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AriZona via Instagram

Why Is AriZona Iced Tea Cheaper Than Water?

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AriZona via Instagram

Despite being a bladder-shattering 23.5 ounces, cans of AriZona iced tea have never wavered from the 99-cent price point introduced shortly after the drink debuted in 1992. It’s even printed on the label as a way of warding off sugar-water price gouging by retailers.

The fact that AriZona has been able to resist inflation for nearly a quarter-century is impressive. The fact that the cans usually wind up being cheaper than smaller soft drinks is also impressive, until you begin to realize how strange it is that a vat of iced tea and its accompanying ingredients somehow manages to be less expensive than plain water.

In a recent interview with Thrillist, AriZona chief marketing officer and co-owner Spencer Vultaggio shed some light on this convenience store mystery.

Unlike water titans Coke (which distributes Dasani), Evian, or Fiji, AriZona has virtually no advertising dollars invested in their teas. "We feel like it's more important to spend money on something that our customer really cares about, instead of buying billboards or putting our cans in the hands of some celebrity for a few minutes," Vultaggio said.

Even with a frugal approach to ads, AriZona still has to deal with rising production costs. To help resist increasing prices to compensate, the company has pursued alternative manufacturing methods, using 40 percent less aluminum in cans and having enough factories dotting the country to make transportation more efficient. Bottled water, in contrast, is sometimes sourced from abroad, making for exorbitant shipping costs.

In the end, it’s not the iced tea that’s more economical than the water; it’s that the container it comes in is simply cheaper to produce and transport. And while AriZona isn’t above charging a premium for fancier drinks—like a tea brewed with oak chips that sells for twice the price—their branding depends heavily on those familiar rows of 99-cent cans and the loyal consumers who keep reaching for them.

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11 Common Misconceptions About Beer
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If beer only conjures up images of frat boys pounding cans of the cheap stuff or doughy sports fans reveling in the alcoholic refreshment before, during, and after a big game, think again. Beer has come a long way, baby, and many of the preconceived notions about the beverage are decidedly unfair, as evidenced by the following 11 fabrications.

1. BEER SHOULD BE SERVED ICE COLD.

All of those neon ice cold beer signs are actually bad news for beer drinkers. To properly enjoy their beer, it should be served at 44 degrees Fahrenheit (with a little leeway depending on the type of beer you’re drinking—a barrel-aged Stout, for example, should be served only lightly chilled). The reason is that taste buds become dead to the taste of the drink when it is served any colder, which means you’re not really tasting anything or getting the most enjoyment out of your beer.

2. FROSTED BEER MUGS KEEP IT CLASSY.

Piggybacking on the falsehood that beer should be guzzled cold, it also shouldn’t be served in a frosted beer mug. Would you serve wine in a frosted glass? No. An intensely cold beer mug will also numb your senses to the taste of the beer.

3. ALL DARK BEERS ARE HEAVY.

If you’ve been avoiding dark beers because you fear their intensity, you’ve been sorely misguided. “People naturally assume they are heavier,” says Hallie Beaune, a rep for Allagash Brewing Company and author of The Naked Pint: An Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer. “I think it’s that connection to Guinness, which promotes itself as creamy and almost like a meal, that’s the feeling they give in their commercials. For a lot of people that’s the first dark beer they’ve had so they assume they’re all similar when, really, dark beers are just dark because of the roast level of the malt that’s used in the beer.”

4. GUINNESS IS INHERENTLY FROTHY.

Sure, Guinness is served all creamy and delicious-looking, but Beaune explains it has less to do with the beer itself and everything to do with the tap most stouts use, which has more nitrogen than the standard tap (generally a mix of nitrogen and CO2). To deliver all that frothiness, a stout faucet, which has a long, narrow spout, is used.

5. DRINKING BEER FROM THE BOTTLE IS THE BEST WAY TO ENJOY IT.

Sure, a bottle may look more refined than a can, but it’s still not the appropriate vessel. “Drinking beer from the bottle is another no-no, mostly because what you taste comes from your olfactory senses from your nose, so if you take a sip of something from that kind of bottle your nose isn’t participating at all,” says Beaune. “It’s too small for you to get a whiff of the beer. Just like if you were drinking red wine out of a wine bottle, you wouldn’t really be able to evaluate that wine.”

