Here are my reviews of some of the more commonly found black unsweetened bottled iced teas:
Tejava is my absolute gold standard in what a bottled iced tea should be. It’s taste is about as close to a fresh brewed tea as you can get. The ingredients are simply water and “select Java tea leaves”. Honestly, none of the teas below even compare. If they stopped making this iced tea, it would really be like I lost a member of my family.
Pure Leaf is a far second to Tejava, but is a pretty good bottled iced tea. Most gas stations stock Pure Leaf and it is usually the best option in places like these, especially if the gas station attendant is willing to give you a cup with ice. The taste is a little weaker than I prefer, but still pretty good. It does have a very slight acidic taste, probably from the added citric acid that many bottled teas seem to add as a preservative. Sometimes this acidic taste can be overpowering, but that’s not the case with Pure Leaf.
Gold Peak Tea is an ok tasting tea. I like it considerably less than Pure Leaf. To me it tastes watered down, more acidic and much less like a freshly brewed tea than the teas mentioned above. One other thing that I find just a little odd for a tea is the somewhat long list of ingredients. Listed on the ingredients are: Water, Tea (Natural Tea Essence and Natural Tea Concentrate from Tea Leaves), Caramel Color and Phosphoric Acid. Tea essence is something I have not been able to get a real clear definition of. As far as the phosphoric acid, in most drinks it is used as either a preservative or to sharpen the flavor, which I am surprised you would need in tea. I am also surprised you would need to add caramel color to a tea.
Snapple “straight up” tea – I generally stay away from Snapple because their drinks tend to be more of what I would consider fruit juice than actual tea. But Snapple recently came out with “straight up” unsweetened iced tea and I was intrigued. I would say this attempt at unsweetened tea is a failure. It has a fruity and acidic taste, which is probably from the added citric acid or “natural flavors.” Whatever the cause, it is an overpowering taste that is overall unpleasant.
Honest “Just” Black tea looks different than any other tea I have tried. It is cloudy in appearance, similar to the look of an unpasteurized apple juice.
As far as the taste, my wife commented that she thought it would be stronger tasting, judging by its appearance. To me it tastes very similar to Pure Leaf tea, which as far as bottled teas go, is not too bad. It has a very slightly acidic taste and even though it is decent tasting, not many people would confuse it with a fresh brewed glass of iced tea.
Like Teas’ Tea, Honest black tea is certified organic. Other than the certified organic black tea leaves, the other ingredients include: filtered water, “organic natural flavor”, and citric acid. It does concern me when a company feels it needs to add any type of flavor (natural or not ) to a tea.
Teas’ Tea won the top prize in the 2015 North American Tea Championship, above my favorite Tejava (which came in second). I have tried this tea before and didn’t think it was anything great, but after seeing the 2015 results, I thought I would try it again. I did try it a second time and I just don’t care for the taste. I will say that it tastes different than any tea I have ever tasted before, but not a good different in my opinion. It has a strong flavor and the only thing I can compare it to is kind of what an iced coffee tastes like. One thing that some may find appealing is that it is certified organic. Other than the organic black tea, the only other ingredients are water and Ascorbic acid, also know as Vitamin C, which it has 100% of your daily value.