Bottled tea? Really? Excuse me while this Tea Princess chuckles. *Hee hee hee hee hee* Ah, there, got that out of my system. Now, seriously, can you get real tea in a bottle? Or can? I guess that depends on how you define “tea.” These days, that seems to be pretty broad, even including things like rooibos, honeybush, chamomile, and other herbals. It can also depend on why you drink tea: taste, health benefits, thirst quenching, cooling off, etc.
As recently as only a few years ago, hubby and I chugged by the case full a popular brand of bottled tea flavored with citrus from the grocery store. It was usually served well chilled or even over ice, slaked our thirst, and was better than the colas we had been drinking. However, as part of our strange transformation due to tea, we have come to prefer freshly steeped hot tea, even in hot weather, and to drink cold water or lemonade if we want a cold beverage. Being the open minded types, though, we recognize the popularity of iced tea, “sweet tea,” and the many brands of bottled tea and why people choose them.
That means, of course, that yes the stuff in those bottles is tea. But there are a few caveats: taste, quality, and health benefits.
Taste is definitely a big factor. For those not attuned to the nuances of fine teas, a bottled green or black tea with flavorings added (often some kind of fruit) will be a real pleaser. However, for those who have a developed palate where tea is concerned and are able to detect the subtle nuances in the tea aroma and flavor (or even for those of us in the process of developing such skills), bottled tea can be devoid of this opportunity.
For me, nothing beats freshly steeped tea. And the stuff in the bottles is not freshly steeped. However, I am also a very practical-minded Tea Princess who realizes that people don’t always have time to steep tea, chill it overnight in the refrigerator, and then enjoy it (or steep up a strong batch of tea and then pour it over ice for a quick chill, as many iced tea drinkers do). If lots of you out there did not also need the convenience of cracking open a bottle of tea, these products wouldn’t be out there on the grocery store shelves. That being said, I would definitely have to say that the quality in the bottle does not come close to the freshly steeped version.
Lots of sites that tout the health benefits of tea, especially of green tea, claim that bottled teas lose a lot of the chemicals that make them healthy drink choices. An article by Christian Nordqvist that appeared in Medical News Today in August 2010 states that polyphenols, the key ingredient in tea that is supposed to protect our bodies from the damage done by free radicals, are very low in bottled teas. Other sources state that the level of catechins can vary widely (3 to 215 milligrams in 16 ounces). These are antioxidants, said to have a very beneficial effect on your health. So, if you’re drinking tea for this benefit (versus as a refreshing and cooling beverage), bottled tea is going to fall short. Plus, you will pay a lot of money for this less beneficial version of tea.
High sugar content and less than pure tea are other issues.
As my buddy, Alex Zorach, points out in a Wikipedia entry, bottled tea can disappoint and deprive you of the joy of the tea-making experience (sort of like “zapping” your food in the microwave vs preparing a dish from scratch). If you want tea fast, you will go for the bottled kind. If you want really good tea, you will take some time to learn and then prepare your own (or hang out with someone who does). It’s up to you!
See my blog for a list of popular bottled tea brands.
© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.