It Takes A Village To Make a Coke

Coca-Cola. It is so ubiquitous that Southerns often refer to all sodas as “Coke.” Yet its reach stretches far beyond the confines of the United States. Indeed, the process to get a can of Coke into your hands involves an arduous process involving people and mechanics from all around the world.

But the process is simple enough (here I skip some steps—check out Medium’s for a exhaustingly detailed write-up). Bauxite is dug from the ground in Australia, washed, separated and cooled until it becomes aluminum oxide. Cryolite from Greenland is added to create pure aluminum, which is shaped into a long bar and shipped to one of Coke’s worldwide bottling plants. There, the aluminum is flattened, cut, colored, varnished, cured (with ultra violet light), at which point the can is ready to be filled up.

The syrup formula calls for high-fructose corn syrup—that is, wet cornstarch mixed with Bacillus and another enzyme to create glucose and then mixed once more to create fructose. After that, it is combined with caramel coloring, and then a cocktail of different flavorings. The first is vanilla, taken from of a Mexican orchid. Then, they add cinnamon, taken from a Sri Lankan tree. Kola nut from Africa is added. Caffeine is added for the stimulation, and coca-leaf is, lastly, added specifically not to be stimulating: it has to be processed through a government facility in New Jersey to remove the addictive cocaine.

In Atlanta, all of these are boiled down into a syrupy concentrate then hit with water and carbon dioxide. That mixture is then poured into a can and an air-tight lid installed. A small tab is punched onto it, allowing it to be open.

Now with my mind thoroughly blown, I’m going to let Kevin Ashton of Medium finish us off:

The tools, which span from bauxite bulldozers to refrigerators via urethane, bacteria and cocaine, produces 70 million cans of Coca-Cola each day, one of which can be purchased for about two quarters on most street corners, and each of which contains far more than something to drink. Like every other tool, a can of Coke is a product of our world entire and contains inventions that trace all the way back to the origins of our species.

The number of individuals who know how to make a can of Coke is zero. The number of individual nations that could produce a can of Coke is zero. This famously American product is not American at all. Invention and creation is something we are all in together. Modern tool chains are so long and complex that they bind us into one people and one planet. They are not only chains of tools, they are also chains of minds: local and foreign, ancient and modern, living and dead — the result of disparate invention and intelligence distributed over time and space. Coca-Cola did not teach the world to sing, no matter what its commercials suggest, yet every can of Coke contains humanity’s choir.



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