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Kult Ice Tea inventor Ruedi Bärlocher

Kult Ice Tea

How did you come up with the idea of Kult Ice Tea?

Ruedi Bärlocher was the man behind Kult Ice Tea. He tinkered and experimented until the world’s first mass-produced iced tea was launched on the market. The inventor in conversation.

From
Silvia Schütz
Date
Format
Interview

How did the idea of producing an iced tea come about?

On a trip through the USA in 1983 by our then Head of Development. There, it was customary to pour freshly brewed tea into glasses full of ice. This cooled it down rapidly. Whether at home or out, this iced tea was available everywhere.

What happened next?

When he was back in Switzerland, we set about trying out how we could make iced tea on a large scale. When we make tea at home, we pour hot water over the leaves or the bag and drink it fairly soon. For industrial production, we initially followed what you could call the “home-made” process. In other words, we hung large cloth bags filled with tea leaves in “cups” before then brewing the tea. These are tea tanks that hold 2,000 litres. The finished tea had a temperature of around 35 degrees. Microbiological processes meant its taste kept changing and rendered it unpalatable.

How did you solve the problem?

We tinkered around and came up with a unique solution: when the hot tea leaves the system, it transfers its heat to the fresh water that is flowing in for the next infusion. Of course, the two liquids are separate. The freshly brewed tea cooled down in the process. This eliminated the microbiological problems and saved a lot of energy.

What makes Kult Ice Tea so special?

We extract flavour straight from the tea leaf. This allows tannins to pass directly into the water, giving the tea its unadulterated character. It is an infusion tea, hot water is pressed through a mixture of black tea and rose hips. This releases the typical flavours of our Kult Ice Tea. Other manufacturers use extract. Of course, the quality of the tea leaves is also important. It must remain the same throughout the year. Our tea supplier ensures this by skilfully blending varieties from different tea gardens. In 1984 we sourced black tea from Sri Lanka, today it comes from India.

The original iced tea has not been changed over the decades.

Ruedi Bärlocher

And why is it still so successful today?

It is a family drink that is always on the table and goes with every meal – all year round. If you have children yourself, you pass this on. It also has a good price-performance ratio in its favour. Developments such as the resealable PET bottle gave it a further boost. You could take it anywhere, be it hiking, to school or to a rap concert.

Is there a secret formula?

Yes and no, all the ingredients are on the label. But how much of which ingredient is in it remains a secret. The details of the gentle processing are also not public. Of course we don’t want “our” tea to be copied. What is also special is that the original iced tea has not been changed over the decades. It tastes like it did in 1984 and – like all Kult Ice Teas – contains no preservatives.

Is Kult Ice Tea also known internationally?

No, Kult Ice Tea is a Swiss speciality.

What is your favourite tea?

Alpine herbal tea. We had mountain herbs grown in Valais for this purpose. We then ran these through extractors in Bischofszell like the tea leaves. Rounded off with mint, our Alpine herbal tea is great.

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