The History of Ice Tea

Thursday, 23 May, 2019

Tea has a long history. But did you know that iced tea is also already celebrating 200 plus years of existence?

ice tea

Tea has a long history. But did you know that iced tea is also already celebrating 200 plus years of existence? How did it become popular as a cold beverage and evolve into a delicious and refreshing summer drink? Let’s go way back and look at the history of ice tea!

How Everything Started with Green Tea…

So how did tea actually come about? In America, tea was first planted in the 1600-1700s in South Carolina. Though there are also stories about French explorer Andre Michaux, who imported the tea plant together with a bunch of other flowers such as camellias, gardenias, and azaleas, perhaps not mainly to make tea, but rather to decorate a place that’s now known as Middleton Place Gardens.

In the 1800’s, green tea made its first appearance in cookbooks, though not entirely in the traditional Japanese way you might have in mind. These old recipes described alcohol-influenced green tea punches such as the “Regent’s Punch” and “Charleston’s St. Cecilia Punch” — all punch names inspired by English princes such as George IV.

In a cookbook, named The Kentucky Housewife, Lettice Bryanon details a version of a spiked up ice tea. She describes how she first makes boiling strong tea, then adds 2 ½ cups of white sugar, half a pint of rich sweet cream and to top it off: adds a bottle of claret or champagne.

The non-alcoholic version of this beverage was made with tea, ice cubes and some sugar or lemon. You can find a sweet tea recipe in an old cookbook from Virginia, dating from the year 1879. This recipe uses green tea as a base and then mentions the addition of granulated sugar, ice and a squeeze of lemon. During those times, it was common to hot brew the tea first and later chill when pouring it over ice.

The introduction of black ice tea

Up until this point, it was known to use green tea for your ice tea recipes. It was first in 1884 that black tea was introduced as a base for ice tea recipes. In “Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book: What to Do and What Not to Do in Cooking,” one can find a recipe for so-called Russian tea, which is made by adding cubes of sugar, a slice of lemon and ice to a glass, and then pouring it over with cold black tea.

Ice tea first became a popular go-to drink in the early 1900s, when it was sort-of-unintentionally served at a World’s Fair in St. Louis. The original idea was to give away normal hot tea to visitors for free, but as the temperatures were so hot, Richard Blechynden (The Commissioner of Tea for India) decided to cool it down and serve it as ice tea. Together with his team, they turned large bottles upside down so the tea could flow through ice lead pipes. Unlike hot tea, the iced version was something the vistors highly appreciated!

From then onwards ice tea became a popular item to serve both at fairs and restaurants.

Ice Tea As We Know It Nowadays

This refreshing summer drink is now widely popular and has come a long way from just mixing green tea with ice cubes. You can order fresh ice tea, make your own version with powder or cold-brew a batch at home. Ice tea can then be sweetened or spiced up with all sorts of interesting flavours like Apple, ginger, peach, blueberry or lemon.

To make your own, add your preferred tea to cold water (one cup of water per tea teaspoon) and chill in the fridge for 6 to 12 hours. 

The American versions often contain a good amount of sugar, while the Japanese tend to stay with bottling plain cold green tea. In both countries, iced tea isn’t merely a summer drink, it serves as a year-round drink that is paired with meals. Especially in American restaurants in the South you’ll see sweet ice tea getting served with meals. 

NESTEA® reinvents tea into perfect refreshing, great tasting and naturally good iced tea drinks so your consumers. It is a great addition to any professional foodservice beverage menu. NESTEA® iced tea is available in Peach and Lemon flavours.

Couple it with the Nestlé® CoolPro™ machine and you’ve got the perfect solution for your restaurant or café. It’s perfectly designed to fit your commercial and operational needs and can be used to uplift customer experience and employee satisfaction as an added offering.


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