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The Very Cool History of Iced Tea

Iced tea accounts for about 85% of the tea consumed in the United States, where it is very popular as an alternative to soft drinks, especially in the hotter southern states.


The oldest printed recipes for iced tea were from the 1870s. Two of the earliest cookbooks with recipes for iced tea are the Buckeye Cookbook by Estelle Woods Wilcox, first published in 1876, and Housekeeping in Old Virginia by Marion Cabell Tyree, first published in 1877.


Iced tea had started to appear in the United States during the 1860s. At first, it was seen as a novelty and during the 1870 it became widespread. Not only did recipes appear in print, during this period, but iced tea was offered on hotel menus, and was on sale at railroad stations.


Iced Tea’s popularity really took off after Richard Blechynden introduced it at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. As the story goes, it was unbearably hot at the fair and the last thing the fair goers wanted was the hot tea that Blechynden, the India Tea Commissioner and Director of the East Indian Pavilion was selling.


So, with necessity being the mother of invention and Blechynden having an entrepreneurial mind, he found a way to cool the tea for the parched patrons. Even though Mr. Blechynden didn’t invent iced tea, however, his brewed and chilled India tea was so popular that restaurants were scrambling to offer the beverage to their customers. And as they say the rest is history.


Today, iced tea is so popular that it has its own month! June was National iced Tea Month, even though this is an impressive accomplishment, people would be completely happy naming the whole summer in honor of the refreshing drink.


Iced tea with a punch


Early iced tea recipes had a lot more in common with the alcohol infused favorite, Long Island iced Tea, which is all alcohol and no tea at all. Americans were drinking iced tea with booze added at least as far back as the Colonial era.


The classic Philadelphia Fish House Punch, first created in the early 1700s, was usually diluted with a small amount of tea. In his book Punch, liquor historian David Wondrich writes that the recipe for Regent’s Punch, dating to 1815, also packed a very significant punch.


Not only did the punch call for green tea and arrack, a rum like liquor from South Asia, it also threw in citrus juice, sugar, champagne, brandy and rum. This makes it understandable how one of the early drinkers described the Regent’s as imparting a “mad, delirious dizziness,” as Wondrich wrote. These early iced tea creations had very little in common with the light, fruity drinks served today.


As you can see, iced tea has had a long and robust history. Even though the recipes have changed dramatically over the years, one thing has held true, iced tea is still an American favorite during the dog days of summer and all year round.


And iced tea has come such a long way. No longer do you have to settle for the same old fashioned tea. ESP Tea Emporium offers a wide selection of amazing, flavorful and robust Iced Tea Blends to satisfy anyone’s taste.


At ESP Tea Emporium, our goal isn’t to only sell tea, we want to inform and teach you about the amazing world of different teas, tea culture and the provided health benefits. Please check back for more interesting, helpful and informative articles about all the benefits to drinking tea.


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