Callie’s Cabin: The splash of ready-to-drink tea

Cal Orey
Special to the Tribune

One Tahoe summer day I picked up a ready-to-drink tea beverage at the local supermarket. I was being adventurous and didn’t care about a brand or flavor. I did want “natural” though. I picked out a large container of a nondescript brand tea.

So, the nutrition label welcomed me with some good things, and not so good things: “No preservatives, sweetened with sugar.” But I scrutinized the nutrition label and read: “Filtered water, sugar, tea concentrate, caramel color tea essence, and malic acid.” Then, I read: “32 grams sugar and 38 milligrams sodium” per 12-ounce serving and 120 calories. It wasn’t my cup of perfect tea (I should have selected a lemony-tea with fun flavors, black tea and unsweetened.)

So, I poured 4 ounces of ready to drink organic lemonade into a 16-ounce cup and filled up the rest with the RTD tea for the hot August day. It was easy (no effort of brewing, straining, washing a kettle or teapot) and took me back to my childhood swimming days and Arnold Palmers with Dad. And, I was surprised at the clean taste of the ready-to-drink tea beverage.

The next day, I tried another brand: Snapple All-Natural Lemon Tea made from green and black tea; 16 ounces give you 10 milligrams sodium, 150 calories, 36 grams of sugar, 42 milligrams of caffeine, filtered water, sugar, citric acid, and natural flavors. The result: “Hello, my name is Cal. I am a part-time RTD fanatic. I love this stuff!” I prefer 8 ounces to cut the sugar, calories, and caffeine; and include the ready-to-drink teas (like this one) in my tea cupboard for busy and/or hot summer days for the energy, tart taste, and convenience of not having to turn on a stove when it’s 85 degrees or hotter.

Fast forward to now. The Snapple All-Natural Lemon Tea made from green and black tea is AWOL on the South Shore. I cannot find it. So, I searched the stores online. I ordered two cartons (six bottles each). Very pricey: $21.00. Two days later: The tea arrived on my doorstep. Surprise! The brand has changed it up. Baby plastic bottles, and no green and black tea noted on the label. I tried writing and calling the company but got nowhere.

So, I went back to Plan B. I found the organic lemonade at Safeway for the taste and convenience of it. Then, I did brew black tea. I mixed it up – and it’s a done deal. I have my RTD lemon tea.

Homemade iced tea and lemonade with mint. (Getty Images)

My Dad’s Arnold Palmer

1/2 cup lemonade (I used an all-natural organic brand)

1 cup black tea (I used Bigalow)

Honey (local), to taste (super for summertime allergens)

Ice, cubes or crushed

Garnish with fresh mint sprigs and lemon wedges

In a tall glass (or mug), pour lemonade, tea, and honey Stir. Add ice. Garnish. Serves one.

The bottom line: RTD Teas are available in a variety of teas and flavors with or without lemon and sweeteners. These teas are available at major grocery stores, superstore, and convenient stores. Bottled beverages, like RTDS, can be tempting when you’re on the go — healthier pick than sugary sodas. But keep in mind they can include more sugar and fewer antioxidants than a homemade glass of brewed tea, which give you control over what goes into it.

For the rest of the summer, my plan is to savor my semi-homemade version of the Arnold Palmer — a non-alcoholic drink that is a mix of iced tea and lemonade. This beverage is a tribute to the famous pro golfer and my father, who, like me, ordered this feel-good, lemon tea beverage with a kick.

Adapted from The Healing Powers of Tea (published by Kensington).

Cal Orey, M.A. Is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, Tea, Superfoods, Essential Oils, Herbs and Spices) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.) Her website is

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