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A Lemon-Flavored Obsession

This is what I think has been happening.

As soon as M. arrives at the store, she behaves like a cat on a hot tin roof. She cranes her neck down an aisle. She sees that it’s empty. Then, she walks down it, almost on tiptoe. Her gaze flickers up and down, along the rows of merchandise. She exits it and enters the one parallel to it, next. When she sees what she’s looking for, she takes out her phone from her pocket.

At home, I’m waiting anxiously to know if she’s located what she’s looking for. She knows that as well. 

“Found,” she trots out.

“Good,” I text back, comforted.

What she’s tracking down is nothing contraband. It’s merely a half-gallon jug of a brand of lemon-flavored iced tea.

Lemon-flavored iced tea

CTown is just a few blocks from our apartment. M. gets our groceries there. For some time now, it has been renovating its interior, taking down its old freezers and coolers and replacing them with newer models. Its stock of beverages has been running low. And what little of it remains has been placed among the dairy goods.

I don’t know if it’s due to a sudden drop in supply or a dearth of space at the retailer’s end, but one product that has been very hard to procure is my drink.

To me, this brand of lemon-flavored iced tea is what beer is to the Belgians or Vodka is to the Russians. It’s what I drink when I’m parched. It’s what I drink to wash down a meal with. It’s what I drink after running.

The image shows a glass filled with iced tea, ice and mint leaves
Iced Tea (image credit/ alison-marras-3j2MJ3eOLcs-unsplash.jpg)

Tea-ing up the right stuff

In the tale, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” after tasting bowls of porridge that were either too hot or too cold, the little girl had found one that was “just right” for her. Over the years, I’ve had many flavors and brands of iced tea: Arizona, Ssips, Nestlé’s Nestea, Lipton’s Brisk, Coca-Cola’s Honest Tea, Tazo and a few others.

If one was cloyingly sweet, another had the bitter aftertaste of a low-calorie sweetener. If one had an organic blandness about it, another was drenched in a fruity flavor. Only one had worked. Neither too sweet, nor too sour, this brand of lemon-flavored iced tea was the one that was “just right” for me. And I’ve stuck to it with a peerless tenacity ever since it struck me how much I relished it. It has, in fact, become my liquid obsession.

One iced tea doesn’t look perceptibly different from the next, of course, not like in the way an espresso looks different from a latte. To a greater or lesser degree, they all have the same pale brown hue.

What makes it so dear to me, I wonder.

Sharply refreshing

Could it be because each bottle is “made cold, bottled cold, shipped cold and sold cold?” The company states that the beverage is kept at about 38 degrees Fahrenheit from the time it’s created to the time it arrives on the shelves. Could that truly explain its sharply refreshing taste?

I know that this brand of iced tea is produced and processed in a factory, just as other brands are, but it doesn’t appear as though it’s been made in a commercial plant. It has a home-brewed aura about it. When you pour it out in a tumbler and hold it up against the golden rays of the sun, it appears neither transparent nor opaque. It’s pleasantly turbid, a mark of its goodness. 

Staying loyal to my brand

The other day, as I sat waiting on the futon for M. to text me, the phone rang. She spoke gingerly.

They’ve all gone, she said.

Gone, as in …? I asked.

The store had depleted its entire stock of it. I took a gulp. A hollow formed inside me. Somehow, I had taken this flavor of iced tea from this brand to be on the market forever. I’m a creature of such hard habit that it never occurred to me that there could come a day when I’d have to do without it.

I padded over to the fridge. I opened the door. I surveyed. I still had half a jug left. Until we’re able to replenish our stock, I’m going to ration it, I resolved. When I run out of even that, I’ll drink water, with a massif of ice cubes in it. But I won’t move on to another brand.

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Alakananda Mookerjee

Alakananda Mookerjee lives in Brooklyn, and is a Francophile.