Published September 2, 2009. Web Exclusive.
Do specialty packages blended specifically for iced tea really make a better pitcher than a chilled-down version of the old-fashioned stuff?
While most flavored, sweetened, and canned or bottled iced tea is created specifically to compete in the soft drink market, manufacturers are recognizing that some tea buyers want to brew regular tea, chill it, and add their own flavorings. We decided to test several labeled "specially blended for iced tea."
We conducted two tests, both using spring water brought to the same temperature in an electric kettle and then cooled to refrigerator temperature (40 degrees). For the first test, we followed the packages' brewing instructions; for the second we brewed them all identically, using the same tea leaf-to-water ratio and steeping time. Lemon and sugar weren't allowed, and all the teas were judged for astringency, strength, and overall flavor.
When the teas were brewed according to package instructions, only two contestants separated themselves from the pack. When the teas were brewed identically, the same brand continued to top the ratings.