Thursday, July 8, 2010

No Fun Playing with Iced Tea Today

A series of trips in May and June have put me way behind in blogging (and other things). A topic I very much have been wanting to share involved a fun discovery I made at McDonald's, of all places, on one of those trips. I'm writing about it today because of another, not so fun experience I had at a McDonald's this morning.

Though I don't have much use for the food served at McDonalds, for a lot of reasons, I have become enamored of the iced tea. I am drinking a lot of iced tea these days, as I try to wean myself off of diet soda and its many chemicals. The problem is that packaged iced teas are, ingredient-wise, almost as bad as the pop. Also, the  pasteurization doesn't help the flavor. So, I really prefer freshly brewed tea. 

I'm not sure how I stumbled on McDonald's unsweetened iced tea, but during the summer a very large cup costs only $1 (depending on which outlet you buy it from - technically it is the sweet tea that they are promoting, and some franchisees only sell the sweet for $1), and it tastes good. I've sampled the iced tea offerings from other fast-food outlets since, and there is no question that McDonald's has the superior product (the Burger King outlet in Solon doesn't even sell unsweetened tea, only sweet tea - shame on them!). Though I could have looked up the info on Micky D's website, I never did - I knew a good quality product when  I tasted it, though I wondered about how processed it was - it was McDonald's, after all. My thought process was, just because it says "freshly brewed" on the cup doesn't necessarily mean that it isn't processed in some fashion.


Well, it was during one of those road trips that we stopped at an interstate rest stop. We stepped into the McDonald's to purchase beverages, and I ordered a large, unsweetened iced tea. As with most rest stop food outlets, we were handed empty cups and directed to the self-serve beverage station. As I started to fill my iced tea cup, however, the dispenser (which I realized was not attached to a soft drink machine, but to an air pot on steroids, which is to say, a giant air pot) began to sputter - it was empty. I returned to the counter, and the person there apologized and said they would bring out a new supply. And then we waited. And waited. And waited. Someone retrieved the empty airpot from the service line, and still we waited. Where was the replacement already - how long could it take to fill a serving container with a prepared product?

Finally, it dawned on me - they were actually brewing a giant supply of tea from scratch! This was confirmed by the manager, who appeared every few minutes to apologize for the delay, and who then presented me with two huge cups of iced tea to take with me, even though the air pot hadn't returned to the serving line. I asked her and she confirmed that the tea was brewed from scratch in a large quantity and, the laws of physics being what they are, it takes some time. I left a happy camper; it is nice to know that something you consume so much of is truly made from scratch with honest ingredients.


Fast forward to today. I stopped at the usual drive-through for a morning cup of that freshly brewed iced tea. $1 later, I was on the road again. I don't think I'll ever be this grateful for a red light holding me up at the corner of Richmond and Miles Roads - because I took a big drink from the cup only to taste - iced coffee!!!!

What is the big deal, you might think. Even if you don't like coffee, you just turn right back into the parking lot and change the drink out, right? Well . . . not exactly. You see, when I was a toddler, I had a very un-fun experience with hot coffee. Mom had just put a steaming hot cup down on the kitchen table when the doorbell rang, and she went to answer it. Little Nancy just had to toddle over to see what was in the steaming cup. She put her tiny hands around it and lifted - and seared by the heat of  the steaming cup, tossed it up out of her hands. To this day, I don't know what happened to the coffee cup, but I do know what happened to the coffee - it landed near the bottom of my left shoulder, where a souvenir of the severe burn (and trip to the ER) remains to this day. Something else remains to this day - a total aversion to all things coffee. 

Ironically, I had commented to a lunch companion at B Spot just two short days ago about how it seemed like the aversion had lightened up a little - I truly adore Michael Symon's Coffee BBQ Sauce and Lola Ketchup - both of which are full of coffee, 


and I really loved the Shortrib with Redeye Gravy (read: loaded with coffee preparation) that Chef Jonathon Sawyer made for the recent Chefjam event. 

Indeed, a sip of hot coffee did accidentally cross my lips about ten years ago at a hair salon, when a helpful assistant re-filled my tea cup with the wrong beverage - but at least, that was just a sip, and it had cream and sweetener in it. The gulp I took this morning was just straight coffee, and I'm still feeling it. Yuck - fun playing with food fail.

Oh well - at least I now know, having finally looked it up on the McDonald's website, that the unsweet tea is made from only "Orange pekoe and pekoe cut black tea," and the sweet tea is the same with sugar (NOT high fructose corn syrup) added. Except that I will remember to inspect it a little more closely before I drink it next time. Because it really is fun to get something inexpensive, tasty and fresh from the drive through, but today was not my day!


  1. Wow Nancy, we have more in common than we would have at first realized. I too was burned by coffee when I was younger. At my aunt's house, a relative had just gotten up from the kitchen table to get himself a cup of freshly perked coffee. I walked in and sat myself down at the empty chair. He didn't see me/his hand got jostled just as he did, and that cup of coffee ended up in my lap. I had a lot more than a trip to the ER, I was in St. Barnabus burn unit for more than a week with 2nd degree burns. Not fun. I too was averse to coffee for a long time. When I worked at Byers (gourmet cafeteria at a mall) in high school, I couldn't work the beverage station because of the coffee.

    Over the years the fear was just replaced by dislike, eventually a bit of tolerance of coffee aroma and flavor, but still not the actual beverage.

    A couple of months ago, I took a sip of Jason's morning coffee. It was good. I took another sip, and eventually had to get him another cup. I've been drinking a cup or two every day since!

    Still don't like iced coffee though!

    I too love iced tea. Thanks for letting me know that A) they have unsweetened (since the ads are all for Sweet Tea) and B) it's freshly brewed. Really good to know, might tempt me to stop by a McD's for the first time in several years!

  2. you might like Subway's unsweetened iced tea. It's also fresh brewed and very good.

  3. I have been addicted to this tea for about a year. Its flavor is far superior to anything else at fast food restaurants. I love the tea at California Pizza Kitchen, but McDonald's has the edge. And who can resist the price? I treat myself to it several times a week without guilt. It totally beats a $3 Starbuck's coffee or tea.

  4. Hi Nancy,

    Have you ever been to Beijing Garden in Twinsburg? I've heard rave reviews about their "authentic menu" and wondered if you have gotten there yet.

  5. @Deanna - no - I haven't been there. Where is it?

  6. Nancy, here is a link to their website:

    Beijing Garden

    It looks to be at the southern most tip of Twinsburg and northern most tip of Hudson right on Rt. 91. We should schedule a trip for dinner some evening soon.