Not too long ago I was very high on Panera’s iced tea. They were close to, if not my number one choice for fast food iced tea. The only way I could describe their tea is that it has a strong, unique but pleasant flavor, that I really enjoyed. The taste was also very consistent from one visit to the next. Since that review, there have been some changes with their iced tea, which has forced me to reevaluate that review.
Panera stopped using the stainless steel dispensers to hold their tea and started using clear plastic dispensers that continuously cycle the tea through a little fountain near the back of the container. I have seen these types of dispensers in other restaurants to hold lemonade or fruit juices, but this is the first time I had seen one to hold tea. I don’t know if they changed the tea brewing process as well, but their black tea doesn’t seem to taste quite as good as it did before. The most noticeable change (at least at the two locations I have visited since this change) is that the tea tastes weaker than it did before this change. I have also noticed the taste is less consistent than it was prior and also more likely to be tainted with the taste of the other flavored teas they offer.
All this has dropped my rating of Panera’s iced tea from a perfect rating to a 4 out of 5. And it also goes to prove my point that the best tasting iced tea (like In-n-out, Chipotle, etc) is always served from a stainless steel container.