If you've ever chewed a piece of bubble gum and thought, "Man I really wish I could drink this," then Inca Kola Soda may be the perfect drink for you. This neon yellow Peruvian soft drink has been tantalizing the tastebuds of consumers since the 1930s. Inca Kola is more than just a soft drink-- it's considered part of Peru's identity. While this golden carbonated beverage may not be as well known as Peruvian delicacies like pisco and ceviche, it holds a special place in the heart of everyone who enjoys it.
History of Inca Kola
Inca Kola (or Inca Cola) was invented in 1935 in Lima, Peru. English immigrant Jose Lindley and his family founded a bottling company focusing on soda soft drinks after emigrating to Peru. As the family business expanded, the company registered as the Corporación José R. Lindley S.A. Jose introduced Inca Kola into the market and it gained immediate popularity. It only took 10 years from conception for it to become a market leader in Lima.
Inca Kola's bottle has a unique design highlighting the soda as the flavor of Peru. According to TripSavvy, "Patriotic sloganeering has been used to promote Inca Kola since the 1960s, first with La bebida del sabor nacional (The drink of national flavor)... and El sabor del Perú (The taste of Peru)." With Peruvian iconography adorning the bottle, it's hard to mistake this drink for something else.
Inca Kola's success did not go unnoticed. In 1995, The Coca Cola Company was falling behind in sales compared to Inca Kola in the Peruvian market. Not one to be beaten by competitors, Coca Cola made an enticing offer to Corporación José R. Lindley S.A. Lindley was struggling with debt and sold half the business to Coca Cola in 1999.
Inca Kola in the US and Abroad
In international marketing, this drink is often referred to as The Golden Kola, a reference to the soda's yellow hue. In Peru, Inca Kola is extremely easy to find and purchase. Even a rural market will sell a few bottles.
Though the market share is increasing in the US, it is still only available in 32 states. You'll have a greater chance of finding it at Latin American specialty stores or in large markets like New York. If all else fails, Amazon can get your soda delivered to your door, no matter where you are in America. With the total price of a 12 pack being $18.75, it's worth it to stock up.
You'll find this soda served everywhere in Peru, from fast food establishments like McDonalds, to high end cevicherias (ceviche restaurants). Inca Kola is also standard in Peru's chifa restaurants, which are Chinese-Peruvian fusion.
Unlike Coke, which is served over ice, or mixed with alcoholic drinks, Peruvians prefer to drink Inca Kola room temperature and never over ice.
What is That Mystery Flavor?
Many people in the US say that the carbonated beverage is reminiscent of bubble gum or cream soda. While bubble gum is not listed on the ingredients, Inca Kola makes its signature flavor with both artificial and natural flavors.
The simple ingredients listed on bottles are: Carbonated water, sugar, citric acid, sodium benzoate, caffeine, flavorings, and tartrazine coloring. Lemon verbena, which isn't listed, gives the soda its signature yellow color. Lemon verbena is very common in Peru and is used to enhance and flavor cold beverages and ice cream.
Since Coca Cola produces Inca Kola in the US, you can expect some slight differences in flavor from the Peruvian version. If you can't make it to Peru to compare, at least pickup a bottle in the US to experience the unique taste.