Honest Tea (who recently had 40% of their shares purchased by Coca Cola) launched a new line of flavors and packaging designs with "brighter" tastes and colors. The packaging looks great, but what's going on beyond basic appearances?
They tout higher levels of EGCG on the bottles with a bar indicating the levels in each drink. Their website doesn't list ingredients, but I have the feeling the "significantly higher (level) than most other brands" are from an extract, which has questionable benefits compared to the real thing. (I wish I'd had time to check the label when I saw it in a store recently! If any of you see it in person, will you let me know?)
They also added the words "energy tea" to two flavors' names. One is a blend of green tea and yerba mate, which makes sense, but the other is a blend of green tea and white tea... ??? They claim it is because they use green energy, but I find it very misleading to call it an "energy tea."
Their Consumer Reports award-winning flavor, Lori's Lemon, was reincarnated as Lemon Black Tea, this time with more cola... I mean sugar!
They also modified Peach Oo-La-Long to make a new flavor, Peach White Tea. I seem to remember that Peach Oo-La-Long was a sweeter-than-usual flavor created to satisfy the sweet tooth of the comic artist who draws "Bloom County," yet, like the lemon black tea's changes, the new variation on it has 10 (rather than 8) grams of sugar per 8 ounces. With two servings of tea in each bottle, that's an increase of 4 grams of sugar per bottle. Correspondingly, the calories jump from 63 per bottle to 85 per bottle. Not so bad as a Coke, but not so (comparatively) healthy as Honest Tea's teas used to be.
On the one hand, I hate to see Coke mess up a good thing. On the other, if this is what the market wants, it's better than people drinking soda, right? It's a tough call. I try to stand by the idea that quality tea doesn't need a lot of dressing up. However, Starbucks isn't just popular for its burnt beans--it's also the sugar syrup and whipped toppings that keep people craving more. There's a lot of room to move around between a pure, unflavored tea and Snapple's overpowering sweetness. I guess Honest Tea is, ultimately, just expanding its range within that area (albeit in one direction!).
If any of you readers have tried them, please let me know what you think! Do you prefer the old flavors or the new ones? What do you think of the packaging? Is the EGCG an extract? Is Coke making cola out of Honest Tea, or are these flavors true to your own idea of what tea is about? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Honest Tea's new packaging and Citrus Green Energy Tea in action at an NYC bodega.