6 Cool Facts About Iced Tea You May Not Have Known
It’s iced tea season. Whether you like it straight up or sugar sweet, with a twist of lemon or a dollop of honey, you may enjoy drinking in a few facts about what might be summer’s coolest beverage from this article about its history, written by Tove Danovich for NPR’s Tea Tuesdays series. (Yes, NPR’s The Salt blog has a series of articles that explore tea’s science, history, culture and economics. Take that, coffee!)
1. While tea has been sipped hot here in America since Colonial days, nonalcoholic tea wasn’t widely consumed on ice until the turn of the 19th century, when entrepreneurs in the northern United States started shipping ice down South and to the Caribbean. As Americans began to take a leading role in the 19th-century global ice trade, the greater availability of ice made iced tea more common.
2. Tea was, however, used as an ingredient in alcoholic punches as far back as the early 1700s, and appears in historic punch recipes like Regent’s Punch, which dates to 1815 and includes green tea and the South Asian liquor arrack as well as citrus juice, sugar, champagne, brandy and rum.
3. The origins of early nonalcoholic iced tea recipes can be traced to 1876. A few years after that, sweet tea began to take hold in the South.
4. Iced tea’s popularity took off in the early 1900s, after visitors to the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis embraced it.
5. Prohibition and the increasing availability of home refrigeration (with freezers) in the 1920s and ‘30s — not to mention the greater affordability of tea itself — sealed the deal: Iced tea was here to stay.
6. Today, iced tea accounts for 84 percent of all the tea consumed in the United States, Danovich relays, citing statistics from the Tea Association of the U.S.A. According to the Tea Association, the ready-to-drink iced tea industry has exploded, with sales 15 times higher than they were only 10 years ago, and is now a $5.2 billion industry. What’s more, millennials have taken to tea in droves: 87 percent of them drink tea.
In other words, iced tea is hot.