I have limited these reviews to teas that are specifically meant for iced tea. I have then divided them into three categories: traditionally brewed iced tea and instant teas
Traditional Brewed Teas – these are teas that are brewed by the traditional technique of pouring boiling water over the tea leaves or tea bag.
When you think of iced tea, Lipton brand is probably one of the first teas that comes to mind. Lipton has a number of iced tea products, the most notable of which is their traditionally brewed iced tea bags. The packaging has changed slightly over the years, but this is the iced tea that most know very well. It usually comes in boxes that contain either 24 or 48 bags and the price usually ranges from about $2 to $5, which comes out to about 12 cents per 16 ounces of tea. This makes it a very economical choice for iced tea. Lipton’s iced tea is a blend of orange pekoe and pekoe cut black tea.
From what I can tell, Luzianne iced tea is the South’s version of Lipton iced tea. The ingredients are the same as Lipton iced tea and the price is roughly the same (also close to 12 cents per 16 ounces of tea). The label indicated they each 8 ounce glass contains 33 mg of caffeine. The taste is also very similar to Lipton, which is basically a “no frills” traditional black iced tea. I would consider this a safe, reliable and economical fresh brewed iced tea option.
Pure Leaf Iced Classic Black Tea is marketed as more of a premium iced tea. Even though they don’t make it overly obvious, Pure Leaf is a Lipton product. This tea is made of “high-grown, single-origin Kenyan black tea” according to their label and website. Pure Leaf is considerably more expensive than the Lipton and Luzianne iced teas listed above. 16 bags which makes 16 glasses of tea cost about $5. This comes out to a little more than 30 cents per 16 ounces of tea. I enjoy the taste and you can tell a difference between Pure Leaf and the teas listed above. I would say Pure Leaf is noticeably smoother than Lipton and Luzianne, but otherwise I wouldn’t say there is anything overly unique about it’s taste to justify it’s price.
Tazo iced true black tea is a traditional home brewed tea that has a really good taste. It is priced a bit higher than Lipton’s and Luzianne’s traditionally brewed iced tea. It usually is about $3.50 for a box of 6 large tea bags, that makes about 6 (64 ounce) pitchers. This comes out to about 15 cents per 16 ounces of tea. The ingredients are “a blend of black teas”. Tazo indicates that this tea contains 16-30 mg of caffeine, assuming you brew them with a standard brewing method. As I said, I really enjoy the taste which is a bit more distinct and has a stronger tea flavor when compared to the higher priced Pure Leaf described above. Until a few years ago, when they switched to Teavana, Starbucks served Tazo tea. Considering it’s great taste and that it is priced just slightly higher than the very low priced teas, Tazo ranks at the top of my list of traditionally brewed iced teas.
Shangri La has a Natural Black Iced Tea in both regular and organic. This brand too is marketed more as a premium iced tea and has a price to match. A bag of 6 costs about $9, which comes out to about 37 cents per 16 ounces of tea. This is one of the more unique tasting fresh brewed iced teas I have come across. It’s taste is much more distinct than the teas I mentioned above, but is also very smooth. I would say that this tea has a very slight and not overpowering floral taste. The ingredients are listed as “finest black tea and flavorings”. In 2013 Shangdi La’s unflavored black tea won the North American Tea Championship for best iced tea.
Lipton more recently has introduced unsweetened iced tea K-cups. These taste very similar, if not exactly the same as the traditional brewed tea bags. The ingredients are also the same (orange pekoe and pekoe cut black tea.) This however is a much more expensive way to enjoy Lipton iced tea. A box of 18 K-cup pods is usually around $10 and each pod is only designed to make one large glass of iced tea, which comes out to about 55 cents per 16 ounces of tea.
Community brand “Porch Breeze Tea” is another lower priced iced tea. For under $3 you can get 24 bags which each make one half of a quart of iced tea. This is comparable to Lipton and Luzianne prices of 12 cents per 16 ounces. This is a pretty good tasting tea, also comparable to Lipton and Luzianne fresh brewed iced teas.
Instant Iced Teas – There are multiple types of instant tea. Instant tea powders are the more common type. These powders are made by first exposing the tea leaves to low pressure, then the leaves are freeze dried and then formed into a powder. During this process, much of the antioxidants and other compounds that cause tea to be beneficial to our health are lost. You can read more about how tea effects your health by clicking here. Cold brew teas seem to be somewhat of a hybrid between traditional and instant tea, and concentrated liquids are most similar to bottled teas. Here are my reviews of some of the more common ones:
Lipton has an unsweetened iced tea powder. The ingredients are Instant Tea Powder and Maltodextrin. As I said above, tea powders tend to have less of the health benefits when compared to traditional tea. I am not sure exactly what purpose the maltodextrin serves, but it usually is added to food to thicken it or as a filler. The taste of the instant powder is acceptable but not great. I would rank it higher than all bottled teas (except Tejava), but much lower than the traditionally brewed Lipton iced tea bags.
Lipton also has their Cold Brew iced tea bags. Unlike their classic iced tea, there is no water boiling required. You place the tea bag in cold water and in 3-5 minutes you have iced tea. I do enjoy the convenience of this product, but there is a noticeable taste difference when compared to a traditionally brewed iced tea. From what I have read it is basically instant tea in individual bags and it does taste similar to Lipton’s instant tea, but I do like the taste better than the instant powder. The ingredients are the same as Lipton’s regular iced tea, and doesn’t indicated “instant tea powder” or contain “maltodextrin” like Lipton’s instant tea does. The cold brew tea tends to be more expensive than the traditional brewed iced tea. Having said that, this does rank at the top of my list for teas that fall into the instant tea category
Luzianne unsweetened pour and stir liquid concentrate. Like the products above this one is really marketed towards convenience. No boiling is required, the only step is to add the pouch of liquid concentrate to a half gallon of water. The ingredients include: Black Tea (filtered water and real brewed orange pekoe and pekoe cut black tea concentrate), caramel color and phosphoric acid. These ingredients are very similar to many bottled teas in that they contain caramel color and preservatives. The taste is also similar to many bottled teas in that you are unlikely to mistake this for a freshly brewed iced tea. I feel like I can taste the caramel color more than the tea. This would be my last choice when it comes to instant iced tea.
Nestea instant unsweetened iced tea is a product of the Nestle company and another instant powder similar to the Lipton powder described above. The taste is very similar as well. Like Lipton, the taste is acceptable and better than most bottled teas, but not even close to as good as most fresh brewed teas. The ingredients are “instant tea”, but it also notes that it “may contain wheat”.