It was a scorching hot summer day at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis and festival attendees were uninterested in the hot tea that Richard Blechynden was serving. Attempting to salvage the day, he poured his brewed tea over ice, and the quintessentially English tradition of “taking tea” was forever changed. Crediting the “invention” of iced tea to Richard Blechynden is the subject of great debate, but all might agree that his efforts helped to popularize this most refreshing and delicious elixir.

It’s cool, refreshing, good for you, and so popular that an entire month has been set aside to celebrate…summer is here and so is National Iced Tea Month. “June’s National Iced Tea Month is a good time to drink up the many benefits of tea,” says Joe Simrany, President of the Tea Council of the USA. “It’s tasty, refreshing, has zero calories, and is chock full of health benefits, so it’s a terrific beverage choice. With a multitude of research suggesting that the substances in tea may help the body maintain healthy cells and tissues, contribute to heart health and keep your weight in check, why would anyone choose to drink anything else?”

In the southern U.S. they make sweet tea, in Thailand it is called cha yen, and in Austria, the refreshing drink is called “ice” tea, rather than “iced” tea. No matter what you call it, iced tea is a satisfying and refreshing beverage enjoyed the world over.

When you home brew your iced tea you can customize it to your particular preference—some like it sweet, others unsweetened, some prefer fruit infusions like blood oranges or summer peaches, others prefer just a simple lemon wedge or a sprig of mint as a garnish. If you don’t homebrew, RTD (ready to drink) teas are a convenient and delicious way to enjoy iced tea. A trip to the convenience store or local supermarket will reveal dozens of brands—each offering something to appeal to the varying tastes of today’s iced tea drinking consumer.

Try the black tea with lemongrass variety from Montauk Beverage works (www.montaukbev.com).

Iced tea fun facts:

  • The oldest known recipe for sweet iced tea was published in 1879 in a community cookbook called Housekeeping in Old Virginia, by Marion Cabell Tyree. This recipe calls for green tea. In fact, most sweet tea consumed during this time period was green tea. However, during World War II, the major sources of green tea were cut off from the United States, leaving consumers with tea almost exclusively from British-controlled India.
  • Today, if you ask for an “Arnold Palmer” you will be served a mix of iced tea and lemonade. It is named after its creator, golf legend, Arnold Palmer (more on Arnold Palmers at a later time!).
  • “Texas tea” in the Beverly Hillbilly’s theme song refers to oil–nothing to do with tea at all.
  • The famous “Long Island Iced Tea” drink doesn’t contain any tea.
  • Richard Blechynden was an American merchant who is credited with popularizing Iced tea. He sold iced tea at the 1904 World’s Fair, after which the drink attained nationwide recognition It has been more than 110 years since Blechynden’s cool idea and iced tea remains one of America’s most beloved beverages.
  • In 2003 Georgia state representative John Noel tried to pass a house bill making it mandatory for all restaurants to serve sweet tea. Mr. Noel insists it was an April Fools’ Day joke but admits he wouldn’t mind if it became law.

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