Why The Origin Of Iced Tea May Surprise You

Before we get to the origins of iced tea, what is the difference between iced tea and sweet tea? To the folks living in the northern parts of the United States, iced tea with sugar is not the standard way to serve it, and as such it is referred to as Sweet Tea. Receiving your tea with sugar added is more of a southern hospitality thing. The evolution of the herbal drink was imminent and today, as we all know, there are different brands and versions of iced tea, per Nutritionix.

One such variant is the Long Island Iced tea. According to folklore, it was invented in the years of prohibition, per Visit Kingsport (in Tennessee). Necessity (and in this case, mischief) being the mother of invention, a Kingsport legend (via ABC News) claims that one bootlegging "Old Man Bishop” added a new dimension to the drink by mixing it with alcohol. According to Natso, today tea is the most widely consumed liquid around the globe, second only to water.

So where did it all start?

While history may hint that iced tea was invented at an American fair in 1904, there is proof in the form of a recipe that it originated 25 years earlier, according to Evolution Teas. It only became popular in St. Louis at the 1904 World's Fair because of the hot weather and an enterprising tea grower — Richard Blechynden, per Southern Thing. As the tale goes, he realized that nobody was interested in the traditional hot brew on that sweltering day, so he decided to cool his tea down by pouring it through iced lead pipes, as per Whats Cooking America.

The earliest record of this invention is a recipe book called "Housekeeping in Old Virginia," according to Evolution Teas. It was printed in 1879 and written by Marion Cabell Tyree. The recipe is on page 64 of the book (via the HathiTrust Digital Library). Tyree uses green tea leaves to make her iced tea and then adds them to boiling water. She allows the leaves to cool and draw for a couple of hours, pours it over ice, and adds sugar. Not so random fact: Did you know (according to National Day Calendar, anyway) that June 10 is National Iced Tea Day?