HA! You didn't believe me when I said such a thing existed, did you? Did you?!? You thought I was just making it up! But it exists, and I have the proof, right here! Gaze upon the horror of it, and despair!
OK, OK – to be fair, those of you not living in the southwestern U.S. of A. probably haven't seen this stuff on your local shelves. It's one of those products that was originally made for the Mexican market – but with so much of that Mexican market sneaking across the border in recent years, these Mexican-market products have begun to sneak across along with them. For some reason, they're big on tamarinds down there in Mexico; tamarind-flavored drinks and candies are everywhere. Now, I'm not saying that tamarinds are all bad – without tamarinds, we wouldn't have Worcestershire sauce for steaks, or sweet-and-sour sauce for eggrolls – but considering that the FDA considers tamarinds and raw tamarind products unfit for human consumption:
Section: 402(a)(3), 801(a)(3); ADULTERATION
Charge: The article appears to consist in whole or in part of a filthy, putrid, or decomposed substance or be otherwise unfit for food.
But, what the hell... having (barely) survived Moxie, I couldn't see how this could be any worse, so I sacrificed $0.20 for a packet of Tamarindo "Aguas Frescas" (which, as we all know, is Spanish for "Kool-Aid" ). Besides, you never know – I've sampled other flavors from Kool-Aid and its competitors which seemed dubious at first glance (such as "Jamaica" flavor, which sounds somewhat suspect on its face – how do you make a fruit drink taste like a whole country? – until you realize that it's really a flavor derived from hibiscus flowers that's popular in Jamaica. I guess "hibiscus flower" flavor wouldn't have quite the same ring to it though, would it...), but which turned out to be pretty good, so...
Obviously, such was not the case with Tamarindo Kool-Aid, else you wouldn't be reading this.
You see here an unretouched photo of Tamarind Kool-Aid in its natural state. This is not exactly a color which inspires confidence. It's not that it's brown – after all, iced tea is brown – but that it's a cloudy, opaque brown that has a remarkable resemblance to effluent at a sewage-treatment plant. How, exactly, an innocuous-looking whitish-tan powder manages to turn an innocent pitcher of sugar water this particular shade of brown is a mystery perhaps best not looked into too deeply, but it certainly does seem to bear out the FDA's opinion of tamarind as "appearing to consist of a filthy, putrid, or decomposed substance", doesn't it..
Ah, but how does it taste, you ask? Well... if you believe Kool-Aid's web site, it's supposed to have "a refreshing tea flavor."
Have you ever tried something that seemed to taste fairly OK on the first bite, but somehow seemed to take a turn for the worse on the second? Tamarind Kool-Aid is pretty much like that. On the first sip, it seemed innocuous enough – fruity, with a bit of a sweet-and-sour thing going on... but after that, it just started going downhill; with each sip, it turned more and more into some kind of weirdly sourish over-ripe flavor that was increasingly and remarkably unpalatable. Imagine the Sweet-N-Sour dipping sauce McDonald's offers for their Chicken McNuggets, diluted in a glass of water, and you've got something that would be about the same – except with a more appealing color, I'll wager. Either way, the result was, to quote the late, great Douglas Adams, "almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea."
In some ways, this stuff turned out to be just as unpleasant an experience as Moxie. Granted, the flavor wasn't nearly as revolting up front – but unlike Moxie, whose aftertaste was easily dispelled with a good swig of true cane-sugar Coca-Cola, Tamarind Kool-Aid has an aftertaste which seemed to linger and taint anything else I ate or drank for at least an hour afterwards and which nothing, not even a bowl of hot Wolf-brand chili, seemed able to completely overcome or get rid of.
I've since heard it said that it was once believed, in some parts of Asia, that the tamarind tree poisoned the air around it and that anyone who fell asleep underneath one risked being dragged off to hell by demons. I'd say that alone seems like a pretty good reason not to drink "Tamarindo Kool-Aid."