A Cooler Coke: Ooba

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Each Tuesday and Thursday for the next few weeks, we'll be taking a look at alternatives to cokes for the sticky Houston summer that lays ahead.

What is this, now? A healthy coke? Say it ain't so!

As one commenter dutifully pointed out last week, the healthiest form of hydration is water. As I'm pretty sure we all knew. But as delicious and life-sustaining as pure water is, sometimes it's fun to mix it up and have something bubbly.

If you're in the mood for something carbonated but don't want to pour a bunch of preservatives, artificial flavors and high fructose corn syrup down your gullet, you'll probably love Ooba.

Unlike the other cokes that have been featured here thus far, Ooba is a domestic product. I just picked it up at the store because I liked the shape of the bottle. I'm an easy sell like that.

Ooba -- like so many crunchy things in our grocery stores -- comes from California. It has the unfortunate slogan "Experience the POWER of the FLOWER" (emphasis theirs) due to the fact that it's made with natural hibiscus extract.

You'll recognize the flavor of Ooba if you've ever had a cold glass of jamaica before ("hibiscus" in Spanish is flor de Jamaica). The hibiscus has the distinct benefit of not tasting overly flowery and instead tastes tropical, fruity and slightly astringent. In other words, totally refreshing.

Hibiscus is claimed to have a myriad of health benefits, and drinking tea made from the dried calyces of the flower has been shown to reduce blood pressure. It's also said to lower cholesterol and have positive effects on overall cardiovascular health. Ooba plays off of this by adding nothing to the hibiscus extract except pure cane sugar, carbonated water, vitamin C and -- in the case of the bottle I grabbed -- pineapple juice.

Ooba comes in a variety of other flavors, including vanilla and orange, all of which I imagine complement the natural hibiscus flavor quite nicely. If this was a little less pricey ($1.19 each), I'd happily keep my fridge stocked with these all summer. As it is, I'll just look forward to grabbing one as a little treat each time I go grocery shopping.

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