July is National Iced Tea Month and, until I met my southern husband, I never understood why folks chilled a perfectly good cup of hot tea. After nearly 30 years of marriage, I've learned a thing or two about this beverage and I share it now with you.
In the South, many a native would naturally assume iced tea was born right here in the heart of Dixie, but they’d be wrong. Although a few old cookbooks from the late 1880s and 90s have been found to include instructions for this chilled amber elixir, it wasn’t until the dawn of the 20th century that iced tea truly arrived on the scene in this country.
In 1904 at the World’s Fair held in St Louis, MO, the beverage was truly born. A young Englishman, Richard Blechynden, employed by the East India Company, had a plan to bring robust Indian black tea to America. Up until this time much of the tea coming into the US was green and from China. Mr. Blechynden brought a few well- trained Indian servants dressed in traditional clothing, complete with turbans, with him to serve this hot tea with true Indian flair. Sadly, opening day at the fair reached more than 90ºF and no one could bear to try the hot black tea, no matter how delicious it might have been.
Now Mr. Blechynden was a business man and quickly altered his plan to push his product on the public despite the heat. The hot tea was poured over ice and suddenly his stand was very popular. The public loved the bold black tea from Indian and they loved it cold. The beverage was taken home by fair-goers and shared with family and friends and soon Iced Tea was enjoyed from coast to coast. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, iced tea remains a very popular beverage in the U.S. with up to 80% of all tea consumed cold.
Here’s my personal favorite iced tea recipe: 4 tsp strong black Assam loose-leaf tea in one quart of spring water. Place in the refrigerator overnight. Next morning, strain out tea leaves and enjoy! For a far more celebratory beverage, add cream or better still, a bit of sweetened condensed milk. Yum!
This method is called cold brew for obvious reasons and is quite popular right now. So popular, in fact, that tea companies are making all kinds of special brewing vessels just for this type of tea. My favorite pitcher and strainer all-in-one is shown in this photo and if you would like one, please contact The Three Sisters!
"Drink tea and make friends." Chinese Proverb