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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Trader Joe's Sweet Tea

If you ever find yourself in Ocean Springs, MS, as I did in the spring of '06, do yourself a favor and stop by one of the best BBQ places in the land: The Shed. Seriously, that place is blues, an ambiance that lives "up" to its name, BBQ sauce so good I'm sure I bit a chunk out of one of my fingers but didn't even care, it was so delicious. Just a great place for some down-home cookin'. One of the other things I recall from my night there is, there being this blonde, perfectly stereotypical Daisy Duked Southern belle of a bombshell with an idyllic Southern drawl who came around with pitchers of icy cold refreshment. "Y'all want some sweet tea?," she'd practically purr in such a way with a smile that for one of the very few times in my life I could see exactly what Costanza was talking about with pastrami and women.* The only other times in memory were while taking in this bacon love ballad and, most notably, taking notice of the very cute, kinda shy, lovely brunette who not only brought an out of this world lemon lavender cake with white chocolate cream cheese frosting to a church picnic, but also put up with enough of my awkward advances and clumsy persistence to end up marrying me, the big ol' lug that I am. Love ya babe.

Anyways, I'm not even sure if that memory is entirely accurate (seriously, it was an out-of-body experience that night), but it's the way I remember The Shed, so let's say it is. It's kinda the same thing with the sweet tea there, too...I don't necessarily remember if it was good or not, but it seemed good, and since that was my first real trip to the American South and so my frst taste of the nectar that is sweet tea, well, I'll go with that was some darn good sweet tea there, too. In fact, I'll say it's the best, at least compared to a lot of the rest. Arizona Sweet Tea? McDonald's? The local dairy variety? Not necessarily bad, but not what I'm looking for, either.

Trader Joe's Sweet Tea is, though. In a positive way. There's a lot to like about it. First, and this is always a plus, look at ingredient numero dos: real cane sugar. That's what sets Mexican Coke and other sodas apart from their corn-syrupy compadres. Same with sweet tea. Other key selling points include the strong black tea flavor that carries all the way through, with the sugar offering a fair amount of sweetness without going way overboard like I've had with other brands. It's cold, refreshing, and it hits the spot when the temps soar up and doesn't leave me thirsting for more. It's been a while since I've had Chick-Fila Sweet Tea, so I can't do an exact comparison, but their sweet tea is pretty fantastic, and to my recollection I'd say TJ's is just about on par.

Both Sandy and I have been attempting to be good and trying to gulp about the same amount of our TJ sweet tea. Usually, I'll end drinking most of the bottle of whatever super-drinkable delight we pick up, with the notable exception of our latest purchase of the Orange Peach Mango, which she uncharacteristically hogged all to herself. Turnaround's fair play. Anyways, it took only a few days for our gallon to disappear, and I'm already thirsting for more. Sandy frowned a little when I gave her the last sip, so she's sad to see it go, too. It gets a four from her. For me, it's neck and neck with some of the best tea TJ's offers, as it's certainly not remotely close to being the awful swill that is the worst.** Let's say 4.5 from me.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sweet Tea: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons
* Obviously, that's an exaggeration. That's just a you say...over the top, maybe?
** What's not an exaggeration is how awful that "tea" is. Nathan and Sonia must have been in a very generous mood when they reviewed it. It was a sample one day, both Sandy and I drank it, and nearly spewed it right out. Seriously, I'd practically rather go all Kevin Costner in "Waterworld" before I'd even think of buying that particular tea.


  1. Mmmmm, sweet tea. I'm a Texan transplanted to Pittsburgh; I used to consume way too much sweet tea back home as my default "up 'til 4 AM doing homework" drink. My favorite was a brand out of Austin that had so much sugar you had to shake it first to get it resuspended off the bottom of the bottle. I've greatly cut back since then since it's terrible health-wise, but occasionally, I still indulge. Maybe if TJ's sells this in half-gallons, I'll try some.

  2. Russ, you and your lady have proven time and again that you have no clue what's good and what's not. Can Nathan not review something without you shitting all over it? We hardly hear from this guy as it is.

    I come from the South. This tea is awesome. If you don't like it, fine. But then you obviously just don't like sweet tea, which has no bearing on whether or not this is a good product. Stop making yourself look like an ass. You've been doing it a lot lately. That or pass this website along to someone else who knows what's up.

    1. Dude, read the review again, and maybe a little more slowly this time. We like sweet tea, this sweet tea in particular; however just as Nathan and Sonia didn't like one particular other kind if tea (some mint/green/white junk) we didn't either. You're free to your opinion, and if you don't like ours on this blog, no one's making you read it. Although I must say you're the one looking like an ass here.

    2. Gary, as a true and proper Southerner I make my own sweet ice tea at home! Most of the commercial stuff is nasty, not true ice tea and WAY too expensive.

      Oh, and Gary, you're the ONLY one who looks like an ass here!

  3. I just bought that the other day, and I love it! I'm not the biggest sweet tea fan, as it's usually too sweet for my taste. This one is perfect though! The real test will be when I have my southern boyfriend give it a try. I'm interested to see what he thinks...

  4. I wish I could agree...I find that it has that stale/brewed too long tea taste. Seeing as I'm in a city with no sweet tea source besides McDonald's or me & my stove, I'll suck it up.

    Love the blog by the way. It helps me with the "do I want to take this risk?" I always run into in TJs. I can't remember but have you tried Trader Ming's Beef & Broccoli? I'd be interested in your opinion

    1. Thanks CJ! Yes, my cohort Nathan reviewed that a long while ago and he thought it was pretty good. There's a search box where you should be able to locate and read the review if you want. My wife and I haven't tried it so I have no opinion on it. Thanks for reading and maybe the tea will grow on you - we just got our second jug tonight!

  5. Gary, you're not a proper Southerner if you actually BUY your sweet ice tea. Yeah, store bought brands can do in a pinch, but it's easy and much, much cheaper to make your own. I'll even tell you how to make a gallon of the stuff:

    Get a 1 qt glass measuring cup, fill it with water, put in microwave and bring water to boil

    Once water is boiling, take out of microwave, and add tea bags. Use family sized bags and start with the package recommendation (3-4). This is the part that may take some experimentation to find the right tea strength.

    Let it brew at least 10 minutes and until you feel like finishing the process. Put one cup of sugar in a gallon pitcher, dump in brewed tea, stir and fill the rest of the way with water.


  6. TJ's changed this tea for 2014. It has an awful finish now. It's still subtly sweet, which is good, but there's an odd after-taste now that kills it for me. Oh well, time to find a different sweet tea.

  7. All I want to know is if TJ’s tea is made by Tradewinds? They have the same bottle


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