Iced Tea History
- Sweet Tea History
There are two traditional iced teas in the United States. The only variation between them is sugar.
Southerners swear by their traditional sweet ice tea and drink it by the gallons. In the South, ice tea is not just a summertime drink, it is served year round with most meals. When people order tea in a Southern restaurant, chances are they will get sweet ice tea.
Outside of the southern states, iced tea is served unsweetened or “black,” and most people have never even heard of sweet tea.
1795 - South Carolina is the first place in the
United States where tea was grown and is the only state to ever have
produced tea commercially. Most historians agree that the first tea plant arrived in this
country in the late 1700s when French explorer and botanist, Andre Michaux (1746-1802),
imported it as well as other beautiful and showy varieties of camellias,
gardenias and azaleas to suit the aesthetic and acquisitive desires of
wealthy Charleston planters. He planted tea near Charleston at Middleton
Barony, now known as Middleton Place Gardens.
1800's - English and American cookbooks shows us that tea has been served cold at least since the early nineteenth century, when cold green tea punches, that were heavily spiked with liquor, were popularized. The oldest recipes in print are made with green tea and not black tea and were called punches. The tea punches went by names such as Regent's Punch, named after George IV, the English prince regent between 1811 until 1820, and king from 1820 to 1830.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, American versions of this punch begin to acquire regional and even patriotic names, such as Charleston's St. Cecilia Punch (named for the musical society whose annual ball it graced), and Savannah's potent version, Chatham Artillery Punch.
Iced tea's popularity parallels the development of refrigeration: the ice house, the icebox (refrigerator), and the commercial manufacture of pure ice, which were in place by the middle of the nineteenth century. The term "refrigerator" was used for the first patented ice box in 1803 and were common in the mid 19th century in the United States
The Home Queen World's Fair Souvenir Cookbook - Two Thousand Valuable Recipes on Cookery and Household Economy, Menus, Table Etiquette, Toilet, Etc. Contributed by Two Hundred World's Fair Lady Managers, Wives of Governors and Other Ladies of Position and Influence, compiled by Miss Juliet Corson includes a recipe for variations on serving iced tea.
1895 - The Enterprising Manufacturing Co. of Pennsylvania
distributed its popular recipe booklet called The Enterprising Housekeeper
by Helen Louise Johnson. In the recipe booklet, they advertise their popular
ice shredders and its many uses. One use was "for your iced tea."
1900s - After 1900, iced tea became commonplace in cookbooks, and black tea began replacing green as the preferred tea for serving cold. The preference for black over green tea in an iced beverage came with of import of inexpensive black tea exports from India, Ceylon, South America, and Africa.
Most historians mistakenly give credit to Richard Blechynden, India Tea Commissioner and Director of the East Indian Pavilion, as being the creator of ice tea at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. In the East Indian Pavilion at the Fair, Blechynden was offering free hot tea to everyone. Because of the intense heat, it was soon realized that the heat prevented the crowd from drinking his hot tea. Blechynden and his team took the brewed India tea, filled several large bottles, and placed them on stands upside down - thus allowing the tea to flow through iced lead pipes. This free iced tea was very much welcomed by the thirsty fair goers. After the fair, Blechynden took his lead pipe apparatus to New York City, offering free iced tea to shoppers at Bloomingdale Brothers Department Store, demonstrating iced tea is a desirable summertime drink.
According to the book Beyond The Ice Cream Cone - The Whole Scoop on Food at the 1904 World's Fair by Pamela J. Vaccaro:
2003 - Georgia State Representative, John Noel, and four co-sponsors, apparently as an April Fools' Day joke, introduced House Bill 819, proposing to require all Georgia restaurants that serve tea to serve sweet tea. Representative John Noel, one of the sponsors, is said to have acknowledged that the bill was an attempt to bring humor to the Legislature, but wouldn't mind if it became law. The text of the bill proposes:
I stumbled upon your page about the history of iced tea... pretty interesting! I liked it except for one thing... you say "Outside of the southern states, iced tea is served unsweetened or “black,” and most people have never even heard of sweet tea."
Not quite true! In Canada, sweetened iced tea is the standard and people drink it at almost every meal and year round, like the southern states. No self-respecting Canadian would drink unsweetened iced tea... that's not iced tea, it's just black tea, cold. :P This is why many unsuspecting Canadian tourists have a rude shock in store for them when they order iced tea in a northern state. Thanks for the read! Rachael Frey (12/18/06)
Tom Mungall (12/04/07)
1904 St. Louis Worlds Fair - The Iced Tea Question, by Lyndon N. Irwin.
Beyond the Ice Cream Cone - The Whole Scoop on food at the 1904 World's Fair, by Pamela J. Vaccaro, Enid Press, St. Louis, 2004.
Boston Cooking School Cook Book, by Mrs. D.A. Lincoln, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1996 Reprint.
GA: Food Establishments Must Serve Sweet Tea!, Political State Report, Tuesday, April 1, 2003.
Georgia General Assembly, House Bill 819.
I'll Have What They're Having - Legendary Local Cuisine, by Linda Stradley, Globe Pequot Press, 2002.
Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte, NC, Features Works by Pierre-Joseph Redouté, April Issue 2002, from Carolina Arts Magazine, by Shoestring Publishing Company, Bonneau, SC.
South Carolina General Assembly, 111th Session, 1995-1996.
Steeped in Tradition - Sweetened or not, Iced tea is Southerners' drink of choice, by Linda Dailey Paulson, writer for Atlanta-Journal Constitution newspaper.
Taste of Luzianne,