What is your Favorite Beverage

For several years, I’ve virtually replaced my favorite beverage, Coca Cola, with a refreshing and healthier alternative, Lipton’s “Original” Iced Tea in frosty cold glass bottles, the flavor ‘Sweetened’ (No Lemon) being the hands-down favorite. Obviously in demand by many others besides myself, it is always the first flavor to empty off the shelves, be it the local grocer or the corner Quiki-Mart’.

It is an excellent iced tea, with the just the right amount of sugar to tea ratio, and, although expensive, at between $1.29 to $1.89 per bottle (or between $5.99 and $6.99 for a six-pack of glass bottles, in the supermarket aisle), I was hooked from day one and gladly plunked down the money that, in the past, would have purchased me TWELVE cans of cola, or an entire case during sale events!

Tea is good for the body. There’s enough caffeine to please those looking for a substitute to cola or coffee pick-me-ups, but less of the syrupy sweetness and zero carbonation, so those of us wanting a healthy beverage, but reluctant to give up sweets for substance entirely, finally seemed to have a new fix.

Of course, all can go well for several years without mishap. There WAS a tiny spike in alarm when Lipton seemed to be dropping the glass bottles in favor of plastic, sometime during 2004-2005, but mass protest mailings and phoned complaints from loyal customers, I’m sure, had a lot to do with nipping THAT tea-sacrilege in the bud! They still offer a plastic-bottled variety, but the glass-bottled individuals and six-packs returned, and became easier to find, as well.

The purists among us exhaled a collective sigh of relief and vindication.
Just don’t mess with that glass bottle.
Iced Tea just is NOT ‘iced tea in a glass’ without the GLASS!

It was as if there was a cult around this particular brand of ‘instant serve’ tea: in shopping lines, we customers would spot each other by the six packs in our carts, strike up conversations along the lines of ‘how long have you been drinking’, and sometimes we’d even have time in that long line at checkout to trade horror stories on not being able to locate the ‘sweetened-no-lemon’, and how far a person would have to drive until they found a new source… There was a camaraderie between us “Lipton “Original” Iced Tea, Sweetened – No Lemon” users that one just doesn’t see, anymore, between the major soda brands.
We were special. Lipton made us feel special. And we LOVED each other…

The honeymoon may be over.

Just a few weeks ago, as early as mid-March 2007, I discovered my local Wal-Mart had SOMETHING ELSE sitting in that spot between the Green and SuperSweet flavors, sporting the ‘Sweetened-no-lemon’ moniker, but on a label that was different in every other way:
“Lipton PureLeaf Iced Tea”.

“Oh, it’s the SAME tea,” the cashier assured me, when I asked, “It’s just another label design change.”

So I took it home, but warily.
As soon as I removed a bottle from the plastic six-pack wrapper, I knew something else was very different. I held it up to the light and was stunned. It was not the rich amber-red I had come to know so well. It now looked like APPLE JUICE, transparent and golden, like honey.
I opened the bottle, took a sip.

And it was, at once, foreign, undeniably WEAK, and almost too sweet in proportion to its weakness, It was as if somebody had re-brewed tea from old tea bags, realized their mistake, and ‘corrected’ themselves by simply adding a little less sugar – but not ENOUGH ‘less’.
There was no mistake: someone, somewhere, had CHANGED the formula or ingredients!
This was certainly NOT the same tea with a label design change’- it wasn’t even a comparable substitute!

For the following three or four weeks, I searched high and low, and even though I found there were still quantities of SuperSweet, Green, even Raspberry, flavors still available in their “Original” labels, the ‘sweetened-no-lemon’ had been cleaned off the shelves EVERYWHERE.
Now I was running into anxious others, like myself, and we openly wondered, in the checkout lanes and parking lots: “What was going on? If something was selling so well, why change it?”

