Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Down the hatch: Ooba Hibiscus With Lime

Posted By on Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 10:38 AM

click to enlarge ooba.090809.jpg

In an effort to counteract the Mountain Dew Voltage I tried at the end of last month, I thought I'd look into the latest superfood growth area: health beverages. First on the docket is Ooba, a sparkling drink made with hibiscus extract. 

I've seen hibiscus-flavored drinks in Mexican restaurants; hibiscus is one of the many flavors of the Mexican soft drink Jarritos. But Ooba (an acronym for "one of botanical's advantages") marks the first hibiscus drink I've tried outside of hot tea. 

The hibiscus is a bright red flower that's typically been used to make tea in Asia and Europe. The flower's natural properties are often compared to red wine as a preventative measure for high blood pressure and LDL cholesterol.

"Experience the power of the flower," suggests Hibix, the maker of Ooba. The hibiscus extract in the drink is labeled a super antioxidant, and each serving contains 50 percent of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin C., although the suggestion that it's designed to "help maintain cardiovascular function" sounds slightly ominous. At $2 for a 16 oz. bottle that comes in six flavors, it sits somewhere on the price spectrum between juice and energy drink.

The drink has some warning signs, starting with an odd-shaped bottle that looks like the kind used to store citronella for backyard tiki torches. Non-standard bottles tend to suggest products that are either not widely distributed or at definitive ends of the good/bad spectrum.

Ooba is magenta-colored, apparently from the ruby

red Hibiscus extract. My only food allergy is Red Dye #40, so

anything in this hue sends a warning to my primate brain that

death or hives is certain to follow the first sip. 

But the

most foreboding signal comes when I lift off the cap. Ooba is pungent, similar to the smell of a piece of fruit left in the car during the summer. Thankfully, that sensation is fleeting and the taste doesn't

match the smell.

Ooba evokes seltzer water in a good way -- like an

all-natural version of cranberry-grape juice or white grape juice. The

flavors of lime and hibiscus mix a bit like tea-juice blends, wherein

you seem to taste a bit of each, one after the other. The hisbiscus

extract also means the drink finishes in the same fashion as a wine

with a lot of tannins -- a slight sensation of dry mouth. 

And yet Ooba is actually kind of refreshing and has a taste that grows on you after the first sip. Although given the option of another flavor, I may have gone with something sweeter like pineapple or blackberry. Ultimately, Ooba proved the exception to the oddly-shaped bottle axiom -- it was neither noxious, nor special -- just mildly interesting. 

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