By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
|Illustration by TL Ary|
If you’re reading this in June — Happy National Iced Tea Month. For the uninformed majority, the Tea Council of the USA made this declaration in 1992. And why not celebrate? With last year’s $1.5 billion sales splash, ready-to-drink iced tea has grown nearly tenfold over the last eight years.
The thirst-quencher was an instant success when it was created at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair by Richard Blechynden, a tea merchant, who decided to dump ice into his product after literally being unable to give it away during a summer heat wave. However, it wasn’t until the early ’90s that prepackaged iced tea went designer, thanks to broad availability, creative marketing, convenient packaging and unique flavoring by innovative companies such as Snapple and AriZona, in addition to the rise of coffeehouses serving all manner of nonalcoholic brews. Now that Coca-Cola and Pepsi have joined in the act (distributing Nestea and Lipton’s iced tea, respectively), and with numerous indie tea-on-the-rocks brands popping up, you can’t shake a stick in the beverage section of a convenience store or supermarket without knocking over the stuff.
Our staff of drinkers sacrificed much sleep — after all, the average tea contains at least half the caffeine of coffee — to sample virtually every variety of the summer cooler available in individual-sized, ready-to-drink standard glass bottles, as well as the occasional plastic bottles and aluminum cans. Taking quenchability, sweetness level and tea/fruit flavor into consideration, we rated each product on a 10-point scale. Our results:AriZona Green Tea With Ginseng and Honey is lightly sweetened and powered by the Chinese herb reputed to enhance one’s energy, especially when it comes to, well . . . (giggle, giggle). Rating: 8. AriZona Honey Lemon Iced Tea has a clean, lemony fragrance, but the honey is hardly noticeable. Rating: 8. AriZona Iced Tea With Ginseng Extract goes down like water — smooth but bland. Rating: 6.
Unless you have a sweet tooth, AriZona Original Lemon Iced Tea could stand to cut down on the corn syrup. Rating: 5.AriZona Iced Tea With Raspberry Flavor is a tart quencher that turns up the juice. Rating: 9. Cool From Nestea’s brand name sounds like "nasty," which amply describes this excessively sweetened, acidic beverage. Rating: 1.
Hello, flavor, are you in there? It’s nice that Hansen’s Iced Tea Blueberry Raspberry is only 10 calories, but we’d prefer a little taste-bud sensation. Rating: 3.Hansen’s Iced Tea Original is a typical, lemon-flavored tea, but the lack of caffeine gives it a strange undertaste. Rating: 6. Hansen’s Iced Tea Wild Berry has a slight fruit aftertaste, but is too watery. Rating: 7. Hansen’s Natural Iced Tea Tropical Peach is extremely subtle with a nice peach aroma, but nothing we’d rush to guzzle. Rating: 7.
Surprisingly, Lipton Brisk Diet Lemon’s aspartame aftertaste tames the high artificial-sweetener content. Rating: 3.
How Lipton Brisk Sweetened With Lemon became the nation’s best-selling iced tea, we’ll never fathom. The fruit-juice-free drink is too syrupy-sweet and acidic to be refreshing. Rating: 1.Lipton Brisk Raspberry, with its high volume of sweetness and citric acid, tastes like flat Dr. Pepper. Rating: 1. Lipton’s Iced Tea Green Tea With Honey’s delicate, real-brewed aroma hits the spot, but the payoff is its lip-smacking honey aftertaste. Rating: 10.
For those willing to make a sacrifice to squeeze into a swimsuit this season, Lipton’s Iced Tea Diet Lemon’s smooth brewed flavor is barely hindered by the tiniest hint of aspartame. Rating: 8.
If you think we were displeased with Lipton’s Iced Tea Peach (see below), imagine how we feel about Lipton’s Iced Tea Diet Peach, with an added aspartame aftershock. Rating: 3.
They should fill the Brisk cans with the crisp, nourishing, brewed-to-perfection Lipton’s Iced Tea Lemon. Rating: 10.Lipton’s Iced Tea & Lemonade winningly combines tangy lemonade with soothing, brewed tea. Rating: 9. Lipton’s Iced Tea Peach is naturally flavored, but it tastes less like a peach than it does like the unnaturally fruit-flavored chewable vitamins our mothers forced us to consume. Rating: 4. Lipton’s Iced Tea Raspberry contains brewed tea with a savory raspberry bouquet that goes down easy. Rating: 10. Lipton’s Iced Tea Unsweetened No Lemon is reminiscent of plain teas served at restaurants. Add a couple of packets of sugar and a twist of lemon, and it’s an 8+; on its own . . . Rating: 5.
To proclaim yourself a tea connoisseur who’s into A Little Taste of Heaven Redleaf Herbal Tea Kiwi-Strawberry is akin to drinking wine cooler and bragging you’re into hard liquor. The fruit juice is so overwhelming, it borders on being a full-fledged juice beverage. Rating: 9.A Little Taste of Heaven Redleaf Herbal Tea Lemon is as refreshing as its namesake, but put on a blindfold and you’d guess it’s lemonade. Rating: 10. A Little Taste of Heaven Redleaf Herbal Tea Mango may be more at home in a juice bar, but whatever you want to call it, the ginseng-laden drink is a tart, tangy delight. Rating: 10.
We’re running out of ways to say A Little Taste of Heaven Redleaf Herbal Tea Raspberry tastes more similar to fruit juice than tea. If you need a ginseng fix but dislike tea flavor, the cane-sugar-sweetened thirst-quencher is, well, heaven sent. Rating: 8.