Taco Bell's Agua Refrescas Prove The Brand Still Doesn't Understand Mexican Cuisine

Taco Bell always wants to do mas, but maybe it should take a step back on this one.

When Taco Bell announced its full lineup of planned menu items for 2024 back in February, the brand noted in a press release that it would be doing so with the intention of featuring "bold and intentionally Mexican-inspired flavors." The Tex-Mex chain's latest attempt to fulfill that goal is being tested out at a restaurant location in Southern California, per a recent announcement.

For five weeks, Taco Bell will be selling its new Agua Refrescas at one of its restaurants in Irvine, California. The new drinks come in Strawberry Passionfruit, Peach Mango, and Dragonfruit Berry flavors and sell for $3.99 for a 16-ounce cup. They're made using freeze-dried fruit, artificial colors, and a green tea base which the brand notes as providing a boost of energy.

"We want to make our beverages just as iconic as our food," said Taylor Montgomery, Taco Bell's chief marketing officer, in the press release. "Our new Agua Refrescas are a perfect, vibrant pairing with everything our fans crave from Taco Bell and will help us on our journey to make Taco Bell a beverage destination."

Based on Montgomery's perspective, it would seem Taco Bell wants to compete with beverage-focused operations like McDonald's spinoff restaurant CosMc's. However, based on the new drink offerings themselves, it appears Taco Bell also wants to capitalize more on Mexican flavors than anything else.

While I understand putting your own spin on something, Taco Bell has once again morphed the original item so far from its original form that it's basically unrecognizable. Of course, it's common sense to most people that Taco Bell does not serve actual Mexican food, but as the brand leans into that side of its inspiration, it may want to make that distinction more clear.

Take, for example, Taco Bell's iconic Crunchwrap. Although wrapped in a flour tortilla and filled with a tostada, pretty much everyone knows that there is no real Mexican dish called a crunchwrap or something like it. On the other hand, with these Agua Refrescas, it is very evident Taco Bell is alluding to the existing Mexican beverage agua fresca.

Traditionally, aguas frescas are made with fresh, blended fruit, water, ice, and some kind of sweetener. Taco Bell's freeze-dried, green tea-infused Agua Refrescas are a commercialized fast food-quality take, but to someone less familiar with the original, it would be easy to get them confused.

These new drinks may just be a temporary test, but Taco Bell should be careful about how far it stretches the words "Mexican-inspired."