||Out of this world and unappealing
Ah, Orbitz, that much-maligned soft drink from the 90s! This unusual drink was sold in five flavors by Clearly Canadian from 1996 through 1998. It was hard to tell just what the company was going for with Orbitz. Many confused consumers found the floating lumps of gelatin inside to be disturbing. Was it meant to appeal to the pre-teen gross-out set like so many other products at that time? But from its lava lamp shaped bottle to its vivid colors and atomic-age logo, Orbitz also seemed intended to be a stylishly far-out space drink. Too bad the taste could not live up to the drink's image!
The several flavors of Orbitz I sampled back then reminded me of the gooey sugary liquid left behind in a can of fruit. It was not carbonated, not flavorful, just thick and somewhat sweetened, sort of stale. The bits of gelatin themselves had no flavor, so there was really no reward in slurping down through the bottle to get to the ones at the bottom.
Meanwhile, just across the Pacific from Vancouver, drinks with chewable additions were wildly popular. "QQ" drinks as these textural drinks are called, along with syrup and fruit desserts and shaved ices with fruit and candy, are well known throughout Asia. In the early 90s, the most photogenic of QQ drinks was invented in Taichung, Taiwan: Bubble Tea. Also known as Pearl Milk Tea or Boba, it is made from tea and milk or blended fruit with marble-sized gelatinous spheres of tapioca added. From Taiwan, bubble tea became a hip drink all over Asia. In about 1996 or 1997, bubble tea was coming ashore in the Chinatowns of San Francisco and Vancouver. Nowadays boba has made it to shopping malls and restaurants all over North America, widely accepted by many of those same consumers who refused to swallow the gelatin balls in a bottle of Orbitz.
After one or two less-than inspiring experiences with Orbitz myself, I did what a number of my friends had done: I put the unopened bottle up on my shelf and admired its pretty colors and its eternal snowglobe suspension. How many thousands of bottles of the stuff were sold just to become decoration? Above, I offer a photo of one such bottle, the label faded by the sun, some red food coloring leaching from the floaters into their liquid matrix. Eight years later, and I'm still waiting for them to settle to the bottom... wait, did they sink a little bit since I last looked at it?
Clearly Canadian Beverage Corporation
2489 Bellevue Avenue
West Vancouver, B.C.
Canada V7V 1E1