By Tim Keith
It seems hot tea has been around since the beginning of time. Pouring hot water over cured tea leaves to produce a aromatic drink with many soothing or healing properties. Black tea, green tea, herbal tea, Oolong tea, the list goes on but what about Iced Tea? When did people start drinking Iced Tea?
Sweet Teas or Tea Punches have been around in America since the mid-1800’s. Many times these were drinks spiked with liquor. Many of these drinks were extremely sweet which is where we have the origins of sweet tea in the south.
It was the 1904 World’s fair in St. Louis that is given the most credit for popularizing Iced Tea. Richard Blechynden, India Tea Commissioner and Director of the East Indian Pavilion took brewed hot tea that nobody was drinking because it was a very hot summer and made Iced tea by running the brewed tea through cooled lead pipes and cold “Iced Tea” was born or at least commercialized. Blechynden took his idea to Bloomingdale’s in New York City a few weeks later which he served up in huge quantities thus proving Iced Tea as viable option in the summer.
While there are many variations of Iced Tea that utilize lemons, cherries, raspberries or a sweetened syrup. My favorite Iced Tea is sun tea. Sun tea is unsweetened tea brewed for long periods of time utilizing a slow steeping process with a tea bag. Below are a couple of recipes for making simple sun tea and a tea punch.
Simple Sun Tea – All you really need to make great sun tea is a glass pitcher, some tea bags (Luzianne Iced Tea bags work just fine), some clear plastic wrap to put on top of the pitcher and that is about it. A mason jar with a lid will work just as well. Fill up the glass pitcher with some purified cool water, drop in 4 or 5 tea bags carefully hang the steeping string off the side of the pitcher rim and place the wrap over the top. You can use as many bags as you would like depending on how strong you like your tea.
I usually set out our tea around 11:00a and after a few hours I will go out and steep the bags for a couple of minutes then let it sit for a few more hours, maybe 5 hours total. When finished I will transfer to the fridge and let it cool. One thing to be mindful of is you always run a bacteria risk when brewing tea at the low heat levels for long periods of time so be sure to transfer to the fridge and don’t let the tea sit out all day until the temp starts to drop.
Classic Southern Punch – This stuff is potent! It’s a throwback to when you ordered an old fashioned tea punch and you really got what you asked for! Grate the zest of 4 large lemons and combine with 2 and cups of sugar and quart of water and boil for about 5 minutes, set aside to cool. After it cools add a tablespoon of almond and vanilla extract, juice from 4 lemons and a quart of sun tea (or any unsweetened brewed tea), stir well and cool in the fridge.
This tea punch was made for sitting on a porch on a hot summer evening. It does just fine by itself but adding your favorite bourbon will certainly compliment its taste.