Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Iced Tea

Iced tea is by far my favorite beverage, especially at a restaurant. I like it plain, heavily iced, and not too strong, which is usually how it is served.

Today I ate lunch at Wahoo's Fish Tacos, and noticed something I've wondered at before. Next to the usual soft drink station, they have two iced tea machines. I believe the brand is Shangri-La. And these have writing on them that looks something like this:

100% Natural Iced Tea

Freshly Brewed * No Sugar * No Calories
No Preservatives * No Bitterness

When I first saw it, it gave me pause. Since you don't normally expect to find sugar or calories in iced tea, it took me a minute to confirm to my satisfaction that it wasn't artificially sweetened. No preservatives is fine, though, again, one doesn't normally find preservatives in freshly brewed iced tea, so it's not all that reassuring.

And what of "no bitterness"? That part is confusing to me. Iced tea is somewhat bitter - are they saying theirs is less bitter? Are they trying to reach people who may have disliked iced tea in the past on account of its bitterness, and convince them to try this less-bitter tea?

Having had the tea on many occasions, I can state firmly that it is no more or less bitter than other freshly brewed iced tea. And if you like iced tea, I imagine you either like the bitterness, or are happy to mitigate it with lemon and/or sugar. If anything, the "no bitterness" might make you wonder if this is some kind of modified tea, not like a regular tea.

I freely admit to knowing nothing about the marketing of iced tea in this type of environment, but this signage does not strike me as very useful. Had the tea been unadorned, I would have assumed that it is exactly what it is - very standard, good, freshly-brewed iced tea. The words only made me question these assumptions.


rvman said...

Bitterness. Hmm, I always wondered why I utterly loathe the stuff. I've never noticed that I find tea bitter, but my memory at the reaction to tea (tightening at the top of the throat - a mild gag-reflex) is the same reaction I have to things I would describe as bitter.

Shangri La Tea seems to be an upscale brand. I suspect the label is there at the behest of Shangri-La (who wants brand recognition) rather than Wahoo's.

Sally said...

Perhaps all that stuff was intended to differentiate their product from the nasty Lipton tea that comes out of the fountain. Although you would think "freshly brewed" and the fact that it's in a stand-alone machine would tell the story, I guess Shangri-la wants you to utterly understand that they produce a healthy, upscale product.

Jason's Deli is confusing because they have about 4 or 5 tea machines and it's not obvious to me how they are different. One is clearly sweet tea, but the rest seem to be various plain (non-flavored) caffeinated teas, although they have slightly different labels in some cases. I admit that I go to the one that is labeled with Jason's Deli and says "100% Natural" (IIRC) though it probably doesn't actually differ in any meaningful way from the others that have another brand rather than Jason's.

But I looove me some iced tea. Or as the signs at La Mad used to say "Ice tea." I wish that decaf was more available! (i.e. that isn't an herbal tea, though I like some of those also)

Tam said...

Me too. At least I can get Ed to make me a nice glass of decaf iced tea at home, with plenty of ice, any time I want :-) 'Cause he's lovely like that.

rvman said...

One of the Jason's Deli jugs is labeled "Black Currant", but they appear to have two jugs labeled "Real Tea" and "Jason's [something or other] Iced Tea". Both appear to be normal iced tea, and I have seen no sign that they are different. They also seem to have a random number of jugs out, in a random mix - I've seen from 2-3 sweet tea, 1-3 "Real" tea, 0-1 of the black currant, totaling anything from 2-5, on any given day.

Sally said...

I have not found iced tea made at home to be quite a substitute for iced tea in a restaurant. Aside from the whole "it's work" aspect, I think iced tea needs to be really cold, and I never quite achieve that at home, unless I make too much, which then starts to taste ick after a while. I think the process lends itself to being made in large batches and drunk up quickly. But, the laziness factor is a pretty big part of it. :) At least my mint has revived hugely of late and is making hot mint tea really yummy.

rvman - the Jason's Deli Tea Confusion is even greater than I thought! Perhaps they will soon have one that says "Organic Tea" just to complicate the issue further.

Tam said...

The trick to iced tea at home, according to me, is that you have to brew it in a mug and then pour it into a giant glass that is completely chock full of ice. After a minute or so it should be very cold, with some ice left (but not very much). You have to brew it a bit extra to make it strong enough to withstand the Giant Glass of Ice, but that's not usually a problem.

rvman said...

"Brew extra-strong and pour over a ton of ice" was pretty much the method used at the fast food places I worked at. Make very strong tea, fill the big metal tea dispenser with ice, repeat until about 2/3 full.