6. YOU CAN STORE BEER ANYWHERE.

Think again! All beer should be stored in a refrigerator. It responds best to cold, dark storage.

7. "SKUNKY" IS JUST A CUTE WORD FOR BEER GONE BAD.

There is actually a reason why seemingly rancid beer is termed "skunky." “Light can hurt beer—they call it lightstruck,” says Beaune. “The light interacts with the hops in beer (the four ingredients in beer are malt, water, hops and yeast), and it can actually have this chemical reaction that creates a smell that’s the same as a skunk gives off, which is why you hear about skunky beer.”

8. ALL BEER BOTTLES ARE CREATED EQUAL.

Darker bottles are important. Clear or green bottles may be pretty, but they’re not doing much to protect your beer from light. Dark beer bottles work best to help retain its intended flavor.

9. CANNED BEER MEANS CHEAP BEER.

Cans are actually a great way to protect beer, but in the old days they would often give the beverage an aluminum taste. “Most of the cans the craft breweries are using nowadays have a water-based liner so the beer isn’t actually touching the aluminum,” says Beaune. “It can be really good for beer. Cans heat up and cool down very quickly, too, so you obviously want to keep them cold.”

10. BEER IS MUCH SIMPLER THAN WINE.

You’ve got your four ingredients—malt, yeast, water and hops—what could be more basic than that? Manipulating those ingredients in various ways will give you different varieties, but breweries are doing some really cool stuff by adding flavors you’d never dream would work so well in beer. “A lot of the flavor in beer comes from the malt or the hops or yeast, but then there’s all of this freedom in beer,” says Beaune. “We did a beer at Allagash called Farm to Face, which is a pretty tart and sour beer. We added fresh peaches to it from a local farm. You can’t do that with wine—you can’t add peaches. People add everything you can imagine to beer like pineapple, coconut, every fruit—there are no rules. That’s one of the fun things about beer, it’s a lot like cooking, you can add rosemary, you can add whatever you want. Everybody experiments. It keeps the beer world really interesting.”

11. BEER WILL GIVE YOU A BEER BELLY, BUT COCKTAILS WON'T.

Sure, anything in excess will contribute to weight gain, but beer is hardly the most calorie-laden drink you’ll find in a bar. Much of the flack beer gets (i.e. the “beer belly”) goes back to the fallacy that beer is particularly heavy. “Most glasses of wine are pretty high in alcohol and a lot of cocktails are way higher in calories,” says Beaune. “If you drink a margarita that’s one of the highest calorie things you can drink.”

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Adventurous Drinkers Fall for ‘Cheese Tea’
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It’s normal for baristas to ask if you take your tea with milk or honey. But at a growing number of cafes around the world, they’ll want to know if you like it with a dollop of cheese on top. According to Food & Wine, cheese tea is slowly gaining popularity in the U.S.

The beverage originated in shops in Asia. To make it, baristas start by brewing a traditional tea variety like green tea. After that, the signature topping is added: What looks like harmless whipped cream is actually cheese that’s been blended into a light, fluffy state. The drinks can lean savory, with combos like white cheddar cheese and Himalayan pink salt, or they can fall on the sweeter side, like cream cheese and condensed milk.

Cheese tea can be found in China, Malaysia, and Taiwan, and it just recently began appearing on menus in the U.S. In late 2016, the Happy Lemon tea shop opened in Queens, New York, where customers can buy drinks topped with foam made from milk, whipped cream, or cream cheese and finished with rock salt. The Little Fluffy Head Cafe in downtown Los Angeles is the newest arrival to the American cheese tea scene. Along with their saltier options, they also make conventionally sweet, non-cheese toppings like creme brûlée cream with crushed Oreo.

If you don’t have a cheese tea cafe in your neighborhood, you’ll have no problem finding the trendy drink on Instagram where it's approaching Unicorn Frappuccino-level fame. Appreciating it from afar might also be the best option for people squeamish about drinking something that tastes like a cheese plate.

[h/t Food & Wine]

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