When talking about tea in America, its difficult to not go straight to the Boston Tea Party. Yes, we were protesting the British intervention in America by tossing all that tea into the Boston Harbor but there is more to tea in the US than that one event.
Today in the United States over 80% of the tea we consume is iced tea but it wasn’t always this way. Iced tea started appearing in America during the 1860 and slowly grew in popularity. Some of the earliest recipes for iced tea date back to the 1870’s when iced tea started appearing as a novelty item on some restaurant menus and in train stations.
The tradition of iced tea really grew dramatically at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis when a merchant and tea plantation owner, Richard Blechynden was having a difficult time getting people to sample his hot tea in the sweltering summer heat. He asked an ice cream vendor nearby for some ice to cool the hot tea and customers loved it. The custom of drinking iced tea in America gained popularity after that World’s Fair.
In the Southeastern US sweetened iced tea is the norm. My Mom’s family, from Mississippi all drink sweet tea which for this Yankee girl is too sweet. I prefer my tea unsweetened and that can be a problem when visiting the South. Recently, while eating out in Texas I found I needed to ask if they had unsweetened iced tea. Most places did but if you didn’t ask and just ordered iced tea, you were served sweet tea.
Sweet tea is an acquired taste and everyone seems to have their own very personal recipe preferences. You need to use trial and error to find the best quantities to suit your taste. Some like it really strong and really sweet, others not so much. You can use any type of tea for sweet tea but it seems most people I know use a good quality black tea.
To brew sweet tea, bring your water to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat for a few minutes then add tea leaves or bags. If you like strong iced tea add more tea, do not steep it longer. I never steep tea more than 5 minutes or you could get a bitter brew. Once steeped, strain the tea into another container or if using tea bags just remove the bags. At this point, the sugar is added to the hot brewed tea; stir till dissolved. Adding the sugar while the tea is still hot allows the sugar to dissolve completely and some say uses less sugar. Then the tea can be chilled in the fridge, poured over ice to chill it or I’ve seen some people dilute this mixture with cold water before serving. Everyone seems to have their preferences. So, play around with methods and amounts to find a tea to fit your tastes.
I like to brew my iced tea using an old half gallon glass milk jug and the sun. I’ve always loved sun tea because it is never bitter. Some people are concerned about leaving the tea out in the sun where bacteria could grow. I try to only leave the jug out in the sun for 3 hours or less depending on the type of tea I’m using. To date, I’ve never had a problem. But, if you’re even a little squeamish, try making sun tea in the fridge overnight using a cold brew process. Just put your cold water and tea in a container, put it in the refrigerator to cold brew and remove the leaves or bags in the morning.
My daughter makes her iced tea using a For Life Mist iced tea jug. This 68 ounce tea pitcher is perfect for making a large amount of iced tea or infused water. Just bring your water to a boil, let it rest for a few minutes until about 180F, then pour this water over the loose leaf tea in the infuser. Let it steep for 3 to 5 minutes depending on the type of tea, remove the infuser and chill or pour over ice to enjoy. She recently made some of Octavia’s Pomegranate White Tea for an iced tea. Delicious!
So when you think of the United States’ contribution to the tea world, do not think of the Boston Tea Party, think of the popularization of a cool refreshing glass of iced tea. A delicious drink that we can all enjoy.
For more information about For Life Mist pots click thru HERE. For Octavia Tea Company’s Pomegranate White Tea check their website HERE. Or look for both of these products in specialty and gourmet shops.
This post is part of an A-2-Z Writing Challenge for the month of April where you write everyday except Sundays with the next letter of the alphabet.