A Brief History of Iced Tea

A Brief History of Iced Tea

Iced tea has become a summertime staple, particularly in the south where the extreme heat and humidity can leave a person positively parched.

But is Iced Tea a Southern thing? An American thing? Where did it come from?

In honor of June being National Iced Tea Month, we’re bringing you a brief history so that you can fully appreciate the rich culture behind this delicious thirst quencher.

iced tea, summer, cool, recipe

Tea itself has been around since the beginning of time. It may seem intuitive, but Iced Tea didn’t gain popularity until ICE became more widely available. The household icebox and commercial manufacturing of ice began to gain traction in the mid 1800s. It seems that Iced Tea made a boozy debut right from the get-go. Iced Tea emerged in the form of heavily spiked chilled green tea “punch” such as Regent’s Punch and Charleston’s St. Cecilia Punch.

Recipes for Iced Tea (as we know it today) began to show up in cookbooks and publications in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Methods included brewing and steeping strong tea, adding sugar cubes and pouring over ice. Many recipes mention lemon, which is still a popular iced tea accoutrement today!

The non-alcoholic version of Iced Tea was made popular at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis where over 200,000 people flocked to see the latest and greatest inventions. Many historians credit Mr. Blechynden, a tea plantation owner and the commissioner of Indian Tea, who was working as a vendor at the fair. Because it was so hot that year, nobody was stopping to try his tea samples. In an attempt to capture fairgoer’s attention, he decided to serve his tea samples over ice. It was an instant hit! Refreshed fairgoers promptly returned to their homes all over the country (and world) to spread the iced tea trend. (There is some debate amongst historians over the exact details of the aforementioned story.)
iced tea, cool, refreshing, bevrage

Prohibition also played a key role in the popularization of iced teas. Because boozy punches and cocktails were banned, folks were looking for flavorful & refreshing (legal) alternatives. Home refrigerators and freezers became widely available in the 20s & 30s, making iced beverages more accessible than ever.

Fast forward to today, where Iced Tea is a staple in many households and cafes, particularly in the South. Each continent and region has their own (sometimes strong) opinions about how Iced Tea should be served: sweetened, unsweetened, spiked, infused, etc.

So tell us, how do you take your tea?

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