June is National Iced Tea Month and I couldn’t be more excited. There are countless ways to enjoy this refreshing beverage. And nowadays we have access to a wide variety of teas from across the world so the possibilities are endless.
Did you know that iced tea makes up over 80% of all tea consumed in the United States? That’s showing a lot to our friends in the UK who prefer theirs served hot. Iced tea is also a popular and healthier alternative to soda which is our country’s #1 consumed beverage type.
Ready for a quick history lesson? Tea is nothing new us. We have been a tea-drinking nation ever since the 17th century. But the consistency was largely influenced by the passage of the Tea Act and its subsequent protest during the American Revolution. Tea consumption sharply decreased in America during and after the Revolution, when many Americans switched from drinking tea to drinking coffee, considering tea drinking to be unpatriotic. After the preceding years, we essentially rediscovered our old drinking habits. In the late 1800’s, Chinese green tea was the most common tea found in America, which is why the first accounts of iced tea recipes specifically mention it. And yes, iced tea was in fact born in the US. The earliest known recipe calling for green tea to be used in a tea punch dates from an 1839 cookbook, The Kentucky Housewife. Iced tea was quite common in the 1870s as it was for sale at hotels and railroads, according to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink. Interestingly these accounts are many years before the well-known story of how iced tea was supposedly invented in St. Louis, MO in 1904. It took until the 2000’s for iced tea to make its mark within traditional tea drinking countries like the UK and Turkey and it did so by way of the popular brands Lipton and Nestea.
Although some teas are manufactured specifically to be used for iced tea, just about any tea can be enjoyed cold. If you choose to use standard tea bags, start off by brewing a large batch of it. Plan on making it stronger than usual since the addition more water and ice will dilute the flavor. If time allows, you can also brew sun tea. I personally prefer this method, especially for lighter teas. Allowing the tea to steep in the mild heat of the sun enhances and protects the delicate subtle flavors. You won’t need to add additional water either.
Once you have your tea base you can then set yourself free to experiment with pairing complimentary flavors. If you wanted to play it safe, you can always check out a few recipes. I love using Pinterest boards for inspiration because of the beautiful photos. My two favorite healthy iced tea recipe boards are by Melissa Beatty and Dora Thornton. Take a look!
Now, when I am in the office and having a craving for iced tea, I’ll usually reach for ITO EN’s Oi Ocha green tea, or Tejava’s black tea and serve over ice. I tend to lean towards the unsweetened kinds so that way I can control the amount of sweetener I use, if any. And, when there is fresh fruit available in the office I’ll opt to cut some up and infuse it with the tea.
So go forth; experiment with fruit herbs and spices. Don’t be afraid to let your creativity take over. You never know what new flavors you’ll discover. Happy National Iced Tea Month!
Article Written by Shannon Vierra – Associated Services