I have trouble evaluating the iced tea at McDonald’s. There were a few years where I was relying on McDonalds multiple times a day to get my iced tea fix. The first good thing is that it is very cheap. You can’t beat $1 for a large drink of any type. Second is when McDonald’s iced tea is good it is really good (continue reading for this to make sense). Some might be surprised to find out that their tea is freshly brewed and not from a concentrate or mix. When the iced tea is brewed well, it tastes similar to fresh brewed Lipton iced tea like they serve at In-N-Out, which I happen to like. The ingredients listed on the website for the unsweetened tea are “A brisk blend of orange pekoe and pekoe cut black tea”, which happen to be the same ingredients in Lipton’s tea bags specifically blended for iced tea. I do find though about a quarter of the time I get really bad iced tea from McDonald’s, sometimes undrinkable. Sometimes it is overly bitter and stale tasting, while other times it has a slightly fruity taste to it. I don’t know where this taste comes from, but this I can not tolerate it and usually just have to throw the drink away.
I don’t eat at McDonald’s all that often, but the fact that they are so easy to locate, combined with the fact that it is so cheap, means that many times I am willing to take the 25% chance that I will get bad iced tea. Drive-throughs also make McDonald’s a more convenient choice than many other freshly brewed iced tea options.
Update: I recently changed my rating from 3.5 to 3.9 (I won’t make it a habit of giving ratings that end in .9). Good McDonald’s iced tea can be close to as good as Chipotle and In-N-Out, but I can’t justify giving McDonald’s tea quite as high of a rating as places like Chick-fil-A and Habit Burger, because of McDonald’s lack of consistency . The key I have found is if you find a location that makes good iced tea, stick with that location, but don’t expect the same quality at other locations.