Free Tea

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Advertisement for a beverage that is available in Japanese convenience stores:

The label identifies the drink as "FREE Tea" ( furī tī フリーティー) and as being produced and distributed by the Japanese beverage giant Pokka Sapporo.  This does not mean that you should feel free to help yourself to a bottle without paying!  Rather, "free" here is being used in the sense of "sutoresufurī ストレスフリー" ("stress-free"), as is made a bit clearer by the band of lettering at the top of the ad:

sutoresu shakai kaihō ōen Inryō ストレス社会解放応援飲料
("beverage that supports liberation from 'stress society'").

The label also notes that "FREE Tea" contains GABA extract, which is supposed to give the tea a soothing quality.

"FREE Tea" made big waves on Twitter recently when a non-Japanese Asian took the English name literally (in the wrong sense) and drank a bottle of it in a store without paying.  See:

[h.t. Nathan Hopson]


  1. Ben Zimmer said,

    November 15, 2016 @ 3:06 pm

    Reminds me of a story about Ornette Coleman and free jazz (which I shared last year after he died):

    The term free, taken in isolation, can be misleading. When Ornette Coleman gave a concert in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1961, the organizers advertised the concert as "Ornette Coleman—Free Jazz Concert." The crowd that showed up for the performance took this at face value and protested the fact that they were required to pay an entrance fee.

  2. mira said,

    November 15, 2016 @ 4:24 pm

    There was a coffee shop near where I lived in the Czech Republic that had a sign saying "Wifi Free". I initially interpreted it to mean that wifi wasn't allowed, like "smoke free", but of course it meant "free wifi".

  3. Cervantes said,

    November 15, 2016 @ 6:44 pm

    And then there was the (railway) Station Book-Shop somewhere in Oxfordshire that used to advertise "Free Post-Cards, 3p each."

  4. Gwen Katz said,

    November 15, 2016 @ 11:41 pm

    Free as in speech or free as in tea?

  5. Graeme said,

    November 16, 2016 @ 7:00 am

    Hmm. Iced caffeinated drink is a cure for stress?

    What does the author of A History of Tea say?

  6. Vulcan With a Mullet said,

    November 16, 2016 @ 11:11 am

    "Stress Society" is a great name for a post-punk band.

  7. DWalker07 said,

    November 16, 2016 @ 5:59 pm

    Mmmm… Sapporo….. Fizzy, brewed, with hops and the best barley malt…..

  8. Reinhold {Rey} Aman said,

    November 16, 2016 @ 7:04 pm

    "Free Willy" (1: liberate an orca; 2: gratis penis).

  9. Filter Fodder said,

    November 18, 2016 @ 2:48 am

    Given that it's lemon tea, might it be a play-on-words with フルーティー, fruity, as well?

  10. John Quiggin said,

    November 21, 2016 @ 5:24 pm

    I was quite puzzled by French laundromats offering "service libre"

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