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Monday, June 21, 2021

Hard Tea Is Getting a Healthier Update

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If you drink tea, it’s easy to skip the sugar. But if you drink boozy hard tea, sugar isn’t optional. It’s the appeal, rooted in nostalgia and America’s collective sweet tooth. Popular brands such as Twisted Tea set a saccharine template that has more or less defined hard tea for the last two decades. But now, beverage companies are moving beyond the sugar cube to create more health-minded hard teas.

“We saw a gap in the market for a sugar-free hard iced tea,” says Julius Makarewicz, the founder and CEO of Nude Beverages, which launched its hard tea in Canada in spring 2019. He launched his company to cater to customers seeker “cleaner,” lower-calorie alternatives. It’s a trend that’s long percolated in the tea world, where Snapple is now sold near unsweetened Pure Leaf tea.

“This category did not grow to the size it is now overnight,” Makarewicz says. “It took time for people to warm up to the taste of a product that does not contain any sugar, sweeteners, or artificial flavors. Now that there has been a real shift, I think the timing for a sugar-free hard tea has never been better.”

The new batch of hard teas leans heavily on botanicals and real fruit, many hovering around the 100-calorie mark—if not lower. What are you waiting for? It’s time to tea off on these four great offerings.

Owl’s Brew Matcha Boozy Tea
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Owl’s Brew Matcha Boozy Tea
ABV: 4.8%

You’ll never find any additives inside the Boozy Tea line from Owl’s Brew. “It’s just organic tea that we’ve sweetened with a little cane sugar and fruit juice,” says Maria Littlefield, a founder. “It’s super-clean.” Our favorite is the fizzy 110-calorie Matcha that is made with the antioxidant-packed green tea. Pineapple lends a tropical vibe tailed to spring and summer sipping.

Nude Lemon Hard Iced Tea
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Nude Lemon Hard Iced Tea
ABV: 5%

The health-minded Canadian beverage company tested more than 500 different recipes before settling on the winning formulation for its un-carbonated hard iced tea that’s made with black tea and available in peach, raspberry, and our favorite, lemon. If you’re counting calories and avoiding sugar, you’ll want to go Nude: the carb-free, 100-calorie hard teas don’t contain any sweeteners.

Loverboy Hard Teas
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Loverboy Hibiscus Pom
ABV: 4.2%

Summer House stars Kyle Cooke and Amanda Batula created the Loverboy line of 90-calorie, monkfruit-sweetened sparkling hard teas. They’re made with organic teas and flavored with botanicals such as lavender, as well as fruits including lavender and peach. “Loverboy naturally has a little more flavor than hard seltzer,” Cooke says. Try the tangy Hibiscus Pom that’s infused with pomegranate and finished with lime juice.

LIIT Hard Ice Teas
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LIIT Raspberry Lime
ABV: 5%

“Tea cues better for you, but it doesn’t mean the product is better for you,” says Carrie Shafir, the general manager for Long Island’s Blue Point. Last summer, the brewery launched LIIT, aka Long Island Iced Tea, a counterpoint to sugary hard teas. Blue Point’s 120-calorie sparkling tea contains just 5 grams of sugar per 12-ounce serving; the variety pack includes a mango version, featuring oolong, green, and white matcha teas, and the vividly tinted Raspberry Lime.

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