As a native Texan in the hottest year on record, I take my iced tea seriously. It is to be imbibed with proper dignity, cold hands and a warm heart. Although people under 30 or Not From Around Here will be shocked, sweet tea was actually not such a near-universal thing in Texas until the 2000s. It depends on whether you’re more from the Western or Eastern South, but I still prefer mine the way my grandmother intended — not a lick of sugar.
Still, there’s something compelling about the sweet stuff, especially with a twist of Mexican lime, so I’ll admit I’m hyped to try TikTok’s latest darling: Lipton Black Tea cold-steeped in Sprite. The original video, posted by an account for Malaysia’s Hishamraus Restaurant, has over 17 million views.
I’ve heard of cold brew coffee, but tea? I caught up with Clarissa Wei, journalist and author of “Made in Taiwan: Recipes and Stories from the Island Nation,” to ask about the method, common in some parts of Asia. “It’s quite popular in Taiwan,” Wei says, “Cold steeping is a way to gently coax out the flavor of the tea without releasing too many tannins. Generally speaking, it’s less bitter and much more delicate than hot steeped tea.” She recommends using whole tea leaves instead of bags for the best flavor.
This viral version steeps tea in soda instead of water, but the principle is the same: Take a bottle of cold Sprite, pour a bit out for bubbling room, add two Lipton tea bags, recap tightly and let it steep in the fridge upside down for 10 to 20 minutes. (It’s good practice to stand it up in a coffee mug lest you find your overnight oats in a sticky puddle upon your return.) Pour over ice, top with a squeeze of lemon, and enjoy.
Adding any particulate (like tea!) to a carbonated drink gives the supersaturated carbon dioxide a nucleation site — a surface to bubble up on — so open carefully. Your bottle may have a fizzy tizzy, as in this version made with herbal apple cranberry tea.
Other intrepid beverage explorers have tried different sodas, like this one with zero-sugar Starry, made by TikToker @weakankleblake. “I really thought this was going to be awesome,” he says, “It’s not.”
Let’s start with the original, made with Sprite and Lipton.
After steeping, I have concerns. As predicted, it over-bubbles and then quickly settles into flat, listless crackles, but an even greater source of disquietude is that, despite a refreshing-looking glimmer in the summer sun, it looks mighty weak by Texas tea standards.
It tastes like bottled Lipton and indeed is only faintly carbonated. The tannins in the flagship yellow box are too prominent for my taste, even cold, which probably accounts for overall thumbs down from people who skip the lemon — the acidity tames the bitterness a bit.
I also tried green tea in Peach Crush, which turned a murky mauve and again tastes like ho-hum in a bottle. The most successful alternate recipe in my opinion? Two pitcher-sized cold brew tea bags in a two-liter of Canada Dry.
Although I’m on Team Disappointed, if you’re a bottled brew fan looking for a bigger health benefit through fresh steeping, it might be your cup of tea. Opt for an iced-friendly formulation, such as Lipton’s Cold Brew, or Earl Grey à la Starbucks’ iced London Fog Tea Latte.
And if you’d like to have honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned Texas tea? Mull over trying sun tea. Add simple syrup if you must, and that twist of lime is practically mandatory, but please, hold the lemon … and I’m not just saying that out of Splite.