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About as good as any private label tea I've ever had.

Publix Deli Sweetened Brewed Iced Tea (Publix)

My wife and I decided to take a trip to Publix, something we don’t normally do. The reason is simple: We like saving money. Publix is notoriously expensive. I don’t know if this is considered common knowledge, but in our newfound rural lifestyle, we typically drive ten additional minutes just to shop somewhere cheaper. But this day was different. We were tasked with grocery shopping immediately after dropping our child off at school. At 7:30 in the morning. This is something I’ve long been a proponent of; my wife, who is not a morning person, has never concurred. So I’ve been putting up with mid-day or late night or solo early morning grocery trips for fifteen years. Who knew I would ever get my way?

We knew we weren’t really going to save any money, so we decided to splurge a bit. We had stopped for a couple things before, as it’s somehow the closest store to us, but never “indulged” in a full trip. The plus side? Lots of private label products that I had never tried. My eyes lit up in excitement at all the possible new options; my wallet, on the other hand, was hiding in a corner somewhere, bawling uncontrollably.

I didn’t have a set list of things I was looking for; this was an improvised trip. I just wanted a sampling of a variety of products, just to see what I could expect from the retailer. It didn’t take long for me to find something that I knew I had to try. Sweet tea has long been a staple of the south, so what better way to gauge a supermarket’s legitimacy than by trying their version of it? It’s also a product that’s woefully underrepresented on store shelves. 

This one is definitely different, I’ll give it that. Different as in, it actually goes for an authentic tea taste. And it largely succeeds. This is one of the better store-bought sweet teas I’ve had, bar none. It’s very sweet, so it won’t appeal to those who appreciate dialed back sweetness. But then again, if that’s what you’re after you probably wouldn’t buy something called “sweet tea”. The sugar stands front and center, but there’s an authentic brewed taste right behind it. This all makes sense, as the top three ingredients are: water, sugar and brewed tea (in that order). 

Like most things at the overpriced market, this isn’t super great in terms of value. I admit I screwed myself over by getting the single serve, 20 oz. bottle. These retail for $1.79, which is pretty exorbitant. (I didn’t want to potentially have a gallon of horrible tea that I’d never touch again.) However, the gallon size comes in at $3.79, making it a much better buy. It’s a little more expensive than Milo’s at most other stores (which is still the superior brand) but it’s probably the best deal inside the overpriced market. Now that I know purchasing a gallon won’t be a waste, I’ll stick to that size from now on.

It’s not mouth-watering in terms of value, but considering the tea is, it’s a reasonable price. This is factory-produced sweet tea done about as good as it can be.

Overall: 8.5/10. It won’t wow you with its price tag, because this is Publix. But what it lacks in value, it more than makes up for in quality: This is probably the best store brand sweet tea I’ve ever had. It’s very sugary – hence the name – but there’s also an authentic brewed tea taste that rises above the sweetness. It doesn’t taste stale. It doesn’t seem like it was thrown in as an afterthought. It doesn’t taste fake like most mass-produced examples. This is straight-up sweet tea done about as right as pre-packaged products can go. It falls a little bit short of the best national brand tea, but it comes closer to reaching those lofty heights than any other version I’ve tried before. If you want a good example of pre-packaged southern sweet tea, this might just be one of the best examples out there.

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