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Honest Tea

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Honest Tea
TypeIced tea
ManufacturerHonest Tea, Inc / The Coca-Cola Company
DistributorThe Coca-Cola Company
Country of origin United States

Honest Tea (U.S.) was a bottled organic tea company based in Bethesda, Maryland. It was founded in 1998 by Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Coca-Cola Company.


Honest Tea was founded in 1998 by Seth Goldman, a graduate of Harvard and the Yale School of Management who got the idea to found a beverage company while he was at business school. There were two key ideas behind the company: to bring beverages to market that were organic and not as heavily sweetened, and to conduct the business using fair trade principles.[1] Goldman and one of his Yale professors, Barry Nalebuff, conceived the idea for the company and raised $500,000 in startup funds from friends and family.[1]

The first order for Honest Tea was from Fresh Fields, an East Coast natural grocery chain that was later acquired by Whole Foods Market.[1] Honest Tea was available on Independence Air flights.[2] By 2006, Honest Tea had revenue of $13.5 million and was selling about 1.5 million cases a year.[1]

The Coca-Cola Company purchased a 40-percent stake of the U.S. company at $43 million in 2008.[3] It bought the rest of the company in 2011.[4]

In 2009, Honest Tea US received an unpaid endorsement when The New York Times reported that it was President Barack Obama's preferred beverage.[5]

A separate small company, Springleaf, controls the Honest Tea trademark in Australia. Honest Tea lost an attempt to claim the rights to the phrase in Australia in 2007.[6] In 2015, Annabel Young won her case against Coca-Cola in Australia as the original brand name holder, retaining the Honest Tea brand.[7]

In 2021, Coca-Cola introduced Honest Yerba Mate. Yerba mate is a traditional beverage in South America, brewed from leaves and stems of the yerba mate plant.[8]

On May 23, 2022, Coca-Cola announced it would stop carrying Honest tea beverages as of December 31, 2022.[1][9] Coca-Cola decided it would only carry two brands of tea, Gold Peak Tea and Peace Tea, because they are "best positioned to meet consumer preferences for high-quality brewed teas with different levels of sweetness and flavor". Coca-Cola expected that discontinuing the Honest tea line would allow it to "prioritize production and distribution" of other beverages, particularly in light of ongoing supply-chain issues that have caused Coca-Cola to be unable to meet consumer demand for Gold Peak.[10] Coca-Cola said it plans to continue carrying its line of Honest Kids organic fruit juices.[9] Honest tea is one of approximately 200 brands that Coca-Cola decided to discontinue carrying between 2020 and 2022.[11]

Following Coca-Cola’s announcement that it would discontinue Honest Tea products, Honest Tea founders Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff returned to the bottled tea business alongside celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn with the launch of Just Ice Tea in September 2022.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Even after sale to Coca-Cola, Bethesda-based Honest Tea 'work in progress'". The Washington Post. June 29, 2014. Retrieved February 11, 2015.
  2. ^ "Honest Tea Breaks Out From Organic Markets". The Washington Post. 2004-07-26. Retrieved 2022-06-11.
  3. ^ "Drink maker finds Coke its cup of tea – Beverage Industry, Body Shop International Plc, Maine". Baltimore Sun. 2008-04-16. Archived from the original on 2011-05-22. Retrieved 2009-07-15.
  4. ^ Paul Ziobro March 1, 2011 Coke Buys Rest of Honest Tea
  5. ^ "White House Unbuttons Formal Dress Code". The New York Times. January 29, 2009. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
  6. ^ "Australian iced tea more 'honest' than US". The Sydney Morning Herald. March 19, 2007.
  7. ^ Long, Christine (2015-07-23). "The woman who took on Coke and won". The Age. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  8. ^ Danley, Sam (May 5, 2021). "Coca-Cola adds Honest Tea Yerba Mate". Food Business News.
  9. ^ a b Schere, Dan (May 26, 2022). "Honest Tea founder Seth Goldman laments planned discontinuation of product he created in Bethesda". Bethesda Magazine.
  10. ^ Sousa, Rafaela (May 26, 2022). "Coca-Cola to discontinue Honest tea line". FoodBev Media.
  11. ^ Meisenzahl, Mary (May 25, 2022). "Coca-Cola is discontinuing Honest Tea by the end of 2022, in a move the brand's cofounder called a 'gut punch'". Insider.
  12. ^ Kyles, Akira. "Honest Tea founders launch new bottled tea Just Ice Tea". MoCo360. Retrieved 14 September 2023.

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