cross cultural relationships: guaraná vs irn-bru
observant readers of this blog will know that the rockstar and i were born in different places. he is a native of brasília in brazil; i am straight outta AB25, the aberdeen royal infirmary. but then i lived in brazil as a teenager and developed a taste for brazilian street food and melissa shoes; he grew up listening to the beatles, wearing doc martens and playing in bands heavily influenced by the gang of four and siouxsie. so we have more in common than we don’t, really.
but there is one matter on which cultural differences might always remain. and that is the question of whether guaraná or irn-bru is better.
i refer, of course, to the signature soft drinks of our respective countries.
both date back to the first decade of the 20th century. both are made of exotic ingredients: guaraná from the fruit of the tree of the same name, irn-bru supposedly “from girders” (the ads said this for years, although according to the bible that is wikipedia, “though the closest one can come to substantiating this claim is the 0.002% ammonium ferric citrate listed in the ingredients”. mm, tasty). both are eye-achingly sweet.
and, above all: in their respective markets, both outsell coca-cola. now ain’t that something? i even remember hearing that scotland is the only market where something other than coke is offered as the default soft drink with your mcdonalds combo meal.
today at the ontrays emporium in petone i picked up a can of each so that the rockstar and i could perform a taste test. at first sight, the guaraná is a pale ambery colour — the irn-bru bright, bright orange. though there are many brands of guaraná available in brazil, only one ever seems to get exported, and that’s guaraná antárctica, the biggest seller of them all.
the rockstar took a generous swig of the guaraná, then a slightly more cautious one of the irn-bru. he declared the guaraná “sweeter” and the irn-bru “more bitter”. this is from a guy who routinely takes 5 sugars in his coffee. i am not sure the word bitter had ever been used in the same sentence as the word(s) irn-bru before today, so i instantly had to confirm this for myself.
guaraná is supposedly made from a fruit and the drink does taste fruity. god knows i’ve tried to pin down exactly *what* fruit. i can only come up with this: imagine a strong synthetic apple taste with an overlay of a not-acidic-at-all fake orange flavour. there’s some kind of tropicalish aroma floating around as well .. think passionfruit or mango “juice drink”. i’m not helping at all, am i? it’s sweet and yet weirdly refreshing. it goes down smoothly. on a hot day where there’s churrasco on offer, i actually prefer diet guaraná with ice to a cold beer. yum.
irn-bru is instantly brighter on the tongue with a way more intense fizz. like guaraná, the taste is instantly recognisable and practically indescribable. a mild bubble gum, maybe? not at all bitter, except if we’re talking the sour effect of carbonation, i guess. if you’re accustomed to the taste of guaraná, this is maybe a harsher drop. but as an accompaniment to a traditional scottish pudding supper it would be supreme. i tried to convince the rockstar to take a mouthful of irn-bru to wash down a bite of another great scottish institution, the tunnock’s caramel wafer. it’s amazing he didn’t fall into a diabetic coma on the spot, really.
anyway. the rockstar’s verdict: the irn-bru wasn’t horrible, but he wasn’t sure if he’d choose to drink it again (sacrilege!!). as for myself: both can co-exist happily in my culinary universe. much to my dentist’s despair.