Okay, so this is just about ICED TEA, not a world crisis.
I KNOW there are children going to bed without supper tonight, and I KNOW somebody somewhere is dying alone and in squalor… but this IS, after all, a SERIOUS change that affects a lot of people, loyal customers who don’t deserve being cuckolded by an IMPOSTOR…

I tried going back to my favorite Cola, but it just wasn’t the same.
I found myself waking at night, wondering if I’d checked that little mini-market in a small town half-an-hour’s drive away; after desperately acting on that impulse, I’d wind up driving back home with a can of Nestea in my cup holder (utterly NOT even close).
Every other morning would find me searching the internet, Googling ‘Lipton PureLeaf’ and finding NOTHING (except that 90% of the results were in CHINESE).
They could not SERIOUSLY be replacing the far-superior recipe (Original), that they’d won over millions of customers by, with the weak, insipidly sick-sweet, PureLeaf… could they?

It is said ‘Necessity is the mother of invention.’
Well, my DESPERATION had become the catalyst for ME…
I broke, one afternoon recently, and brought two bottles of the PureLeaf version home with me. I had an idea, and nothing to lose (EXCEPT the almost $4.00 they cost me).

I opened a bottle and set it on my kitchen counter as I rummaged in the cupboard, found what I was looking for: a tall glass bottle of “Lipton Instant Tea – unsweetened”.
I took a clean dry teaspoon of the freeze-dried stuff and leveled it off.
The I let it sprinkle from the spoon into the contents of the PureLeaf bottle.
I capped it, shook it up for a few seconds.
(Of course, as with any home brewed ‘cold’ tea, instant or bag, the shaking will cause some tea-foam. This settles after a bit. Some of us tea-vets actually enjoy the fine foam.)

Wow…at least now it LOOKED like it was ‘back’ to its familiar color!
Uncapping the bottle, I took a deep breath, then sipped…

EUREKA! I almost shrieked with joy. Wait, I DID shriek – and my son came running into the kitchen.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, worried.

“I did it!” I declared, and this time took a long, thirsty drink.
“I FIXED it,” I happily told my son, waving the bottle of tea in his face, “LOOK at the color -it’s right again! And the taste -“
He was staring at me quizzically.
“I put in ONE LEVEL TEASPOON of INSTANT TEA, shook it up, and now it TASTES LIKE IT DID! It’s “ORIGINAL” again!”
I offered him the bottle, and he took a sip, then nodded, “Wow, You’re right.”
He looked relieved then annoyed, “Great, Mom,” and he left me in the kitchen to rejoice in solitude.

I finished the first bottle off, and just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, prepared the second bottle the same way.
It was HEAVEN. And I drank that one down to the bottom as well…

ANYONE, besides me (and I KNOW you’re out there), missing their “Original” sweetened-no-lemon Lipton Iced Tea, need only remember this TIP, in order to enjoy their favorite beverage again:

To one ice cold bottle of Lipton “PureLeaf” Sweetened (No Lemon) Iced Tea,
add one slightly less than a level teaspoon of Lipton Instant Tea
(the freeze-dried crystals most of us brewed-tea drinkers abhor),
dropped into the bottle of PureLeaf, then SHAKE WELL.

It appears this puts some of the missing TEA back into the drink, while cutting back some of the ‘over-sweetness’.
My solution added NO CALORIES. No Sugar, nothing harmful. Just a PINCH more TEA.

Now, WHY, Lipton? WHY would you, in making something purportedly ‘healthier’, strip as little as a half or level teaspoon of TEA from your recipe? How does removal of a PINCH OF TEA make this product ‘healthier’? Did it save the company a few pennies per dozen bottles?

My ‘fix’ will allow MILLIONS to quickly have their favorite tea BACK, thank goodness.
But I am still BAFFLED as to why the Lipton Tea people felt even that smidgen of ingredient cut would go unnoticed – and why they felt it necessary to change by that much in the first place.

If enough Lipton “Original” lovers read this, try it for themselves, and are as overjoyed as I was to find this simple ‘step’ FIXES the PureLeaf problem, fine…
But don’t stop there.
Write and phone your questions, complaints and protests to Lipton… email them from their website, but just don’t stand there.
Companies need to be made aware when their brand tinkering goes too far.

They need to know that they’ve made a change that ultimately has made their product one that now comes off the shelf requiring a PATCH.
And even Bill Gates would agree, that’s just not good business…