If you have looked around this site you will see that most of it is devoted to black, unsweetened tea. The reason I stick to black tea, I admit, is more a matter of preference than anything else. But there are other types of tea and this will be one of the few times I will mention them. Tea is typically divided into 6 categories based on how the tea leaves are processed. Here are those 6 different tea types along how they are processed (information from Wikipedia)
White: wilted and unoxidized
Yellow: unwilted and unoxidized, but allowed to yellow
Green: unwilted and unoxidized
Oolong: wilted, bruised, and partially oxidized
Black: wilted, sometimes crushed, and fully oxidized (called ‘red tea’ in China)
Post-fermented: green tea that has been allowed to ferment/compost (‘black tea’ for the Chinese)
White, green, black and oolong are the most common teas you are likely to come across.
Now I admitted that focusing on black tea was a matter of preference, however sticking to unsweetened tea, I feel, is more a matter of principal and I will explain why. I will probably offend some Southerners who love their sweet tea in the process.
Snapple and Arizona iced tea are two of the more common sweetened, ready-to-drink teas that you are likely to come across. Let us first look at Snapple Lemon Tea.
On the surface, Snapple looks like what you would expect a bottled iced tea to look like. It has the dark brown color you would expect a tea to have. It’s a “Lemon Tea”, which I don’t mind a hint of lemon in my tea occasionally, so that could be nice. I guess now it is made from “black and green tea leaves”, which sounds appealing. And it’s “made from the best stuff on earth,” can’t go wrong there right? Well, if you turn the bottle around to see the nutrition label, the first thing I notice is that it has 36 g of sugar per 16 oz. bottle. For comparison that is about the same amount of sugar that is in a 12 oz can of Coke. If you then look a little deeper at the ingredients you will see they include: filtered water, sugar, citric acid, tea, and natural flavors. For those of you who are not aware, ingredients are listed according to how much the product contains. In this example, this bottle of Snapple contains the most of the first ingredient (water) and the least ingredient is natural flavors. Tea is second from the bottom and sugar is second from the top, so in my mind it is a bit of a stretch actually calling it “tea”. A more accurate description, would be sugar water with some tea in it.
Arizona iced tea is another commonly consumed iced tea beverage. When looking at the nutrition facts Arizona Lemon Tea has an even higher amount of sugar (48 g per 16 oz). This is only 4 grams less than a 16 oz coke. Then the ingredients are listed as: premium brewed black tea using filtered water, high fructose corn syrup (glucose-fructose syrup), citric acid, natural lemon flavor. You might feel better that tea is listed as the first ingredient (even though , but the fact that it contains basically the same amount of sugar as a soda would not make me feel good about drinking it. I know that there are some that worry about the health effect of HFCS. I won’t get into that discussion here, but it’s enough to know that this is one of the most sugar packed beverages one can consume.
McDonald’s sweet tea is the last example I will give. I have said on this site that I actually think McDonald’s regular tea is pretty good tasting and the fact that it is fresh brewed is nice. There have been a few occasions where I have been given sweet tea in a McDonald’s drive-through by mistake. After drinking just a single sip, I don’t know how someone can drink an entire cup of it . . . it is so sweet. When looking at the nutrition facts from McDonalds.com, the small 16 oz sweet tea contains 40 grams of sugar. The ingredients are list as: water, sugar, orange pekoe and pekoe cut black tea.
In the end, people are going to drink what they want. But the problem is that many people think they are making a healthier choice by choosing a tea beverage (like the ones mentioned above) over a soda. If a person has this mindset, I think they are kidding themselves.