SNABU: Bubbles out the Wazoo

In my capacity as a smug college student, it has been my duty to tell everyone that I go to Carnegie Mellon. The structure of the conversation will vary, but I always mention two things. I start with the fact that Carnegie Mellon is the best ranked graduate school for artificial intelligence. People like when I say that. They often cheer, maybe hit me with a “tell me more,” and rarely roll their eyes if they’re some sort of enlightened humanities-loving hippy.

The second thing I mention is not as popular. As soon as the words “exclusive Bubly sponsorship” leave my lips, people go ballistic. There are boos, jeers, “Can you believe this guy?”s and so on. I never knew the topic was so contentious! I was a SodaStream man, living off my parents' gas purchases, and the transition to Bubly was very smooth for me. I remember going to my friend Clara's house as a youth, and trying her SodaStream Coke or Orange flavorings. I kept it real. Even then I preferred unflavored bubbles. However, a nice lime Bubly is no sweat off of my back. The carbonated water fandom obviously disagrees, so I have made it my mission to scientifically demonstrate the best, and worst, carbonated water variants. I must mention my incredibly strong distaste of small bubble plastic brands, brands so unknown I don’t even need to mention them. One swig fills your mouth with little pricks, and your heart with hatred for whatever executive decided to attempt to increase the market share of their company with such a bone headed endeavor.

I must introduce the work horses of the business, Perrier and San Pellegrino. Their basic variants do not call attention to themselves, but they remain a vital portion of the worldwide intake. They were the most common brands I drank during my stay in France, which no doubt leads to my semi-uncritical support for them.

Being owned by Nestlé, Perrier has some problematic elements. Chief among these problems is the unnecessary diversification of bubble level. 11 years after being acquired, Perrier came out with Eau de Perrier, a less carbonated and therefore less satisfactory variant. This was so catastrophic that Perrier almost went through a complete restructuring. I have nothing but distaste for Eau de Perrier. The carbonation is minimal enough that a swig leaves the mind with an impression not of a sophisticated palate pleaser, but that of a drink left uncapped in the sun. The ever so faint impression of carbonation masked by a preposterous aftertaste. It is my firm belief that brands need only a normally carbonated version, a strongly carbonated version, and five flavors at most. Too many choices inevitably lead to uninformed consumers picking the worst one, and I dread to think of the legions of possible converts we lost to alcoholism after their first taste of the better path was Eau de Perrier. Disgusting. I am rather fond of normal Perrier, a fact I mention to everyone I meet, but I will admit it’s shortcomings. Perrier’s pseudo-natural acquisition results in a carbonation level below that which my tongue and pharynx find most pleasant. I will admit that if I could only drink it, I would have a much lower opinion of it. However, the memory of it pleases me. San Pellegrino receives a similar assessment. With slightly more bubbles, and those delightfully acidic lemonades and orangeades they put out, I hold San Pellegrinos in slightly higher regard.

Of course, if you want an unflavored sparkling water, the undisputed king is the SodaStream machine. Allowing experienced users a fine degree of control over carbonation, you can produce palatal experiences tuned to your preferred degree of pop at that specific moment. I, through my parents, have been a patron for many years now, and currently prefer my bubbles at a full gas tank four “fart” level, or a near empty 14 second hold. Critics will argue that the machine renders carbonation artificially and that there is no replacing the natural spring levels of carbonation. These are luddites. As a man of the people who isn’t even all that into sparkling water when you get right down to it, I know that the freedom of expression offered by a SodaStream machine and a fine hand is enough for anyone. SodaStream can't fit every situation. In hypothetical situations where someone is on the road, or their siblings refused to let them commandeer a SodaStream machine, or they realized that it can’t be considered a job expense if the person doesn’t get paid for their writings, these people must resort to cans. Market analysis has presumably shown companies that consumers prefer their sparkles flavored when on the road, so there are sadly few unflavored canned carbonated waters for me to review. A pure LaCroix has a pleasant tone that lets the mind appreciate the undertones often masked by a hipster flavor. Although I seem a god, I am a man with a finite memory, and will only be able to review the few flavors I was able to get my ungrubbed fingers on.

LaCroix Flavors:
Beach Plum trades a good taste for a funny name. The allusion to a beach bum is obviously welcome, but I prefer my drinks to taste good, and not make me chuckle when I see them at CVS. Lime is definitely Limey, although not in a British way. You strongly feel the lime, yet there is still a strong sweetness to it, the hallmark of a LaCroix. Razz-Cranberry is a crime against humanity. I once went to the Coca Cola museum, and they had a seasonal gingerbread flavor. It was so good, but they never released it. Yet the LaCroix corporation has the guts to release this! Pamplemousse is the quintessential La Croix flavor. It has the strong fruit flavor that LaCroix lovers adore, while still using a fruit that tastes good. One question though. Do people really only drink this as a healthy alternative to lemonade?

Bubly Flavors:
Honestly, all Bubly cans have very similar flavors, all equal in mildness. I have recently found myself drinking large amounts of blood orange grapefruit and mango passion fruit bounce, strictly due to availability. My favorite has to be grapefruit, and least favorite the cherry. Of course, the gap between favorite and least favorite is minute, and I would willingly indulge in a can of any type.

After reading this far in, you might consider me some sort of carbonated-water radical. But I’m nothing compared to some of the more ardent members of the community. One writes:
Seltzer is great. Many people will back me up on this point. What many people don’t understand is why I dislike water. I was introduced to seltzer at a young age and I loved it. The bubbly sensation that rises up you, the refreshing-ness of the drink, the satisfaction of it all. We aren’t here for an ad though, and I’m sure you’re wondering why I dislike water. Water leaves a horrible taste in my mouth that just tastes weird. Maybe for other people it’s less obvious but I know the taste is there. Sure if I was dying of thirst I’d drink water, but if you drink water right now, I beg you to think about the taste.

I hope you have left this article satisfied and satiated. On this all-out brand war, SodaStream definitely wins. It has everything that I specifically need in a sparkling water. It feels better, and is more portable than can brands. If I had to choose one, I wouldn't go with Carnegie Mellon’s choice. I prefer a milder taste to go with my bubbles, but the average consumer prefers their water more soda-like and less water-like. As Carnegie Mellon services an entire community of well rounded average consuming urbanites, the LaCroix choice should be clear. Bubly was chosen simply because the brand was created by Pepsi, who sponsors Carnegie Mellon. On that subject, I hope Pepsi’s got their lawyers ready, because I have on good information that there are a couple Coke vending machines in Doherty that have been getting frequent refills.