food review: #drinknoevil with karma cola;

My Year of Living Mindfully has been based, for the most part, on making small, sustainable lifestyle changes – and, of those, one of the most important has been attempting to cut back on the fizzy drinks I consume. All the chat around the UK’s planned introduction of a “sugar tax” on soft drink producers – which I have conflicting feelings about, but anyway – has helped to highlight just how much sugar you consume when you have one of these drinks. An ice cold *insert name of leading brand here*, ideally from a glass bottle, will always be one of my everything-in-moderation treats of choice, but it’s kind of disturbing how quickly you lose the taste for it when you start drinking the diet versions more regularly.

(That said, at least when you’re drinking the full-fat varieties you have some idea of what you’re putting into your body – unlike with artificial sweeteners. One of the things that has stuck with me since high school was my chemistry teacher telling me about the then-alleged links between aspartame and depression – but sometimes my need for an ice-cold caffeine kick during the working day trumps common sense…)

When Karma Cola got in touch to ask if I would be interested trying some of their soft drinks, which are made from high-quality fairtrade and organic ingredients, I was intrigued. I mean, if I’m always going to have a sweet tooth anyway, I might as well do some good while I’m indulging rather than supporting a multi-billion multinational conglomerate, right??

Karma Cola review - the lineup

Founded by three friends in New Zealand, Karma Cola launched in the UK in 2014 – the same year that the company was awarded The World’s Fairest Trader by Fairtrade International, the multi-stakeholder body which certifies all the world’s different fairtrade marks (so you know that they mean it). Co-founder Simon Coley told The Challenger Project this week that the idea behind the brand was to source the cola ingredients directly from the farmers in West Africa where it originates and then to return a portion of the profits back to those communities. The first Karma Cola drink was produced with beans from Boma, Sierra Leone, and the Karma Cola Foundation now supports eight communities in the Tiwai region of the country, who between themselves decide which projects the money is used to fund.

The Karma Cola range now includes three drinks: the original Karma Cola, Gingerella Ginger Ale and Lemony Lemonade. Each is served in a beautifully-designed glass bottle – or, as of this month, a smaller 250ml can – and can be purchased from Waitrose stores throughout the UK as well as over 500 coffee shops, bars and restaurants. Just last week I spotted it in Primal Roast here in Glasgow, for example.

Karma Cola review - cola and pork fried rice
Karma Cola review - Karma Cola

We got sent a bottle each of the three drinks in the range, which we popped in the fridge to chill to perfection and enjoy with our favourite fakeaway. Obviously I called the original Karma Cola, which I really enjoyed – it’s more of a Pepsi than a Coca-Cola in taste, which meant that I didn’t recoil from the sweetness as much as I have been since I almost-but-not-actually cut out full-fat Coke.

Part of the reason for that, of course, is the fact that Karma Cola uses completely natural flavourings – so no to caramel colouring or phosphoric acid (seriously, check the ingredients label of whatever can you have handy); yes to cola nut, organic malt, natural spices and vanilla. Karma Cola still use cola nut from Boma as well as vanilla bean from the Forest Garden Growers’ Association in Sri Lanka and Fairtrade organic cane sugar and the Suminter Organic Farmers’ Cooperative in Bhimanagar, India to make the drink.

Karma Cola review - Gingerella
Karma Cola review - Lemon-y Lemonade

Let’s talk about the design of these bottles, because as attractive as Karma Cola itself is its the ginger ale in the line – Gingerella – that wins for me. Unfortunately I accidentally put them in the recycling bin when I got carried away tidying the kitchen at the weekend, because these would make perfect vases or just general upcycled decorative kitchen items. Anyway, the company describes the excellently-named Gingerella as “a fiery redhead who fights for justice”, supporting ginger growers in Sri Lanka – and she also tastes beautiful. Not that I’d know, as Stringer is the real ginger ale expert in our household so I let him have this one.

Like its cola cousin, Lemony Lemonade is at the sweeter end of the lemonade spectrum – which you wouldn’t think I’d enjoy, as I love the sourness of real lemons and limes, but which I found really refreshing. I actually saved this one for this week’s hotter weather, and it made me feel so much better when I came home with a migraine. That’s not like a medical recommendation or anything, but it worked for me.

A bottle of Karma Cola or one of its fizzy pals goes for around £1.59 in store at Waitrose or on I don’t go there that often what with living in the polar opposite part of Glasgow, but I’ll be picking up some – as much for upcycling purposes – next time I get a chance!

Have you tried any of these drinks? What did you think?

More Karma Cola: Web | Facebook | Twitter

This post contains PR samples, but all opinions are my own and unbiased.



  1. rachelle renée
    May 11, 2016 / 2:32 pm

    Philadelphia’s new mayor (I miss Michael Nutter 🙁 )has proposed a tax for sugary drinks and it has had quite a bit of controversy! I’m really curious as to how it all turns out, because there are also a lot of people who will put local stores out of business by driving outside the city to do their shopping:

    Even if you guys get the tax, I’ll still buy Irn Bru when I visit! (If you read that article I’d find Irn Bru in New Jersey’s Wegman’s, haha)

    • May 11, 2016 / 3:26 pm

      They’ve actually taken to calling it the Irn Bru tax here. We went to Wegman’s, didn’t we? I remember seeing it there, after I’d brought those huge bottles over in my suitcase for you guys, hahaha x

  2. May 11, 2016 / 7:47 pm

    Argh I want to try some 🙁 The nearest one is easily over 200 miles from me though 🙁

  3. May 15, 2016 / 1:48 am

    I think the only time that I’ve had one of these is in the Hernderson’s Delhi in Edinburgh! Karma Cola is so tasty though, I think I actually prefer it to regular coke and you’re right, it’s nice to enjoy something knowing that you’re not contributing to an evil corporation xx

    • May 15, 2016 / 2:04 pm

      Absolutely! And that’s me now craving it on this sunny Sunday – if only Tesco stocked the stuff… x

  4. Lisa Thompson
    May 24, 2016 / 1:36 pm

    I just want the bottles