From a to Tea
|Illustration by TL Ary|
If youre 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 years $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 Worlds 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 wasnt 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 Liptons iced tea, respectively), and with numerous indie tea-on-the-rocks brands popping up, you cant 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 ones 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 Nesteas brand name sounds like "nasty," which amply describes this excessively sweetened, acidic beverage. Rating: 1.
Hello, flavor, are you in there? Its nice that Hansens Iced Tea Blueberry Raspberry is only 10 calories, but wed prefer a little taste-bud sensation. Rating: 3.
Hansens Iced Tea Original is a typical, lemon-flavored tea, but the lack of caffeine gives it a strange undertaste. Rating: 6.
Hansens Iced Tea Wild Berry has a slight fruit aftertaste, but is too watery. Rating: 7.
Hansens Natural Iced Tea Tropical Peach is extremely subtle with a nice peach aroma, but nothing wed rush to guzzle. Rating: 7.
Surprisingly, Lipton Brisk Diet Lemons aspartame aftertaste tames the high artificial-sweetener content. Rating: 3.
How Lipton Brisk Sweetened With Lemon became the nations best-selling iced tea, well 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.
Liptons Iced Tea Green Tea With Honeys 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, Liptons Iced Tea Diet Lemons smooth brewed flavor is barely hindered by the tiniest hint of aspartame. Rating: 8.
If you think we were displeased with Liptons Iced Tea Peach (see below), imagine how we feel about Liptons Iced Tea Diet Peach, with an added aspartame aftershock. Rating: 3.
They should fill the Brisk cans with the crisp, nourishing, brewed-to-perfection Liptons Iced Tea Lemon. Rating: 10.
Liptons Iced Tea & Lemonade winningly combines tangy lemonade with soothing, brewed tea. Rating: 9.
Liptons 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.
Liptons Iced Tea Raspberry contains brewed tea with a savory raspberry bouquet that goes down easy. Rating: 10.
Liptons 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 its an 8+; on its own . . . Rating: 5.
To proclaim yourself a tea connoisseur whos into A Little Taste of Heaven Redleaf Herbal Tea Kiwi-Strawberry is akin to drinking wine cooler and bragging youre 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 youd guess its 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.
Were 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.
Unlike its fruity siblings, A Little Taste of Heaven Redleaf Herbal Tea Unsweetened Peach is a light-tasting, no-calorie refresher that tastes like tea. Rating: 9.
If sweetness is your weakness, Panthai Thai Teas creamy, sumptuous flavor will have you screaming "uncle." Rating: 10.
Pure Nestea Iced Teas brand name sounds like "nice tea," a fine description of the clean-tasting, natural-lemon-flavored thirst-buster. Rating: 9.
Snapple Diet Peach Ice Teas fresh, fruity flavor is as peachy keen as its zero calories. Rating: 9.
Snapple Green Tea With Lemon, though refreshingly tasty, is much more lemon-flavored than traditional green tea. Rating: 9.
Snapple Herbal Ginseng Tea adds spice to your quencher consumption, along with a sweet, plumlike aroma. Rating: 9.
Truly "the best stuff on Earth," Snapple Lemon Iced Tea has the right amount of tea, lemon and sweetener to satisfy the most finicky drinker among us. Rating: 10.
Snapple Lemonade Iced Teas mixture of tangy lemonade and brewed tea is nearly a success, but its a little sour. Rating: 7.
Snapple Lightning strikes with the rich, bold flavor of black tea, watered down and sweetened to appease the uninitiated. Rating: 8.
The light, semisweet Snapple Moon is a decent green tea, but not as spectacular as its snazzy vaselike bottle suggests. Rating: 7.
Snapple Peach Iced Tea tastes so succulently fresh, youll swear theres a peach in the bottle. Rating: 10.
A soothing aroma and bursting fruit flavor make Snapple Raspberry Iced Tea taste berry, berry good. Rating: 10.
Snapple Sun Tea brightened our day with its delicate, honeylike sweetness. Rating: 10.
SoBe Black Tea 3Gs thick, ultrabold flavor is an acquired taste that we, unfortunately, have yet to acquire. Rating: 5.
SoBe Green Tea 3G is very soft on the tongue, topped off with a hibiscus aftertaste. Rating: 8.5.
SoBe Oolong Tea 3G has a mellow, herbal flavor thats a pinch too watery. Rating: 7.
Sweetness and spice and a citric fragrance thats nice, thats what the fiery SoBe Red Tea 3G is made of. Rating: 10.
SoBe Zen Blend Triple Ginseng Tea, with its strong orange-ginger kick, is comparable to an invigorating, noncarbonated ginger ale. Rating: 9.
Suntorys Oolong Tea Premium Iced Tea Lemon Sweeteneds dull, semi-fermented fragrance is strictly for purists. Underwhelming. Rating: 5.
If you squeezed a raspberry over tap water, it would almost taste like the faintly flavored Suntorys Oolong Tea Premium Iced Tea Raspberry Sweetened. Rating: 5.
Tribal Tonics Energy Elixir, a peach-mango green tea, wouldnt be bad if its tangy flavor werent disrupted by the overpowering guarana-berry extract. Rating: 5.
Grapefruit and green tea dont mix: a painful lesson courtesy of Tribal Tonics Herbal Slimmer. Rating: 3.
Tribal Tonics Immune Boon proves "all natural" isnt always good. Rather than yummy, artificially sweetened ginger (as in ale and bread-man), sipping the ginger-lemon green tea is comparable to biting raw ginger (as in the pungent, subterranean stem). Rating: 2.
Raspberry-tangerine green tea Tribal Tonics Mental Refresher supposedly replenishes your mind; unfortunately, its thickness and clashing flavors dont do the same for your thirst. Rating: 4.
The tribe finally gets it right with Tribal Tonics Relaxation Cocktail, an island-peach-flavored green tea with scrumptious doses of cane sugar and real juice. Rating: 9.
While were leery of iced teas in aluminum cans and plastic bottles because theyre usually vile, watered-down syrup geared toward soda junkies (i.e., Cool From Nestea and Lipton Brisk), the tantalizingly tart, brewed Very Fine Chillers Iced Tea With Lemon showed us the error of our prejudice. Rating: 8.
L.A. in the summer of 69
I went down and bought me some wine
Oh, I drank it down, under the table
I said, Watch me now, Im gon eat the label!
Well, Im a wino-man
Dont you know I am?
Frank Zappa, whose music career started in L.A. (Wonderful Wino, 1976)
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