Tea comes packed with plenty of great benefits--but if you're selling tea, don't you dare talk about all of those benefits!

Lipton found that out the hard way when the FDA declared that its teas were now drugs because of claims made on the company's Web site.

While it's hard to feel too bad for a corporate behemoth such as Lipton's owners, Unilever, in this case they're victims of the biggest bullies on the block: the federal government.

The company put real and significant data on the benefits of green tea on two of Lipton's Web sites, and specifically mentioned studies that show how the beverage may lower cholesterol levels in post-menopausal women.

And the FDA says that's a no-no... because that means tea is a "drug" being sold to "treat" high cholesterol, and as such needs to go through the new drug application process.

What's more, the feds even wrote in the warning letter that green tea "is not generally recognized as safe and effective."

Just so we have this straight: The FDA would have been fine with these claims if they had been made about dangerous meds like statins, since they've been approved. But give people a natural option and talk about the real research, and--boom--you're on the naughty list.

I don't even want to know where I might be on that list... but I guess I shouldn't expect any Christmas cards with D.C. postmarks this year.

They feds are also piping hot over Lipton's use of the phrase "packed with flavonoid antioxidants" because the U.S.D.A hasn't established a recommended daily intake for antioxidants.

And if Lipton is in this much hot water over mentioning cholesterol studies and antioxidants, imagine what would happen if they really let loose and tried to discuss cancer prevention, disease protection, longevity or any of the other great benefits linked to tea.

Heads might explode!

Or, at least, the fax machine would be very busy pumping out warning letters.

The FDA sent similar warnings to Canada Dry over claims made in connection with its green tea Ginger Ale. That's a little more understandable, since soda is unhealthy in the first place and no amount of tea will change that.

But to go after a tea producer for talking about the scientific research on the health benefits of tea shows, yet again, the wacky priorities at the FDA.

Just remember: If you want the taste and benefits of tea, skip anything in a bottle and brew your own. One recent study found that you'd need to drink up to 20 bottles of store-bought tea just to get the benefits in one fresh- brewed mug.

So make your cup of tea a real cup of tea... and don't let anyone at the FDA bully you away from it.