Tuning in to Teas

Having grown up in the iced tea belt Down South, there have always been a few things that I’ve found confusing about the way people approach this stuff across the rest of the country.

For example, I’ll never understand the need for iced tea mix in any place other than a college dorm room, where it is often mixed with cheap rum, and I’ll never understand why a waitron brings you a glass of ice and a bottle – no matter how nice a bottle it is – when you’ve ordered an iced tea in a restaurant. To me, iced tea is something that’s always been brewed hot and then cooled down, or else infused via the sun and a long sit on the back porch.

But my brewed tea orthodoxy has taken a few lumps lately as I’ve been exposed to a wider variety of ready-to-drink products than just the Lipton and Nestea that I identify as much with the fountain as I do with an aluminum can. I’m willing to admit that down South, the decision on the tea you were going to have was always between sweet or not sweet, not green or white or rooibos or lemon myrtle. And that the infl uence of Asian and Indian and African fl avors makes it hard to imagine that we’ll ever go back to a time when the best RTD teas came with a pop-top.

In my house, when you fi nd iced tea, you’ll still fi nd it in the pitcher, often with the knife still in it to absorb the temperature change from the boiling water to the cold ice. But every once in a while, if I’m leaving the checkout line, a bottle of Jasmine or Green might make its way into the car with me. There’s too much great variety out there to ignore, even for a bag man like myself.

That variety is what we key in on in this issue of Beverage Spectrum, as we show retailers that tea’s multifaceted character can help create numerous selling opportunities. The different iterations of tea make it an incredibly fl exible product to market, and it can go up and down the pricing scale, if you play the game right. We also take a hard look at sports drinks this issue, wondering whether there’s a point at which Gatorade’s enormous success can continue in the era of beverages that cater to specifi c functions – and whether the near-endless supply of faces endorsing Gatorade is being passed on to other companies.

We’ve also got a pile of photos from a pair of shows, including a debut roundup from this year’s International Tea Expo. So stop reading the tea leaves, and start reading the issue.