We haven't had a ton of luck with bottled iced teas. We did a taste test awhile back of classic black-tea-and-lemon options (the winner was Honest Tea) and it was surprising how few of the options tasted like the tea you'd brew yourself. Bottled teas often show murkiness, mossy-ness, and bitterness, but none of the tasty sides of tea. And the additional flavors? Step away from the lemon teas that taste like cleaning fluid.
Of course, you can brew your own iced tea—it's not that much work. (You've all heard of sun tea, but according to The Food Lab, it's better to brew it in the fridge.) But sometimes you're at work or on the road, and you just want a grab-and-go solution.
Heart of Tea, a new New York-based company brewing bottled teas with "larger, intact, quality tea leaves" caught our eye. They have two flavors currently, and will be adding more over the summer. Founder Messi Gerami has quite a family history in the tea business: his great grandfather, grandfather, and parents were all tea farmer and exporters. According to the company, "Gerami still personally oversees tea brewing to make sure the liquid is properly brewed and never over-steeped."
The result: the tea flavor in these blends is pleasant, not bitter or acrid, but full-flavored enough that you notice it's there. Heart of Tea has the tea part down. But tasting the available blends, we wished for a little adjustment in the sweetness.
The Pomegranate Orange has the flavor we were looking for. There's a rich berry-pomegranate note, grounded with the black tea, and a warming orange-zest flavor that rounds it out. But the sweetness, which comes from cane sugar, will be too much for some. We wish they'd dial it back just a little, or offer an unsweetened version alongside the juicy-sweet one. At 100 calories a bottle, it's not a crazy indulgence, but we'd think twice before drinking this daily.
The Peach won our hearts, even though it, too, tasted about 10% too sweet. It has a rich, full flavor, with quite a bit of dry black tea backing up the very-ripe-fruit sweetness. If you like your tea sweet and peachy, this stuff will hit the spot.
Do you like your iced tea with a bit of sweetness? Have you tried the Heart of Tea bottles?
Tea samples provided for review consideration.
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