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With the summer weather fast approaching, and the joys of lazy days enjoying company and a quiet drink in a garden or café, many people turn to Coke or Pepsi drinks. They are refreshing, and of course for the driver wishing to avoid alcohol they are a good choice.
There is an alternative to these drinks which is not widely known, as it is still very much in its infancy as far as years in production are concerned. There is a fair-trade alternative which tastes just as good, and is ethical, and is made with more than a thought for the plight of African countries, as they struggle to survive in an economically challenged environment.
Called Ubuntu Cola it is made using sugar which has been grown in a particular co-operative in Malawi called the Kasinthula, as well as in Zambia, in the Kaleya Co-operative. What this means in simple terms is that the sugar plantations are guaranteed a fair price for their product year on year, this allows them to plan for their families, and to take advantage of a steady and guaranteed income, which keeps them out of severe poverty.
Before the drink was marketed in the UK it was rigorously tested using major cities as a base from which to gauge demand. It was highly thought of, and certainly has gained popularity since its beginnings in 1997. It is now sold in many European countries including Norway, Belgium and Sweden.
15% of the profits from the drink go back to the people in Africa, where it is used to fund ethical projects which benefit communities as a whole. This is a fitting gesture as the name Ubuntu in South African means humanity, or kindness. Only recently I was watching a YouTube video where Nelson Mandela was referring to the word "Ubuntu" as a spirit of kindliness, he quoted the example where a tourist who passes through a village would be offered food and water without asking - just through empathy and generosity.
One example of the way the profits benefit the people is portrayed in the life of Malawi sugar cane producer, Elod, who as well as working full time on the plantations is also now able to study Rural Development, which would have been impossible without their funding. So inspirational is this story in my opinion that you may wish to read his blog which you can find at http://www.ubuntu-trading.com/blog/. This blog really paints a picture of the hardship faced by Elod, who on one day has no money for breakfast; it really is a hand to mouth existence even with support.
The Ubuntu Cola is produced in cans, glass and plastic bottles, and is available in Waitrose, in cafés up and down the country, and from ethical mail order shops including
Ethical Superstore www.ethicalsuperstore.com
In Waitrose each can of 330mls is 59p, and Ethical Superstore has these for 69p, but also sells the 500 ml bottles for 99p.This is competitive as a single bottle of Coca Cola retails for 99p at Tesco, though it has to be said these are regularly discounted.
I tend to purchase the bottles rather than the cans, as this affords the opportunity to keep the drink for a longer period of time. The bottle itself is actually really attractive as it has a bright label adorned with different coloured spots, and of course the fair-trade logo.
It is made from:
Carbonated water, Fair-trade sugar, Colour: sulphite ammonia caramel, acidifier, phosphoric acid. Flavour: caffeine, and natural flavours. The bad news is that each bottle is 211 calories as this is not a diet drink. It does however mirror exactly the calorie content of its rival Coca-Cola.
On opening the bottle I feel it has that dandelion and burdock aroma I haven't tried for years, as it reminds me of my youth when this drink was really popular with my school friends and I. The drink is in essence a cola, but has a hint of this old fashioned dandelion and burdock taste. I really like it and find it refreshing and perfect for a summer day in the garden. It isn't the same as Coke- their recipe is a heavily guarded secret, but it is a lovely alternative. I like it with lashings of ice and slices of lemon or lime.
It is hard to imagine that this small company can compete with Coca Cola who are the largest drinks company in the world. They are, however, not trying to swamp the market, but to offer consumers an ethical choice. There is no doubt that the major company Coca Cola has faced heavy criticism over the years with respect to its non- ethical actions. There have been many of these including a concern that the over use of groundwater in their production plants has caused severe water shortages in farmers in the vicinity. I don't intend to make this review a report on their dealings, but certainly Ubuntu is not setting out to undermine them, but to just offer an alternative which is dedicated to human welfare. There is no doubt, however that if you Google Coca Cola some of the things they are accused of it simply shocking -in particular pesticide, and human rights issues. Many universities now refuse to stock their products, and our local Agricultural College only sells fair-trade cola now.
Of course as a drink Ubuntu cannot be described as healthy as it contains a lot of sugar and calories, but it is certainly a very refreshing drink and one that I enjoy from time to time. The company Percol also make an ethical cola, which is certainly worth seeking out as again this is fair-trade.
In many ways this product mirrors that of the drink Simply Hibi which I have talked about on Dooyoo before. This company is devoted to helping to make a better life for farmers in Uganda, who grow hibiscus flowers for their drink. I think as more companies spring up like this consumers are offered more choices to put more thought into their purchases, and to fill their trolleys with a passion for people, as well as for products.
Ubuntu isn't Coca Cola, but a similar style of drink made with a respect for the people who produce the ingredients. It's a summer drink which puts a sparkle in your glass, and probably one on a face many miles away.
This review also appears on Ciao under my user name Violet1278.