You're not imagining things if that glass of Coke you drank on your last overseas trip before the lockdown tasted a bit different from the one you had at lunch. The general flavor is the same, save for something that you can't quite explain.
The answer lies in logistics. Softdrink maker don't ship cases upon cases of sofdrinks from just one location. Not all Coke bottles and cans come from Atlanta, Georgia, where it is based.
Softdrinks are bottled on site.
The Coca-Cola Company owns the formula of the softrink, what it franchises is the bottling process across the world. The franchise bottlers vary per region, and until 2018, South America's FEMSA bottled Coke products in the Philippines. Before that, it was Australia's Coca-Cola Amatil.
Think of the mother formula as your favorite powdered sinigang mix. The powder tastes the same. What you add to it makes it different from house to house.
The formula is just one part of the recipe.
While the Coke mothership provides the beverage concentrate, the franchise bottlers adds the sweetener and carbon dioxide or air that gives the softdrink its signature fizz.
"Every place is different," Juan Carlos Cortes, Corporate Communications Manager of Coca-Cola FEMSA told Filipino journalists during a plant tour in Toluca, Mexico a couple of years before the quarantines.
It's "almost the same amount and different proportions," he said.
What makes it sweet varies.
In 2017, Filipino farmers urged Coca-Cola FEMSA in the Philippines to use local sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, which is cheaper. This opened a dialogue and showed how softdrinks are sweetened in different ways.
In Australia for example, aside from sugar, aspartame, sucralose and stevia, is used to sweeten Coke.
Mexican Coke is famed for its sweetness, so much so that some people on the other side of the U.S. border prefer it over American Coke.
Yes, water has a taste, too.
Water used on bottled drinks is purified, but at their source, they taste different. If you traveled between provinces as a kid, before purified water was a thing, tap tasted different in your grandmother's house.
Proof that the most basic of drinks is not as basic as we think? Water sommeliers are rising, judging water as some would do the finest of wines.
Water is the "most important beverage on this planet," sommelier Martin Riese told National Geographic.