Airlines Serving The Best Non-Alcoholic Drinks

Airlines Serving The Best Non-Alcoholic Drinks

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When talking about drinks served in first and business class, understandably the focus is often on alcohol, especially great champagne. However, it goes without saying that not everyone drinks alcohol. For that matter, even many who usually drink may not want much alcohol when flying, since it’s not exactly great for beating jetlag.

With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to talk about the airlines that serve the best non-alcoholic beverages. It seems to me like this is an area where lots of airlines drop the ball — they’ll invest in $100+ bottles of champagne, but then will have a really lackluster non-alcoholic drink list.

In this post I wanted to share some of my favorite non-alcoholic drinks served on airlines. Of course this is subjective, so these are just some of my favorites, and I’d love to hear what others like. I also want to mention that I’m avoiding “generic” drinks that you’ll find on dozens of airlines, like cappuccinos (as much as I love great coffee). Rather I’m trying to include rarer options.

Below are some of my favorites, in no particular order (note that this is an update on a previous post, to add some drinks to the list that I recently tried for the first time).

Queen of Blue Royal Blue Tea on Japan Airlines

Lets kick things off with what’s without a doubt the most expensive and exclusive non-alcoholic drink served on any airline. In first class, Japan Airlines serves Queen of Blue’s Royal Blue Tea. This isn’t your average iced tea. It’s poured out of what looks like a wine bottle, and is served in a wine glass. Don’t ask how much a bottle of this costs, as it’s more expensive than the champagne served on many airlines.

Royal Blue Tea in Japan Airlines first class

Cathay Delight on Cathay Pacific

The Cathay Delight is one of Cathay Pacific’s signature drinks in first and business class. It consists of kiwi, coconut milk, and fresh mint. It strikes a perfect balance between being refreshing and tasty, all without being overly sweet. Yum.

Cathay Delight in Cathay Pacific business class

Lemon mint juice on Qatar Airways

As a general rule of thumb, I don’t drink juice on planes. That’s because it’s rarely fresh. On the ground, the term I generally use for bad orange juice is “airplane orange juice,” which should give you a sense of my feelings on the matter. However, I do have one favorite airplane juice, and that’s Qatar Airways’ lemon mint juice, which is incredibly refreshing. I order this on almost every Qatar Airways flight.

Lemon mint juice in Qatar Airways first class

SKY TIME on Japan Airlines

I love the idea behind Japan Airlines’ SKY TIME drink even more than I like the drink itself. In the 1990s, Japan Airlines set out to create a special drink for the airline that passengers would remember, which promotes wellness and hydration. The result of that is SKY TIME.

Over the years, the airline has had several versions of this (including kiwi and yuzu), though the current version is a peach and grape mix. It tastes kind of like juice, but also sort of has a tea flavor to it. It’s delicious, and a lovely treat when flying with the airline. What’s great is that unlike most of the other drinks on this list, this is available to all passengers on all flights.

SKY TIME in Japan Airlines business class

Blueberry juice on Finnair

Finnish cuisine is known for its use of berries, and Finnair incorporates that into its onboard service with a unique juice — Finnair serves blueberry juice in both business class and economy. While this isn’t “fresh,” it’s still one of the best juice drinks you’ll find on any airline. It’s so popular that you can even buy the Finnair branded blueberry juice in select supermarkets in Finland.

Blueberry juice in Finnair business class

Boba tea latte on Starlux Airlines

Okay, I have to admit, back in the day I was kind of a bubble tea fanatic. I try to stay away from it nowadays given how sugary it is. However, Starlux Airlines serves boba tea lattes in business class on select routes departing Taipei, and calories on a plane don’t count, right? 😉

Boba tea latte in Starlux Airlines business class

Teh tarik on Malaysia Airlines

Teh tarik (literally translated “pulled tea,” because of how it’s made) is a hot, traditional milk tea served in Malaysia. While on the sweet side, it’s super tasty, and is available in Malaysia Airlines business class, even on short haul flights.

Teh tahrik in Malaysia Airlines business class

Hong Kong style milk tea on Cathay Pacific

Hong Kong style milk tea is traditionally made with black tea and milk. Cathay Pacific serves this in first and business class, though in reality the airline makes it with a powdered mix. So while it’s not as good as what you’ll get on the ground in Hong Kong, it’s still a treat to get on a plane. Be warned that this is rather sweet, so think of it more as a dessert-type indulgence, rather than a typical cup of tea.

Hong Kong style milk tea in Cathay Pacific first class

Karak chai on Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways serves both saffron and cardamom flavors of karak chai, which is essentially a strong tea with some milk and sugar. Personally the saffron flavored one is my favorite, though both are good. Qatar Airways sometimes runs out of these onboard, so I recommend ordering one with the first meal service if you definitely want to try it.

Karak chai in Qatar Airways business class

Iced coffee creations on Austrian Airlines

While some other airlines serve “regular” iced coffee, Austrian Airlines has a special coffee menu, with a variety of Eiskaffee specialties. This consists of sweet dessert-like treats that typically have ice cream, some amount of coffee, and whipped cream. Mmmm….

