It’s Friday night and you’re in the grocery store. You’ve had a long, difficult week. The last thing you need is to struggle trying to decide if you want a beverage to help you relax, or one to energize you, or boost your health, or lubricate your social life. Well, Smirnoff has the answer for you: “Raw Tea”!

Located in the beer cooler aisle, “Raw Tea” comes in two flavors, one of which is “Green Tea.” Pull the bottle out and look at the description: “A premium malt beverage with brewed tea, natural flavors, caramel color and caffeine.” Whew! There’s something here for everyone, whether they want it all or not.

You may ask yourself why anyone would buy these drinks that seek to combine the benefits of tea with other contents such as sugar, caffeine, alcohol, mystery flavorings and so on, when they could instead just buy and enjoy tea itself? I mean, if you want a beer, drink a beer; if you want a cup of tea, drink a cup of tea, right? I thought so too. For tea-lovers, this is a no-brainer. But then I came across this interesting tidbit in the Herrington catalog:

“Our Naturally Flavored, Green-Tea Extracts Give You the Potent Anti-Oxidant Health Benefits of Drinking 15 Cups of Green Tea a Day— Without the Bloating and Bad Taste!” After a brief bit about the healthy virtues of consuming green tea, the description goes on to say:

“The bad news is that green tea is, well, let’s just say it’s an acquired taste! And you need to swallow at minimum 6-8 cups a day to reap the full anti-oxidant benefit (gulp!).”

Horrors. Who knew we green tea drinkers had such bad taste? Not to mention the bloating (?!).

Obviously, you don’t have to go very far to realize that the recent inclusion of tea (and green tea in particular) in every manner of food and beverage is driven both by it’s well-known health benefits and the current American twin neuroses about food and health. Somewhere in the search for perfection and happiness, we are willing to believe that if we just swallow the “magic pill,” which currently seems to be green tea, all will be well—no need to change your lifestyle after all! We pay less attention to the simple act of eating and drinking, less attention to how something tastes, how it is served and consumed, or how it makes us feel, than to the label on the packaging, or the packaging itself (which can be read in just a few seconds.) We’ll eat a peach-flavored dessert (“High in Fiber!”) rather than a peach (after all, who knows where that came from or what’s in it?) We have become slaves to the latest studies on how what we eat and drink affect our health, without considering our own experience and wisdom. You could water down some mud, bottle it, slap an FDA-approved nutritional label on it -“0% Trans Fats!” – write a few press releases and create a website promoting it, and someone would create a “Mud Diet!” guaranteed to slim you down, increase your energy, stimulate your sex drive and increase your mental efficiency. In fact, take away the mud in my example, and you can probably find bottled waters that make these claims. Snake Oil? Sure! The quiet enjoyment of a cup of delicious “Black Snake” oolong tea seems to pale in comparison.

It’s true that variety is the spice of life. I don’t think experimentation with flavors and ingredients is going away any time soon. I know marketing slogans and advertising hyperbole are here to stay. But it’s nice to know my cup of “Hairy Crab” has “All the Benefits of Green Tea!” built right in. And to me, it tastes just fine!