Arctic Splash isn’t made in Fishtown. It isn’t made in Philadelphia, or even Pennsylvania. But that hasn’t stopped the budget-priced iced tea — basically water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid and something called “tea solids” — from becoming synonymous with River Wards culture.
Drunk from the school-lunch fold-top cartons that bear that kitschy frost-capped logo, Splash — “the Faygo of Fishtown,” according to one fishtown.us poster — has long been an iconic beverage north of Girard. (No one’s really sure why.) Manufactured by Massachusetts-based Dean Foods and distributed regionally by its subsidiary, Lehigh Valley Dairy, it’s peddled at shops and delis throughout the area, and residents have capitalized on that ubiquity to turn it into a point of pride. The so-sweet tea’s responsible for inspiring band names, T-shirt designs and boozy variations at local bars.
It’s also inspired a tremendous amount of litter, a reality not lost on seventh-generation Fishtowner Jake Sauer. For every person he comes across sipping one — “I literally see babies in strollers drinking Arctic Splash out of a straw,” he says — he’s able to spot multiple cartons, in varying states of decomposition, trashing up his Fishtown streets.