Nothing delights on a hot summer's day than a refreshing glass of Iced Tea but its long and diverse history has left us with hundreds of variations, each with their own unique history and flavour.
Birth of a Nation, Birth of a Classic Beverage
Iced Tea is around 250 years old, making it one of the oldest soft drinks still consumed today but is still a relative child compared to the hot variety of tea which has over 5,000 years of history. Iced Tea originates from 17th century America and is responsible for over 85% of all tea consumption in that country today.
Why is iced tea, as a drink, so relatively young compared to hot tea?
Simply put, for thousands of years there was no reasonable way to distribute ice - and tea is often grown in some of the hottest countries in the world. The vastness and diversity of the USA led to the necessary ingredients of iced tea finally coming together. After the Boston Tea Party, where a tea shipment was destroyed in protest of Britain's taxation of the American colonies ("no taxation without representation"), the drinking of tea was seen as deeply unpatriotic act in the formative years of the country.
However, in the late 1700s the French botanist and explorer Andre Michaux introduced the tea plant, camellia sinensis, to the young United States and feasible crops were harvested on plantations in South Carolina. At the time ice was a luxury product (as few feasible ways of transporting it existed) and sugar was grown in plantations in Cuba and Louisiana. Adding freshly harvested tea to this mix was a surefire success for the showy and well-to-do in the 17th Century South. Ice became much cheaper and more accessible once the horse drawn ice cutter had been invented and better insulation was invented to transport it in the 1830s.
Here's a quick round-up of iced tea variants, some cocktails and their origins:
Iced Green Tea - The Original
Green Tea has a long history was the first tea based drink to be popularised. It is therefore fitting that Green Tea iced teas were the first to gain popularity too with a recipe from Marion Cabell Tyree being published in the magazine "Housekeeping in Old Virginia" in 1879. The recipe is a classic, simply calling for green tea to be poured over goblets filled with ice, with two teaspoons of granulated sugar and a touch of lemon added for flavour. The lighter, more refreshing profile of green tea can be enhanced with elderflower or mint.
Iced Black Tea - A Southern Classic
Black Tea is the most popular tea and, unsurprisingly, forms the basis of the most popular iced tea too. Conflict with Japan in the second World War cut off most the United States access to Green Tea, leaving the Indian Raj (and the British preference for black tea) as the only viable tea source for the U.S at the time. In the years after the war, Black Iced Tea (also known as Sweet Tea), became the most popular tea based drink in the U.S and synonymous with the South. Served simply over ice with sugar added during the brew many variants of Sweet Tea have been developed in modern times: from classic lemon, through to mint and raspberry variants.
American Style Half and Half - The Ultimate Golf Course Drink
Americans love their iced tea black but the strong flavours of black tea are not for everyone. A "Half and Half" is an iced tea that is half black tea and half lemonade. Lovingly referred to as an "Arnold Palmer" by fans of the legendary golfer whose favour for the drink popularised it. Adding vodka to the drink makes it a "John Daly" in honour of the two-time major winning golfer who was famously not afraid to play after imbibing an alcoholic beverage or two.
Iced Fruit & Herbal Infusions - Fruity, refreshing and low calorie
A newer innovation, our delicious fruit and herbal infusions are a popular alternative hot drink for people who want a zero calorie and caffeine free alternative to tea, coffee and cocoa. When made as an iced tea these infusions offer some strong advantages over fruit juice on a hot summer's day:
- Unprocessed fruit (with a long shelf life)- Our fruit teas are made with real fruit and our packing techniques allow for a shelf life up to ten years.
- Start with Zero calories and choose your own sweetness: When unsweetened our fruit iced tea contains zero calories. Processed, off the shelf fruit juice is often packed with added sugars. When preparing a fruit infusion iced tea you have complete control over the sweetness levels. Honey or Stevia offer a great natural alternative to granulated sugar while many of our infusions are delicious without any sweetener. Our Orange & Apple or our Delicious Berry infusions act as a great cocktail ingredient and mixer for spirits for the more developed palette, allowing the floral tones of gin or the soft, creamy flavours of good vodka to shine through without being overpowered by sugar.
- Your own fresh water: Fresh, filtered water has long been the secret ingredient in artisan coffee and tea and water from the filter, not the factory will boost the flavour of your infusions.
One of the very first iced tea cocktails recorded, is really more of a cocktail with a small amount of green tea added! Regent’s Punch as it was known, originated from the Regency era and was a favourite of George IV of England. George had a reputation for his desire of good things so it would be no surprise to read the cocktail ingredients contained the best brandy, cognac and champagne with the green tea perhaps adding a little caffeine!
Combined with orange, pineapple and lemon juices, Regent’s Punch cocktail is perhaps best enjoyed on very rare, special occasions and with very small glasses!
Mint Tea Julep
Mint Julep and Sweet Tea are the two flagship drinks of the American south. Combine them together and the result is a fierce competitor to the Mojito for those more inclined to bourbon than rum.
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