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Article: Unraveling the Refreshing History of Iced Tea

Unraveling the Refreshing History of Iced Tea - Tea with Tae

Unraveling the Refreshing History of Iced Tea

Have you ever wondered about the origins of that quintessential summer beverage known as iced tea? Its cool, refreshing taste has become a staple in many households, but its history is as intriguing as it is refreshing. Join us on a journey through time as we delve into the fascinating tale of iced tea, beginning with its surprising debut at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair and the innovative mind of Richard Blechynden.

What was the significance of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair in the history of iced tea?

The 1904 St. Louis World's Fair played a pivotal role in introducing iced tea to a wider audience. As temperatures soared that summer, fairgoers craved a refreshing beverage to beat the heat. While hot tea was a popular choice, it failed to entice visitors in the scorching Midwest weather. Richard Blechynden, a tea plantation owner and merchant, saw an opportunity to showcase a different way to enjoy tea.

On April 30, 1904—the opening day of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair—William H. Thompson, the president of the National Bank of Commerce in St. Louis, stands on the dais at the Louisiana Monument in the Plaza of St. Louis. Standing next to him is David R. Francis, the president of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company

Who was Richard Blechynden, and how did he popularize iced tea?

Richard Blechynden was an Englishman and tea merchant who attended the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. When the hot tea failed to gain traction among fair visitors, he decided to try something different. In a moment of inspiration, he poured his brewed tea over ice and served it cold. The chilled tea was an instant hit, providing relief from the heat and capturing the imagination of fairgoers, as well as the rest of America.

Statues of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant flank the entrance to the Illinois State building, photographed at the 1904 World's Fair in June 1904. The Ferris wheel can be seen at the right.

When was the first recipe for iced tea published?

While Richard Blechynden played a significant role in popularizing iced tea, the first recipe for this delightful beverage was actually published much earlier. In 1877, Marion Cabell Tyree, a Virginia housewife, included a recipe for iced tea in her cookbook, Housekeeping in Old Virginia. This recipe called for green tea to be steeped and sweetened before being served over ice. It laid the foundation for the countless variations of iced tea that we enjoy today. A snapshot of the recipe as it appeared in Housekeeping in Old Virginia is below:

How did iced tea become a beloved American tradition?

Following its debut at the St. Louis World's Fair, iced tea quickly gained popularity across America. Its refreshing taste and versatility made it a hit during the sweltering summers. As Americans discovered different flavors and ways to prepare iced tea, it became deeply ingrained in their culinary traditions. Today, iced tea is celebrated as a classic American beverage, enjoyed at picnics, barbecues, and social gatherings throughout the country. 

Did you know... 

More than 3.8 billion gallons of iced tea are consumed each year in the United States?!

So, the next time you savor a glass of iced tea, remember the unexpected path it took to become the beloved beverage it is today. From the first recipe in Ms. Tyree's cookbook in 1877 to the steamy summer days at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, iced tea has come a long way. As you indulge in its cool embrace (and healthful benefits), raise your glass to the pioneers and traditions that have shaped this timeless drink. Cheers to the rich history of iced tea and the joy it brings with every sip!

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