Snapple and Lipton – is that really tea? September 01 2014

posted by Nick Schäferhoff

Tea is not only the hot, steaming beverage we are all familiar with. Its refreshing cold version – ice tea – is a staple of many supermarket coolers in summer, and enjoyed by people all over the world.  But do these bottled drinks deserve the good name of tea? How much do they really have in common with what I brew at home? I wanted to find out.  To do so, I picked the most basic versions of two of the leading ice tea varieties: Lipton's Sweet Iced Tea and Snapple's Lemon Tea.

Here is a quick rundown of what is in a typical bottle:

  • water
  • sugar/high fructose corn syrup (sugar's more evil cousin)
  • acid (sour=refreshing)
  • tea (found it!)
  • natural flavors (I always wonder about this...)

What's important to note is that in both versions tea is one of the last ingredients on the label. That means its share of the content is among the lowest.

Sugar and its derivatives, on the other hand, are always the second item on the list. A 16oz bottle will contain 36-46g of sugar. The same amount of Coca-Cola yields little more than that with 52g.  What's more, the Lipton variety is laced with coloring agents and preservatives. I don't even know how to pronounce some of them (sodium hexametaphosphate anyone?), let alone what they are. And none of them sound very appealing.

In my opinion the additives, high sugar content, and small amount of actual tea, put both of these drinks more in the corner of sodas. To me calling them tea would be the same thing as calling a burger “salad” because of its lettuce content. While there is some tea in it, if you want the real stuff, you are better advised to make your own.

PS: For a healthier home-made version, brew up some fresh tea (I prefer whole leaves over tea bags), let it cool down, add lemon juice and a sweetener of your choice (e.g. honey or stevia), serve on ice, enjoy!