Tea cooler

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

One of Paul's staples is Swiss Farm's tea cooler, and he's kept a gallon or two in the fridge for years. We haven't kept records, so don't know how much he actually consumes, but it's at least a gallon per week, and possibly two, especially in the summer. At $2.69 a gallon, tea cooler is hardly a luxury item, but there are some other concerns. First, allthough we try to reuse, we've found no way to reuse the 50 to 100 plastic jugs that we pick up along with the tea cooler each year, so they must be recycled. Second, the quality of the product is debatable. While there may be nothing wrong with instant tea that's used in Swiss Farm's tea cooler, instant tea simply can't compare with freshly brewed tea. Third, it's a hassle to make sure we always have tea cooler in stock and to lug the containers from the store.

Paul agreed to test some homemade alternatives.

First attempt

We purchased a container of frozen lemonade concentrate at Trader Joe's. (This was before keeping records, so I'm not sure of the cost.) I mixed up a batch of lemonade (48 oz?) in a one-gallon container, added tea brewed with 6 tea bags, and added some extra sugar. (I made a note of the amount, but have misplaced it.)

Paul noticed some differences from the Swiss Farms product, but was happy with the result. The tea flavor was more pronounced and it was not quite as sweet. I wasn't happy using the lemonade mix. It's relatively expensive, messy, and requires having a product on hand that I wouldn't otherwise use, since I always make lemonade from concentrate or real lemons.

Second attempt

Because I'm looking for a very simple formula, I just guessed at the ingredients for the second one-gallon batch, trying 2 cups of sugar ($0.60), 1 cup lemon juice concentrate ($0.75), and tea brewed with 4 tea bags ($0.10). (Total cost: $1.45 per gallon.) This mix was also good, but sweeter and more lemony than Paul prefers. Since most of the cost is in the lemon juice and sugar, this is good news. For the next batch, I'll use 6 tea bags and reduce the amount of sugar and lemon juice. In the meantime, 'll add a few cups of strong tea to this current batch to improve the balance, so my poor husband doesn't have to suffer too much as a result of my experiments.