Arts and Culture

Powdered Beverages: The Future of Tomorrow, Today!

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Ever since General Foods Corp. convinced John Glenn to take a can of Tang along with him into space, there’s been something delightfully space-agey about flavored drinks you can make with only water and a little packet of powder. Unfortunately most of them aren’t actually very good at all, but they do have the advantage of generally being cheaper than their pre-mixed bottled counterparts. Here’s one man’s experience with a range of powdered beverages:

Tang – As it turns out, astronauts only brought Tang into space because the recycled water they were drinking (unsurprisingly) tasted pretty gross. Also, like most beverages in America, there isn’t any real sugar in it anymore (although, like most beverages in Mexico, you can find the original formula Tang in Hispanic grocery stores). Either way, this stuff was the original Vitamin Water way before 50 Cent got involved, so it has an air of authenticity about it. And you know you could definitely use some vitamins, you slob. Great for: camping trips, trips to space, replacing your Flintstone’s vitamins.

Crystal Light – Generally marketed towards 36 year old women, Crystal Light definitely has a more diverse flavor portfolio than it’s great-grandaddy Tang. I personally tried a couple selections from their “Enhancement” series. With a name like that I was expecting to turn into some kind of superhuman cyborg, but really they just offer mediocre benefits like extra fiber or increased metabolism. Which I guess is nice, but I’m pretty sure if I were a cyborg at least one of my computer chips would be able to keep me regular.

During one attempt to cut back on coffee consumption, I tried to replace my afternoon joe with Crystal Light. The Wild Strawberry Energy flavor was way too much like kool-aid and the Green Tea Peach Mango Metabolism Plus flavor was even more dry than regular green tea, but mostly palatable. Great for: when you can’t afford better tea.

Propel – At some point in the past, Gatorade decided it didn’t want it’s regular sports drink to taste good at all and made it all syrupy. So Propel is nice because it doesn’t taste like drinking syrup from a Fanta fountain. The added advantage of powder Propel is that you can water it down to your liking and it’s about 1/4 of the price of the bottled kind. Great for: Rehydration after a huge workout or night out on the town.

Starbucks VIA – Obviously I have a weird obsession with coffee, so I was a little wary to trade a nice brewed cup for something in a packet. On the bright side, it seems like Starbucks put a considerable amount of research into this thing and figured out how to grind real coffee fine enough so that it dissolves in hot water. I will admit that it does taste like coffee and seemed to mostly have the same effect. But there’s some barely-perceptible difference, like someone put a Light beer in your regular beer’s bottle and didn’t tell you, that would keep me from ever actually drinking this stuff regularly. Great for: Emergency coffee situations.

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Andrew Dalton - Aggressive Panhandler

Andrew Dalton - Aggressive Panhandler

Andrew is an East Coast transplant from Virginia hamming it up in San Francisco without any intention of leaving. Having worked every typical job from Bike Shop Employee to Bartender to Ad Agency Hotshot, to Dotcom Layoff he now busts his ass covering the "weird things to do" beat for gracious local audiences at and rallies the Western Addy/Lower Haight/Panhandle neighborhoods into action at His work was published in a real, paper magazine one time. One day he might even figure out how to make money from it.