A body can get real thirsty, real fast adventuring around Port-au-Prince. It’s hot, at turns dusty and chaotic, especially in and around the downtown area near the airport. That’s primarily where I stayed during a quick business trip to Haiti in June.
I was there to consult with Sunrise Airways, a new start-up airline that’s moving quickly to modernize air travel within the country, while also creating improved air links throughout the Western Caribbean. Of course, I also kept my uncommon antennae tuned to any and all hints of authentic Haitian eats, drinks, and things to do. Among soft drinks, one name stood head and shoulders above the rest:
The soda dates all the way back to 1924, and everyone here seems to love it. Literally everyone I asked confirmed that Couronne is the #1 soda in Haiti. There was no second place brand; no honorable mention mentioned. In Haiti, it seems, it’s Cola Couronne or nothing… and that’s not really such a bad thing.
Electric-orange in color, Couronne bears a sweetly-carbonated aroma that takes me right back to my childhood in St. Croix when my parents would buy us cases of Fanta in assorted flavors. They always came in tall glass bottles, which we took great care in returning to our local gas station.
In Haiti, you’ll almost always find Cola Couronne in tall glass bottles as well. My friend Jonathan, who used to work in the Coca-Cola plant where they make Couronne, explained to me that there is no aluminum in Haiti.
Nothing that’s made here comes in a can.
Cola Couronne in a can is actually produced in Miami, so cans like the one pictured here are readily available here in South Florida and, no doubt, other parts of the U.S. with sizable populations of Haitian ex-pats.
Each can of Couronne packs 120 calories and 31 grams of sugar, both measures below what you’ll find in a can of Coke. The sodium level checks in at 45 grams, equal to Coke, which touts its cola as “low sodium” right above the nutritional facts.
But who cares about nutrition when you’re trying a new soda? They’re all bad for you, after all. What matters is how it tastes, right?
Well, Cola Couronne tastes great! The flavor leans most toward orange and pineapple for me, though there are hints of other fake fruits (banana?) in there as well. I say fake as it clearly states on the can:
Contains 0% Juice
So yeah, it’s got “Tropical Flavor,” but all of it is “Artificially Flavored.” You won’t care when you get your hands on one, though. Couronne is crisp, not too sweet, and like a lot of things about Haiti, it will make you smile.
Look for Cola Couronne at your local West Indian grocery store, order online here, or make sure and try some next time you’re in Haiti where it’s available everywhere.