Iced coffee creation in Austrian Airlines business class

Iced coffee on Royal Brunei, EVA Air, & Starlux Airlines

While there are plenty of airlines with decent hot coffee, there are very few airlines serving iced coffee on planes. I find that to be odd, since it seems like a pretty low cost thing to offer, and iced coffee has become increasingly popular globally (especially in the United States). Specifically, EVA Air, Starlux Airlines, and Royal Brunei, all serve iced coffee in business class.

Iced coffee in Starlux Airlines business class

Cold brew on Delta

Even better than iced coffee, Delta has a partnership with Explorer Cold Brew, and serves cold brew on select premium routes. This is complimentary in business class and Comfort+, and available for purchase in economy. I hope we see this expand not just to more Delta flights, but also to more US airlines.

Cold brew in Delta Comfort+

Iced oat milk cappuccinos on JetBlue

When it comes to an impressive iced coffee game, I think nothing can compete with JetBlue Mint on transatlantic flights. The airline has iced cappuccinos and iced lattes. The airline even has oat milk, for those who prefer non-dairy options.

Iced cappuccinos in JetBlue business class

Bottom line

While plenty of airlines serve expensive champagne in first and business class, surprisingly few airlines invest in great non-alcoholic drinks. The above are some of my favorite hot and cold non-alcoholic drinks in the sky, though admittedly we all have different preferences.

What are your favorite non-alcoholic beverages served on planes?

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  1. Rachel Guest

    Also the iced cappucino on Qatar Airways

  2. John Guest

    Agree with SO4. Freshly squeezed orange juice may not seem so exciting (on the ground), but when SQ does it inflight it just tastes so much more elevated.

  3. Connor Guest

    I was a fan of the Aromatic Kabosu on ANA

  4. LS Guest

    Nothing will top the mint lemonade on Turkish. I could put back a gallon of that stuff.

  5. Curious Guest

    You have not tried So Jennie on QR or it just did not fitted in your favorites chart?

  6. S04 Guest

    SQ serves fresh squeezed orange juice in J and F, IME those were great as it taste super fresh and you could also see flight attendants squeeze oranges in the galley.

  7. Starbucks Man Guest

    My Dad used to bring me back cans of "Piedmont Punch" from business trips, which was basically hyper-sweet Hawaiian Punch. I thought this was the height of luxury as a child.

  8. Fonzi Guest

    Saudia serves date pistachio drink which is heavenly. Unfortunately not on all routes.

    1. Sisyphus Guest

      Saudi Arabia just opened its first liquor store, won’t be long before Saudi’s starts serving champagne.

  9. Michael Guest

    Is Queen of Blue really that expensive? It looks like it’s ~$40 online for the deluxe blue which they say is what they serve in JAL first class. That said, when I flew JAL F, I was drinking Queen of Blue like it was water. It really is fantastic

    1. Ryan Gold

      Yes its about $40, still a lot for tea and if we wanted to be pedantic that is roughly 2.5x the cost of the Ernest Rapeneau Brut Champagne AA was recently serving in international F so in a way Ben was correct that its more expensive than Champagne served on some (read: those that have given up and have crap F products) airlines.

  10. Luke Guest

    I believe all of ME3 serves same kind of lemon mint juice on boarding!

  11. Jon Guest

    Great article! When I was younger and traveling for work a lot, my go-to was either G&T or Champagne. At this point in life I pretty much avoid alcohol. I wish there was more of an emphasis on tea on a lot of airlines (I like the antioxidants and l-theanine). I love Qatar's saffron chai - great mood booster if you're feeling a little down, tastes delicious (wish they'd leave out the sugar) and may help prevent Alzheimer's.

  12. Ryan Guest

    Looks like ~$36 on their website https://royalbluetea.shop-pro.jp/?pid=170053525

  13. Reyyan Diamond

    Hi Lucky, I’m not entirely sure about the price of Japan Airlines Queen of Blue Deluxe. It seems the pricing on their website is around $30 (¥4,536), but I might be mistaken.

    Qatar Airways serves a lovely alcohol free champagne in First class as well called “French Bloom”, definitely worth it in my opinion.

    1. john Guest

      That's what i thought too, but after some further research I found that it sells for around 180 dollars.

    2. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Reyyan -- Yeah, it's interesting, I saw that price on the website as well, but I don't think it can actually be purchased there? All other prices I see online show prices significantly higher than that. I'm curious if anyone knows the real retail cost of this tea (where it can actually be purchased)?

    3. aarowa Guest

      Queen of Blue should be able to purchased on their japanese store site: https://royalbluetea.shop-pro.jp/?mode=grp&gid=2377134&page=1

      Also! They have a boutique in Roppongi - you have to make a reservation there, but you can have a tasting set or order single glasses there. Reservation link here: https://airrsv.net/rbt-roppongi-tbar/calendar. I'm sure you'd be able to purchase bottles there.

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Rachel Guest

Also the iced cappucino on Qatar Airways

0
John Guest

Agree with SO4. Freshly squeezed orange juice may not seem so exciting (on the ground), but when SQ does it inflight it just tastes so much more elevated.

0
Connor Guest

I was a fan of the Aromatic Kabosu on ANA

0
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