History of Food

History of Food

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

National Iced Tea Day or National Iced Tea Month??

In reading twitter posts today there was mention that today was National Iced Tea Day.  I quickly searched the internet and really could not find a lot of confirmation.  Last year (2011) National Iced Tea Day was June 10.  I also found out that the entire month of June is designated as National Iced Tea Month.  Going along with the premise the government takes - the larger level of government makes the decision, i.e. Federal government overrides local government - discussing National Iced Tea Month for June takes precedent.  This way Iced Tea will be discussed without missing a beat.

Tea has an impressive history stretching back 5,000 years, iced tea has a history stretching back only as far as the discovery of preserving ice.  

Popular lore has iced tea being discovered by accident in the early twentieth century.  Documents can date the use of iced tea in the seventeenth century. In 1795, South Carolina was the only colony in America producing tea plants. It was also the only colony (later state) to produce the plant commercially. The plant arrived in the late 1700s thanks to French explorer and botanist, Andre Michaux. Michaux brought many showy plants to South Carolina during this time to satisfy the tastes of wealthy Charleston planters.

Once the plant arrived, accounts of iced versions of tea began to appear almost immediately in cookbooks of the day. Both English and American cookbooks had recipes for tea being iced to use in cold green tea punches. Heavily spiked with alcohol, these punches were popular and made with green tea, not black as iced tea is made today. One popular version was called Regent's Punch, named after George IV, the English prince regent in the early nineteenth century.

The first version of iced tea was printed in 1879. Housekeeping in Old Virginia published a recipe by Marion Cabell Tyree calling for green tea to be boiled then steeped throughout the day.

In 1884, the head of the Boston Cooking School printed a recipe for presweetened iced tea calling for cold tea to be poured over cracked ice, lemon and two sugar cubes. This printing was the first printed records of "sweet tea." Southerners will be surprised at thi since sweet tea has been known as a southern tradition.

Many other accounts of iced tea exist prior to 1904 when many historians mistakenly believe iced tea was invented. While it has been shown that the beverage had existed for a century prior to the World's Fair in St. Louis, Richard Blechynden concluded that an iced version of his free hot tea would be more appealing on a summer day.

The popularity of iced tea skyrocketed and the beverage became immediately well-known and eventually common throughout all of North America. Today, iced tea comes in many variations. It is served sweetened, primarily in the southern states, and served black in most others.

Until next time....I am off to have a sweet iced tea.

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