Best New Beverage for Summertime: Santa Cruz Organic Fair Trade Tea Blends

Unless you or your Uncle Tony are in the beverage business you might not know that soda sales are declining nearly as fast as George W. Bush’s approval rating. In the meantime, big soda players like Coca-Cola and Pepsi are scrambling fast and furious to reap sales in new markets such as water and ready-to-drink tea.

Coke’s $4.1 billion purchase of Glaceau, maker of Vitamin Water as well as their investment in Honest Tea, Pepsi’s Naked Juice purchase, and its going dizzy for Izze soda are just a few tales of the misty-eyed soda giants’ efforts to grow outside their traditional carbonated box. 

Not surprisingly, most of these efforts from the big players are boring. The most notably new effort is Coca Cola’s Gold Peak Tea which, while backed by brilliant marketing and a great product design, comes with a mediocre tasting product.

So when we dashed by the Smucker Quality Beverage booth at Expo West in March just before heading out of town, we weren’t expecting much. While we’ve always admired the way SQB has continued to develop quality products and stay gimmick-free among its R.W. Knudsen, Santa Cruz Organic and Natural Brew brands, these folks, steady as they are, haven’t created much that was different or new.

When we gulped down a glass of their ready-to-drink tea on our way out the door we were shocked. “Man,” we thought, thinking we should hurry as people were waiting for us, “let’s try this again. This is really, really good.”

In fact, after enjoying our second cup just as much, we thought it was a fluke—something related to bacon we ate that morning at the especially salty all-you-can-gag breakfast buffet at the hotel.

Greedily gulping a few more glasses of the lemon, then peppermint and the raspberry varieties, we were equally impressed. Frankly, it’s even better than the iced tea NBN makes at home, and let’s just say we know our way around the kitchen even better than our way around the buffet line.

Organic and fair-traded, the four varieties were developed in partnership with Choice Organic Tea. It’s not too sweet and tastes like (surprise surprise you Snapple drinkers) a real tea. The fact that they’re using brewed quality tea instead of watering down some powdered instant tea like most tea brands use, we were told, makes a huge difference in the flavor. We agree.

What we love about these products is that they remind us of the days when nobody cared about natural and organic except those of us who loved it. In other words, it wasn’t a big money game—it was something you did because you cared about it. Back then, manufacturers were creative and passionate experimenters trying out new things that yielded lots of winners, just like these new school teas.

Don’t go running to buy some just yet. They won’t be available until late June or July. Suggested retail for the 32-ounce bottles ranges from $2.79 to $3.29. The product is also available in a Mango blend, too.

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