National Iced Tea Month (June) is gone, but iced tea season is still upon us. That’s especially noteworthy in the United States, where more than eighty percent of all tea consumed is iced. While we’re not known for being one of the great tea-drinking nations, our consumption of iced tea is so substantial that in 2010 we imported more tea than the tea-swilling British for the first time — or say the experts at the Tea Association of the USA. Read more here.
Credit for the introduction of iced tea often goes to a vendor who set up shop at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. But this is a misconception, as is the notion that ice cream cones, hamburgers, hot dogs, peanut butter, and various other foods first made their way into eager American hands there. According to some sources, tea punches, often heavily sweetened and spiced with something to give them a kick, were being served here as far back as the early nineteenth century. A Tea Punch recipe from an 1839 cookbook describes a concoction that combined two and half cups of sugar with a pint and a half of iced tea.
Ask for iced tea in the American South and you’re likely to be served sweet tea, a sugary version of iced black tea that’s so popular down yonder that some call it the house wine of the South. Sweet tea is such an institution there that in 2003 the Georgia House of Representatives declared, “any food service establishment which serves iced tea must serve sweet tea.” Legislators made allowances for unsweetened tea, but those who neglect to serve sweet tea were deemed to be “guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature.”
It’s hard to imagine that no one thought of combining iced tea and lemonade previously, but the blend is said to date from some time in the Sixties when golfer Arnold Palmer was overheard ordering the concoction and it soon became a viral hit, of sorts. The Arnold Palmer is so popular nowadays that the golfer has allowed his name and likeness to adorn cans, bottles, and cartons of a beverage known as Arnold Palmer Tee.
Another popular iced tea drink, that cocktail known as the Long Island Iced Tea, apparently dates from the Seventies and, in its classic form, does not actually contain any tea. However, there are variations in which tea is included as an ingredient. For a decidedly different glimpse of what one of these cocktails looks like, check out this photo from Molecular Expressions.
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