Best of Washington: Iced Tea

Did garden-club members Laura Barlow, Lucy Garrett, Jennifer Lee-Thorp, Ellen Spencer, and Rilla Crane pick bottled or brewed? Photograph by Matthew Worden

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For some, nothing quenches a summer thirst like a glass of cold iced tea sipped under the shade of a wide-brimmed hat. So we asked five past presidents of the Great Falls Garden Club to taste-test iced teas.

With so many tea options—black, white, green, sweetened, unsweetened—we kept it simple, sampling traditional black, unsweetened teas. We settled on nine—three bottled, six brewed—and conducted the blind test in a Great Falls garden abloom with purple foxgloves, maroon clematis vines, and antique white roses.

The favorite? Trader Joe’s Kettle Brewed Unsweetened Black Tea, which the ladies were surprised to learn was bottled. A gallon jug costs $3.99, leaving money to spare for teacakes.

Except for the Trader Joe’s entry, fresh-brewed teas pleased the most palates. Coming in a close second was Bigelow Constant Comment (about $3.49 for a box of 20 bags at supermarkets): “It has a wonderful nose,” said Rilla Crane, swirling and smelling the “orangey” brew. In third place was Tazo Awake black tea ($4.95 for 24 bags at Starbucks). “This has a deep, rich color and is a bit stronger,” said Jennifer Lee-Thorp.

In fourth was Luzianne, which the tasters liked for its light flavor and lack of an aftertaste. A 24-count box, specially blended for iced tea, is sold in supermarkets for about $2.99.

Also tested were Tejava, Honest Tea Just Black Tea, Stash English Breakfast Black Tea, and Ineeka Himalayan Black Intensity. The biggest loser? Lipton Cold Brew, which one lady said was so bland that it didn’t taste like tea at all.

This appeared as part of The Washingtonian's July 2009 Best of Washington issue, on stands now. 


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