Down the hatch: The good, the bad and the Grass Jelly

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While at the 888 International Market this weekend, I was tempted by an array of beverage flavors in aluminum cans. I grabbed three at 79 cents a pop, in order to find out whether I was missing anything or it's best to stick with cherry or vanilla syrup as the way to spice up a soda.

Yeo's Lychee Drink promises two things: that it's "an authentic Asian drink," and has "2.5% juice." The color was a translucent straw or light-tan and when it was poured, it was clearly not carbonated.

The taste was distinctly lychee -- sweet up front and then a cool, almost watery finish. The drink was closer to juice than soda; it tasted as of lychees had been squished into a can. The quick burst of sweetness immediately made me think this would be great in a cocktail as a replacement for orange or grapefruit juice. I'd like to see what Ryan Maybee could do with it.

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Next up was Famous House Almond Juice, which attracted me with its name and light coffee-colored can. It's Famous House -- how could it not be good?

This poured thick and milky white -- the albino cousin of pressed apple cider. It smelled like those hot towels you sometimes get at Japanese restaurants.

At first it tasted of marzipan or sliced almonds, but what followed was much less mild. There was an underbite of something like gasoline -- which wouldn't go away, thanks to thick texture that seemed to further coat my tongue with each sip. By the end, the almond juice from Famous House tasted like the water in the bowl that would be left after you get your hot towel in a Japanese restaurant.

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Last up was Chin Chin Grass Jelly Drink, the first drink from Taiwan (the others were from Japan). This can depicted a goblet filled with a dark green jello and a bendy straw -- it was not a hard sell.

This carbonated beverage came out of the can a deep brown, almost like a bubbly coffee. The scent was somewhere between anise and an evergreen air freshener -- there was a lot going on inside the glass.

It tasted like tea bubblegum. I also tasted coconut and a flavor that I associated with Bit O' Honey candy. The final surprise from the Grass Jelly Drink was that it had texture -- small, square cubes of greenish jelly, which called to mind Orbitz Soda. It's a drink I would try again, if only to feel like I could get a better handle on what was happening in the can.    

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