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Why do we put ice in tea?

This month as we raise our glasses to celebrate National Iced Tea Month, thank Frederic Tudor.

Although in 1795, South Carolina grew the first crop of tea in the U.S, it was Boston-born Tudor who commercially produced the ice with which we use to chill our tall glasses of tea.

In the early 1800s, Tudor had the idea that he could ship ice from New England to the West Indies. It took him 10 years to make a profit, according to a story by Mental Floss, but his wealth was fleeting, and he ended up in debtor’s prison. When he was finally released, Tudor set out to convince people that a cooler drink was preferred.

By the 1830s, Tudor was shipping ice to British colonists who lived in Calcutta. Before his death in 1864, he had successfully made Americans crave ice for those hot summer days.

Since then, America has an obsession with iced drinks, but most notably iced tea. In fact, nearly 80 percent of tea consumed in America is iced, according to the Tea Association of the USA.

Early iced tea

Originally, the first iced teas were thought to be introduced in the 1800s. These cold concoctions called “punches” were made usually of green tea with copious amounts of alcohol.

It was 15 years after Tudor’s death that the oldest sweet tea recipe in print was published. A recipe from 1884 that calls for black tea was nicknamed “Russian Tea” and is most like sweet tea today. Over the years, versions of it popped up from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair to 1895 when it appeared in the Enterprising Manufacturing Co.’s cookbook.

By the time the U.S. was entering World War I, iced tea was a bonafide drink favorite. Southern states with easier access to sugar had their signature sweet iced tea drinks, while the North preferred unsweetened.

Most iced tea served in the U.S. is made of black tea, which helps the U.S. to be the third largest importer of tea in the world. As for the amount of sugar added to iced tea that varies from household to household, along with the use of lemon or mint or other flavors.  

How to make iced tea

For small quantities, bring fresh cold tap water to a full, rolling boil. Use 1 teaspoon of loose tea or 1 tea bag to 5 to 8 ounces of water. Pour boiling water over the tea. Brew 3 to 5 minutes.  Let it cool to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator or pouring over ice.

Ideas to liven up your iced tea    

Prepare tea as above, then try one of these ideas to give your glass of iced tea another twist:

  • Fresh or frozen berries — raspberries, blackberries, strawberries or blueberries
  • A sprig of lavender
  • Chopped cucumbers or a large spear that can be also be used as a stirrer.
  • Orange slices
  • A cinnamon stick
  • Peach slices
  • 4 Jolly Ranchers of your favorite flavor
  • Replace sugar with your favorite local honey

Lime Mint Iced Tea recipe

4 tea bags (black or green)

1 ¾ cups fresh mint leaves

1 ½ cups granulated sugar (adjust to taste)

1 quart boiling water

1 ½ quarts of cold water

¼ cup lime juice

In a large pitcher, add tea bags, mint and sugar. Pour in boiling water. Stir. Cover and let seep for 15 minutes. Strain out tea and mint. Add cold water. Let stand to room temperature before placing in fridge to chill. Add lime juice before serving.

If you are searching for more iced tea recipes be sure to return to our website or go to our Facebook page by clicking here. You can also see our previous blogs on iced tea called  “Say No to Sun Tea” and “Clouds in Your Glass.”

The way you flavor your tea is up to you; however, the best way to serve it is by the pitcher because iced tea should be enjoyed with friends.

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