It was a scorching hot summer day at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis and festival attendees were uninterested in the hot tea that Richard Blechynden was serving. Attempting to salvage the day, he poured his brewed tea over ice, and the quintessential English tradition of “taking tea” was forever changed. Crediting the “invention” of iced tea to Richard Blechynden is the subject of great debate, but all might agree that his efforts helped to popularize this most refreshing and delicious elixir.
It’s cool, refreshing, good for you, and so popular that an entire month has been set aside to celebrate…Summer is here and so is National Iced Tea Month. June’s National Iced Tea Month is a good time to drink up the many benefits of tea. It’s tasty, refreshing, has zero calories and is chock full of health benefits, so it’s a terrific beverage choice. With a multitude of research suggesting that the substances in tea may help the body maintain healthy cells and tissues, contribute to heart health and keep your weight in check, why would anyone choose to drink anything else?
According to the Tea Association of the USA, approximately 85% of tea consumed in America is iced and over the last ten years, Ready-To-Drink Tea (RTD) has grown more than 15 fold. In 2014, Ready-To-Drink sales were conservatively estimated to be more than $5.56 billion.
In the southern US they make sweet tea, in Thailand it is called cha yen, and in Austria the refreshing drink is called “ice” tea, rather than “iced” tea. No matter what you call it, iced tea is a satisfying and refreshing beverage enjoyed the world over.
When you home brew your iced tea you can customize it to your particular preference—some like it sweet, others unsweetened, some prefer fruit infusions like blood oranges or summer peaches, others prefer just a simple lemon wedge or sprig of mint as a garnish. If you don’t homebrew, RTD (ready to drink) teas are a convenient and delicious way to enjoy iced tea. A trip to the convenience store or local supermarket will reveal dozens of brands—each offering something to appeal to the varying tastes of today’s iced tea drinking consumer.
Iced tea fun facts:
- The oldest known recipe for sweet ice tea was published in 1879 in a community cookbook called Housekeeping in Old Virginia, by Marion Cabell Tyree. This recipe calls for green tea. In fact, most sweet tea consumed during this time period was green tea. However, during World War II, the major sources of green tea were cut off from the United States, leaving consumers with tea almost exclusively from British-controlled India.
- Today, if you ask for an “Arnold Palmer” you will be served a mix of iced tea and lemonade. It is named after its creator, golf legend, Arnold Palmer.
- “Texas tea” in the Beverly Hillbilly’s theme song refers to oil–nothing to do with tea at all.
- In 2003 Georgia state representative John Noel tried to pass a house bill making it mandatory for all restaurants to serve sweet tea. Mr. Noel insists it was an April Fools’ Day joke but admits he wouldn’t mind if it became law.
- The famous “long island iced tea” drink doesn’t contain any tea.
- It has been more than 100 years since Blechynden’s cool idea and iced tea remains one of the America’s most beloved beverages.