Iced Tea: How it All Began (The History of Iced Tea)
There's no doubt that one of the most refreshing summertime treats is a tall, cold glass of iced tea. Powders and instant mixes can move aside – we prefer the fresh, cold-brewed kind, filled with natural flavor and nourishment.
Today, iced tea in all its varieties is an American staple. It's ubiquitous, everywhere from the supermarket to your local coffee shop, and it's even a standard alternative at lemonade stands. By some accounts, iced tea accounts for about 85% of tea consumption in the U.S. But as hot tea has ancient origins, the story of iced tea's birth is lesser-known.
So, where did this satisfying warm-weather beverage come from?
Tea had been grown in America by colonists since the 1600s starting in South Carolina and spreading across the South. The first known published iced tea recipes in the U.S. appeared in The Buckeye Cookbook in 1876 and Housekeeping in Old Virginia in 1877. Even earlier, in 1839, a recipe for a mixed beverage that included alcohol, called tea punch, was circulated. Over the next couple of decades, the popularity of the drink started to explode. At this time, most recipes called for the tea to be brewed hot and chilled later on. Early instructions called for lemon, sugar, and ice to be added to black tea. Although sweet tea is attributed to southern traditions, early accounts of it trace back as far north as Boston (although it probably grew favor in the south thanks to the sweltering heat).
The drink truly took off, however, at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, where Richard Blechynden, the Commissioner of Tea for India and one of the fair's directors, was exhibiting hot black tea. Temperatures were unbearably high and fair visitors were thirsty; hot tea wasn't going to sell, so Blechynden had to improvise. He brewed and chilled the tea, and voilà – it was an instant hit! Restaurants immediately began to jump on the trend, which turned out to be more than just a short-term fix, and by World War I, households were catching on. Until today, iced tea – from bottle to box to pitcher – remains a significant part of the American beverage roster. Today, we see all kinds of variations, from Sparkling Green Iced Tea Lemonade to Thai Iced Tea.
At Heavenly Tea Leaves, we can't get enough of the endless iced tea possibilities, from fruity to earthy to spicy. In order to satisfy all of our iced tea cravings, we turn to our Iced Tea Sampler for the best of all worlds! Choose from Apple Green, Ginger Peach, Blueberry Delight (herbal), and Lemon Black – each with its own distinct characteristics, but all designed for optimal taste when served cold. In order to cold brew tea, simply place the loose tea in tea bags or in an infuser pitcher. Fill with water (one cup of water per teaspoon of tea) and leave to brew in the fridge for 6 to 12 hours. Strain the tea if necessary and pour over ice at serving time to avoid dilution.
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