I Paid: $4.99 for a 16-ounce bottle (prices may vary by region)
KonaRed is a so-called “superfruit” drink, delivering antioxidants and their implied health benefits in a pretty red bottle. The twist here is that the fruit in question is the fruit surrounding the coffee bean: a fruit that, according to the marketing materials, was previously unused as a food source.
For just a moment, I’m going to set aside the antioxidant question. First, let’s deal with taste.
A common problem with what are known as “functional foods”—beverages and items you eat that supposedly have health benefits—is that taste often takes a backseat, and you wonder if it’s on purpose. One product that comes to mind is SoyJoy. Perhaps the developers of these foods believe that a slightly medicinal or “off” flavor will reassure consumers that something’s actually happening, the gastronomic parallel to the “if my scalp is tingling this shampoo must be working” effect.
Not so with KonaRed: This stuff is straight-up delicious. A blend of coffee fruit extract, pineapple juice, and apple juice (in that order), KonaRed tastes refreshing, tropical, pleasingly funky, yet sweet overall—it’s a bit like a skillfully mixed rum cocktail, minus the rum. It’s hard to pin down the precise flavor of the coffee fruit over the brightness of the pineapple and the supporting sweet funk of the apple, but there’s certainly nothing coffeelike about it (except perhaps its contribution of caffeine: 54 milligrams per bottle, or about half the amount in the average cup of joe). Its flavor is closer to a blueberry or raspberry.
Now, back to the antioxidant question. If you believe that antioxidants are a good thing, get ready for this: Each 16-ounce bottle of this stuff has 15,818 ORAC units, which, as far as I’m able to determine, is more than we need for even aggressive antioxidation on a daily basis (3,000 to 5,000 is often bandied about as a good average daily intake). Some sources say that antioxidants will help protect your body’s cells from wear and tear and/or aging. Others say essentially the opposite: Slate just ripped the whole “antioxidants are good for you” thesis a new one, reporting on research that suggests that free radicals (the things antioxidants are supposed to battle) might actually be good for us. (The thinking is that they toughen our systems up in preparation for big health shocks later on.)
If you’re an antioxidagnostic like myself, KonaRed is still worth adding to your beverage rotation on the sheer strength of its flavor. Whether it’ll help save or kill you is, like nearly everything else in life, something of a mystery.