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Hay’s Daze: Fighting the Cola wars


I blame it on the band.

Well, John M. in particular.

You see, I was basically Cola free up until John started bringing a six-pack of Coca Cola to share at band practice. Before that, I never bumped into the caffeinated devil on account of when I was growing up (still a work in progress) mom and dad didn’t ever have any pop in the house and we hardly ever went to restaurants and when we did, chocolate milk was my beverage of choice.

So down in our wonderful old studio — in an elderly building in the Bettenson’s lot downtown — I began my life-long dance with the aforementioned sugar devil. I was just a teenager, not yet captive to the morning coffee ritual, which as many humans know quickly turns into the morning-noon-and-night ritual. And that goes mega-ditto for us colaholics.

But what is it about Coke and Pepsi that used to cause people like me to get up at four in the morning to have a quick hit of Cola? And that people like me used to always have a Cola on the go within easy arm’s reach all of the day and some of the night? Maybe it’s the caffeine? But when you do five or six minutes of intensive research by clicking on the interweb it turns out a cup of regular brewed coffee has three to four times the caffeine content than a can of Coke or Pepsi. Even good ole Mountain Dew has more caffeinated stimulate than Cola. And don’t get me started on Red Bull and Monster and all those other extremely popular energy drinks which make coffee look like (and feel like) wimpy water!

Ok then, is it the sugar in Cola that turns beverage bozos like me into soda slaves? Dental researchers say “You betcha” (or something similar) on account of the sugar-infested bevy gives humans a “dopamine rush” of “euphoria” that is “addictive” and “leads to even bigger cravings”. Other experts less concerned with teeth degradation say it is in fact the caffeine that “triggers the release of the feel-good hormone”. And still others say it’s the wicked combo of both caffeine and sugar that is responsible for Coca Cola and Pepsi companies ranking among the richest and most successful corporations on planet Earth.

Sometime back in the mists of time I did a gradual Cola switch-a-roo. Due to personal taste I finally abandoned my loyalty (addiction) to Coca Cola a switched to Pepsi Cola, and became a staunch Pepsi proselytizer. This was at the height of the so-called “Cola Wars” where the two soda pop companies brutally buffeted brand battles in extremely intense advertising combat. Remember “The Pepsi Challenge”? In a brilliant marketing campaign Pepsi staged “real” on-camera contests where humans would taste two unmarked beverages and say which one they liked the best. And, wonder of wonders, they always picked the Budweiser.

Kidding, they picked Pepsi. (Surprise!) I know I did. And just for fun we set up our own Pepsi Challenge several different times and nailed it every time. It’s all about taste, isn’t it? While the secret ingredients of both Pepsi and Coke are as closely guarded as the mysterious KFC seven herbs and spices formula, the taste of Pepsi is touted as a “sweeter citrusy flavor burst” while it’s rival boasts the “raisiny-vanilla” taste of Coke.

Be that as it may, I finally more or less conquered my Cola habit. Sort of. I’ve switched. To Canada Dry Ginger Ale, which has a smidgen less sugar and –get this – doesn’t contain caffeine!

Unfortunately, I found out recently it doesn’t contain any healthy ginger either! I’m thinking of switching to chocolate milk.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. Reach out to Harley with any thoughts or ideas at