Author’s note: This article is not an advertisement for LIPTON. I spend a lot of time looking at what manufacturers put into their food products, and it’s interesting to see how LIPTON dresses up its basic line of teas and how they dress down their upscale, natural line of teas.
Unilever is a Dutch/British conglomerate that manufactures more consumer products than you’d like to know about. The tea wing of Unilever is LIPTON, a logo you can find in grocery and convenience stores worldwide.
Unlike sodas loaded with high fructose corn syrup and caramel coloring, bottled tea is cheapest when its only ingredients are tea and water.
LIPTON offers a basic line of tea packaged in plastic bottles (or aluminum cans), and an upscale line called PureLeaf which is packaged in glass. Aside from the container’s material, there’s also a difference in ingredients.
Let’s run through some of LIPTON’s products. Thanks to them for posting their ingredient listings online.
LIPTON’s basic line
Ingredients in LIPTON Iced Green Tea with Citrus
Green Tea (Water, Green Tea Extract from Tea Leaves), Sugar, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor, Acerola, Fruit Extract, REB A (Purified Stevia Extract)
Oddly, LIPTON doesn’t offer a basic unflavored iced tea. Maybe I’m missing it. They brand this iced green tea as 100% natural, and it is. A few more ingredients than you’d expect, but they are natural.
Ingredients in LIPTON Diet Lemon Iced Tea
Water, citric acid, tea, sodium hexametaphosphate (to protect flavor), natural flavor, phosphoric acid, potassium sorbate and potassium benzoate (preserve freshness), sucralose, pectin, acesulfame potassium, calcium disodium edta (to protect flavor)
A glass of unsweetened green or black tea contains fewer calories than a Tic-Tac. It’s hard to sell unflavored tea, so LIPTON tosses in sweeteners and flavors to fill out its product line. Rather than fall back on unsweetened tea, they load up their diet version with artificial sweetener (in this case, Acesulfame K).
Ingredients in LIPTON Sweet Iced Tea
Water, high fructose corn syrup, tea, phosphoric acid, sodium hexametaphosphate (to protect flavor), potassium sorbate and potassium benzoate (preserve freshness), caramel color, calcium disodium edta (to protect flavor), natural flavor, red 40.
Traditionally, sweet tea is made by adding sugar during the brewing process. From the ingredient list, we cannot determine what LIPTON is doing to make their ‘Sweet Iced Tea’. At some point, they are adding high fructose corn syrup. And because the tea isn’t quite the right color, LIPTON adds Red #40—a synthetic dye.
LIPTON’s PureLeaf line
PureLeaf is an all-natural, upscale spinoff of LIPTON’s basic bottled beverages. They even gave PureLeaf its own website.
Ingredients in LIPTON PureLeaf Unsweetened Iced Tea
Brewed tea from Lipton tea leaves, citric acid (provides tartness)
LIPTON gets fancy here. You’re not just drinking tea, you’re drinking tea brewed from Lipton tea leaves.
Ingredients in LIPTON PureLeaf Sweetened Iced Tea
Brewed tea from Lipton tea leaves, sugar, natural apple extract (color), citric acid (provides tartness)
Compared to the basic line, PureLeaf’s sweet tea is very refreshing. Instead of HFCS you get sugar. The only oddity is that they enhance the color by adding apple extract. Apparently Lipton tea leaves don’t make the beverage dark enough.