Arizona Beverages launches Arizona Oak Reserve Teas
It’s now possible to find oak-aged spirits being produced or sourced in almost every state in the Union. The sweet-tart bite of American oak, with its notes of vanilla and caramel and wood, are a big part of what makes bourbon bourbon (and is commonly used to age wine, tequila, Scotch whisky and many other brown spirits). That sensation is now available in an iced tea, thanks to Arizona Brands.
In July, Woodbury, NY-based Arizona Brands unveiled its Arizona Reserve Oak collection of sweetened and unsweetened ready-to-drink iced teas. According to a release from the company, “it is the first tea steeped with real American Oak to hit the market,” and was inspired by a trip to Napa by the Arizona brand owners. To create the sensation, heavily toasted American oak chips are steeped in hot water for 24 hours to create the oak “tea,” which is then used with the actual black tea. What could come across as overly precious (with the bottle bearing words like “Artisanal” and “All Natural”) instead is a tasty, innovative take on the ready-to-drink tea market.
The new label—released first in New York City and the metro area, ahead of a national rollout throughout the year—comes in three flavors: Unsweetened, Lightly Sweetened and Lemon. The Unsweetened is zero calories (and according to the ingredients on the label still contains trace amounts (less than 1g/serving) of honey, cane sugar and maple sugar, though it is not particularly noticable on the palate. Most likely it is there to help round the bite of the oak.
The Lemon and Lightly Sweetened teas contain a subtle blend of honey, cane sugar and maple sugar and come in at 30 calories per serving (though be aware that each bottle counts as 2.5 servings).
We’ve only sample the Unsweetened expression so far, but we are hooked. The oak and caramel notes complement the tannins and floral notes of the tea used and the result is a harmonious, refreshing complex iced tea. It is clean and pure in taste, with no chemical aftertaste, but the oak adds a pleasing, satisfying depth to a category that is sometimes difficult to convince consumers to buy (unsweetened iced tea in a bottle). Notes of vanilla, honey, caramel, bergemot and rose all come forward. A hint of char means the sensation really is like drinking a whiskey tea, if such a thing existed. Blending it with an oaky bourbon in place of a bit of water works nicely, though it’s best to use a high-proof, moderately priced bourbon as it doesn’t make sense to influence the distiller’s intended flavor profile with another oaked product. We will be playing with the product in other cocktails in a carbonated format soon.
Though it rarely makes sense to buy unsweetened tea in ready-made format (something easily made at home), Arizona Oak provides a whole new dimension that is worth the $2 price tag. And whether the words “all natural,” “artisanal” and “Brooklyn” (the company’s original home) actually mean anything or are just there to tantalize the consumer, we will be headed back to the store for refills as long as supplies last. Particularly thanks to NYC’s late summer heat wave.
Thirsty for more? Check out National Spirits Examiner or NY Drinks Examiner.
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