Defy Gravity With the Orbitz Day Thread

You know that one time at the store about twenty-five years ago when you thought that you saw a bottled beverage that resembled a miniature lava lamp? You weren’t dreaming — that was Orbitz.

Orbitz was produced by the Clearly Canadian company from roughly 1996 to 1999, in several flavors. I recall buying one that included cherry, which I guess would have been “Pineapple Banana Cherry Coconut” (the only quadruple-flavor in the line, from what I can tell).

The flashy selling point was of course that each drink was full of tiny floating spheres. At the time I believed these to be yogurt or tapioca-based, but apparently they were a more utilitarian mix of gelatin, flavoring and coloring. And the surrounding drink helped keep them suspended, based on the findings of Oregon State University professor Skip Rochefort:

Rochefort explains this phenomenon by pointing to the behavior of molecules of xanthan gum and gallan gum, two of the drink’s ingredients. These long molecules, he explains, bind weakly to each other to form a spiderweblike network in liquid that holds the balls in place–a phenomenon few beyond Orbitz’s creators understood. But once shaken the bonds are broken and the web disintegrates, he says.

Which reads kind of weird, I have to admit. But here’s the thing: they were delicious, at least the flavor(s) that I tried, and I don’t recall any sense of strange texture, though I’m sure that I was in an upper percentile of enthusiasts at the time, and probably enjoyed Orbitz more than the average consumer.

At least as far as texture goes, though, time has proven that orb-filled beverages can find success. A Gastro Obscura entry notes:

Many consumers balked at the idea of chewable objects in a beverage. (This was before tapioca-laden bubble tea became popular in North America.)

Was Orbitz ahead of its time? In any case, it looked really cool, and here’s hoping for a weekend that’s enjoyably spacey, stylish, and relaxing.