This month is all about tea. It’s a letter, and it’s a drink! Like anything else, however, you can’t lump all teas together and assume they’re all alike. In the same way that Minute Maid lemonade isn’t actually as healthful as it seems (and actually has NUMBERS), many teas are also secretly harboring a boatload of sugar. I looked around at some sweet tea recipes, and the amount of sugar they called for ranged from one to three cups of sugar per gallon. That means 6-20% of the drink would be sugar!

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.


Teas to Avoid

Fast Food

It’s no surprise fast food drinks are jam-packed with extra sugar and calories. These restaurants are known for their fatty, high-calorie foods and have been the subject of much public scrutiny in recent years. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration has recently started forcing fast food chains to provide consumers with nutrition information for all their menu items. Let’s take a closer look at some popular restaurants’ sweet tea offerings:

McDonald's medium sweet tea (21 oz.)`180`45 grams
Sonic medium sweet tea (15 oz.)`170`44 grams
Burger King medium peach tea (22 oz.)`130`32 grams

Things really get crazy once you start “super sizing” your drink. For example, Sonic’s Route 44 sweet tea has 370 calories and 97 grams of sugar!

On the Shelves

Stopping by your favorite drink shack, you may see the sweet teas next to the pop and think, “Maybe I should grab a tea since it’s healthier.” Check the labels on those teas, though, because a lot of the sweetened versions have just as much sugar, and sometimes more, than regular pop. Here are some of the big boys on the sugar market:

Lipton Brisk Lemon Iced Tea (20 oz.)`130`33 grams
Peace Tea Razzleberry (24 oz.)`130`33 grams
Arizona Green Tea with Ginseng and Honey (24 oz.)`210`51 grams
Pure Leaf Sweet Tea (18.5 oz.)`160`42 grams

At Home

There are plenty of sweet tea recipes out there, from Southern favorites to strange blends. You can also get mixes from the store and just add water, but be aware that these also pack a sugar wallop.

Lipton Lemon Iced Tea Mix (20 oz. mixed)`175`45 grams
Nestea Lemon Iced Tea Mix (20 oz. mixed)`150`37.5 grams
4C Green Tea Iced Tea Mix (20 oz. mixed)`200`42.5 grams

The Good Stuff

Tea may sound more treacherous than you had thought (I’ll admit, I was surprised how much sugar was crammed into these, many of which market themselves as healthful), but don’t worry, there is plenty of tea out there that makes an excellent pop alternative.

Gold Peak Unsweetened Tea (24 oz.)`6`0 grams
Lipton Brisk Diet Lemon Iced Tea (24 oz.)`6`0 grams
Honest Tea Green Tea (16 oz.)`0`0 grams
Snapple Diet Raspberry Tea (18 oz.)`5`0 grams

Personally, I don’t like artificial sweeteners because they upset my stomach. I don’t need my tea sweet, though, because straight black tea is how I was raised! It’s the best way to have your tea, but check out the diet and sugar-free options that are out there. Many people enjoy the lighter taste of green tea. Just be sure it isn’t full of sugar!


One final note: don’t think you can never have sweet tea again. A little sugar is fine in moderation. What can add up to serious health concerns is consuming large amounts of these sugary drinks.