cream sodas, my interest was caught by something which seemed out of place. The Japanese characters which covered most of the beverages had begun to merge into a finely woven carpet of Nipponese incomprehensibility, with kawaii anime-style characters popping out like wide-eyed overly cute tulips from a mossy bed. Suddenly, though, a series of recognizable letters emerged, but arranged in a suspiciously French manner. I paused.
Staring back at me, with a supercilious gleam in its hypothetical eyes, was a bottle of "Fauchon Paris Le Cafe Juicy Surprise!"
In addition to this French/English chimeric label mutant, further information on the bottle was in Japanese characters. A trilingual Weird Soda! This was most excellent.
In an effort to synthesize these three linguistic groups into a coherent soda-based image, my imagination concocted a small round table. The legs and rim are wrought iron, baroquely curved. The top is a mosaic of cracked tiles. Sitting at the table, beneath an umbrella which normally shades the patrons of this sidewalk cafe at the corner of the Rue Jules Verne and a nameless alley from the overly-warm sunshine but which today provides shelter from the hints of rain from the lowering clouds, is a man. We shall call him Pierre. Pierre is reading a battered paperback copy of Albert Camus. His bicycle is leaning casually against the crumbling brick wall of the cafe. Before him is an ashtray (unused today) and a bottle of Juicy Surprise! Pierre lays down his paperback, glances pensively at the sky, sips his Juicy Surprise, and returns to slurping up his large bowl of shoyu ramen. From the speakers of the cafe, we hear the theme to Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, arranged for violin and accordion.
He's wearing a Green Bay Packers T-shirt. We need something to explain the English.
Needless to say, I had to buy the Juicy Surprise! True, it's not carbonated, but I'd say it's Weird, and that's what matters. It's tea based; the ingredients list features water, sugar, black tea, lemon juice, and "flavor". As to the nature of the Juicy Surprise, I am put in mind of the liquid-filled styles of gum, or perhaps jelly doughnuts. Those don't seem applicable here. Perhaps the unnamed flavor is the Surprise?
Other than the French in the name, there is nothing on here to indicate the role that France played in the creation of this beverage. The Kibbitzer-in-Chief speaks a tiny bit of French, and she thinks that "faucher" means "to mow (as in a lawn) or harvest", while "faucon" means "falcon".
Okay, now Pierre looks up from his Camus and ramen. There's a disturbance down the street: screams and the sound of running feet. A crowd surges toward the cafe, fleeing from something. As they pass him, Pierre glimpses a flock of falcons sweeping down from the sky, scythe blades grafted to their wingtips. Harvest time has come to Paris.
Okay, that's probably not what "Fauchon Paris Le Cafe" means. If it is, I don't want to think about the Juicy Surprise. For now, let's assume it refers instead to the bountiful harvest of citrus fruit which supplies the unknown "flavor", as well as the Juicy Surprise.
Where and when: purchased April 2009 at Mitsuwa Market, San Diego, CA
Color: light amber, slightly grey. The Junior Assistant Taster says "Yellow".
Scent: Tea-like, with strong lemon scent. Smells kind of a lot like the sweetened Nestea Lemon flavor which comes in cartons. The JAT says "It's hard to explain," but he also says that whenever asked why his room hasn't been cleaned, why he's not in bed yet, or how the living-room floor came to be covered with a uniform 2-inch-thick stratum of Legos.
Taste: Not carbonated. Less lemony than the scent would suggest. The tea is clearly present. Not particularly strong, somewhat sweet. The lemon is only strong in the very last aftertaste, which has a faint tartness, strengthening over time. Similar to Nestea carton, but less sweet and less citrusy.
JAT: "Ends with kind of a watery taste".
Lead Assistant Tester: "Slightly bad. Refreshing, but not good."
Kibbitzer-in-Chief: "Surprise! It's a very expensive Snapple."
Quaff rating: 3. Pleassnt, and as the LAT says, refreshing. The bitter in the tea is kind of yucky, and the sweet tastes synthetic.
Cough rating: 1.
UPDATE! A good friend of the Weird Soda Review lab staff, who is wiser in the ways of international epicurean exploits than we are, informs us that Fauchon Paris is, in fact, a luxury food store. (Visit their website here). However, they don't seem to list Juicy Surprise! on their web site.
Perhaps it would spoil the Surprise.
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