Some Thoughts on the History of Iced Tea

Iced tea (known in other parts of the world as “ice tea”) is a cold beverage of tea served over ice. Although iced tea is drunk worldwide, it is perhaps best known and loved in the United States, and is especially a staple of southern America’s diet, especially in the hot summer months.

Iced Tea
A pitcher of the "good stuff"

The following quote appeared in the New York “Herald of Health” in the year 1869:

“Iced tea is now coming into use in the hot summer months; but this is an eccentric innovation, not likely very soon to become a common custom”

While in retrospect, their foresight was somewhat lacking, as iced tea became even more common in the United States in the 1870s, when it was on sale mainly at hotels and railroads. The oldest printed recipes for iced tea in the United States also dates to the 1870s.

However, the history of iced tea dates back much further than this to Russia, as shown by this quote from a visitor to Russia in 1842:

“The Russians cool all their drinks with ice – iced beverages of various descriptions are commonly sold in the streets throughout the summer – and, not satisfied with their iced water, iced wine, and iced beer, they even drink iced tea, substituting for a lump of sugar a similar portion of ice.” (Johann Georg Kohl, quoted in 1842)

Loose Iced TeaIced tea has been around for at least 150 years, if not longer. It is now available in almost any grocery store or convenience store, or can be brewed in one’s home. The flavor possibilities as well as the preparation ideas are almost limitless. Iced tea is usually served with sugar and lemon, although unsweetened iced tea is also quite popular.

In the southern United States, “Sweet Tea” is a common iced tea drink made by boiling very strong tea leaves along with copious amounts of sugar which is then served over ice, optionally with a slice of lemon. This results in a very strong, sweet iced tea. Iced tea is a versatile and inspiring beverage as any tea leaves can be brewed into iced tea to be enjoyed in hot summer months, or as a refreshing, cooling drink.

[Editor’s note: Our blog is chock full of great articles on this topic. Use our search feature to find them!]

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