Lipton, Nestea, Sola, and More: Which Bottled Lemon Iced Tea’s Worth Guzzling Down This Summer?April 22, 2018
Iced tea in its general form originates from the States , but you’ll also find numerous variations and interpretations around the world—including the Philippines. Most common here is one you could trace to Southern-style sweet tea, but with a distinct sweet and sour profile, usually flavored with other fruit juices (e.g. lemon or calamansi), and manually prepared from an instant powdered mix in pitchers. Increasingly more common, though (especially with the on-the-go crowd of this generation), are the much more convenient, ready-to-drink bottled versions. Among the numerous brands in the country, which one ranks best in our book?
C2 Iced Tea Lemon Flavor (Php19.50/355ml)
Though primarily known for their line of flavored green tea, C2 also makes a lesser-known “iced tea” (referring to “iced tea” in the colloquial sense, with a black tea base, though their original offerings also technically qualify as iced tea). Sadly, it falls short. There’s not much sweetness or tartness (aside from a weak citrusy aroma)—which is fine—but more pressingly, there’s also not much discernible tea. Rather, you get an odd, slightly bitter taste we’d liken more to instant coffee with a mildly tannic feel.
Lipton Lemon Flavored Iced Tea (Php23.25/450ml)
Lipton comes close to Oishi on sweetness. But it manages to even the sugar out, carrying a mighty punch of tartness and a strong amount of tea that leaves a clear tannic feel on the tongue. Though it can feel a tad intense—you might want to dilute it with some ice—the different taste constituents come together in a remarkably balanced manner. And though a tad in-your-face compared to the real stuff, it’s its very “quintessential prepackaged iced tea taste”—the nostalgia-inducing profile that exemplifies what you find in the powdered stuff—that we love about it.
Oishi Tea Go Iced Tea Lemon Flavor (Php23.50/500ml)
This snack brand’s take on iced tea is the sweetest of the bunch, with a peculiar sugariness a taster specifically likens to arnibal (a.k.a. the caramelized brown sugar syrup used in sago’t gulaman). You get a moderate amount of tartness, but not enough to balance the sugary taste out; also present is a slightly chemical note brings to mind cheaper brands of fruit jam (ex. Clara Ole’s Mango Jam). The sensation of tea is there, but only mildly so; this is evident not only in the taste but also in the mouthfeel you get, which is more rounded (in conjunction to its being sweeter) than tannic.
Nestea lEMON fLAVORED tEA dRINK (Php23.25/500ml)
Nestea is known for their powdered iced tea, so we had high expectations for this ready-to-drink version. There’s far less of powdered version’s sour punch though; in its place is a slightly artificial lemon aroma (which struck one of our tasters as tasting close to peach). It’s not too sweet *in any case*—and though not very strong, you get the the slight depth of tea and mild tannin that comes with it.
Nestea Lemon Ice FLAVORED tEA dRINK (pHP23.25/500ml)
Nestea oddly also offers a separate variant that’s also lemon-flavored and of the iced tea genre, going by the moniker “Nestea Ice” but without much explanation on how it differs from the regular version. The ingredients are similar, as is the flavor, save for a mildly cool aftertaste (not in like what you get from mints) in this Ice version.
Real Leaf Frutcy Lemon Iced Tea (pHP20/480ML)
Real Leaf’s version borders on watery, being less sweet and a touch less tart than Nestea. It, too, bears a sense of lemon-ness we’d describe as candy-like and slightly artificial (a taster even compares its manner of being citrusy to that of lemon-scented Pledge)—and it comes through easier given the lack of ample sourness for balance. Still, you do get the slight bitterness of tea underneath at just the right amount.
Sola Iced Tea Lemon (pHP43.50/473ML)
Sola comes at the opposite end of the spectrum to Lipton. It’s the least sweet of all brands, with just enough tartness that still feels natural—allowing the tea in its pure, refreshing glory to shine. Made with only five ingredients (count ‘em: water, sugar, black tea, natural lemon flavor, and citric acid), it’s no wonder Sola tastes the closest to scratch-made iced tea.
The Verdict: Sola
The team was admittedly torn on two brands, which differ radically in style and are difficult to compare. On one hand is Lipton’s, which is of the deliberately in-your-face, sweet and tart commercialized sort; on the other hand is Sola, which delivers a most refreshing, not-too-sweet iced tea that could almost pass for something made from scratch. Both excel at their own respective genres; the said sweet and tart version continues to hold a special place in our hearts. For an iced tea our adult selves would happily drink all day, everyday, it’s Sola that takes the winning crown.