June is National Iced Tea Month. America’s love for cold tea can be traced back nearly 200 years. Cold tea recipes began to show up in cookbooks prior to the Civil War in the 1800s when winter ice would be stored until the hot summer months of July and August.
While there are many different varieties and flavors of tea, the most popular version in the South is sweet tea. The earliest published version of sweetened iced tea is from Marion Cabell Tyree’s cookbook, Housekeeping in Old Virginia, in 1879. She recommended preparing green tea in the morning to have at dinner time, pouring the tea over ice and two teaspoonfuls of sugar.
In 1900, black tea started to gain popularity. A man at the 1904 World Fair serving hot tea realized that no one would want hot tea during the intense summer heat. Instead, he ran the black tea through iced lead pipes and served free iced tea to people visiting the fair. This is where the popularity of the popular American iced tea was launched.
In the 1920s and 1930s when prohibition made beer, wine and other alcohol illegal, Americans looked for alternative beverages to enjoy. During this time, sweetened iced tea made its way into just about every southern cookbook.
Today, you can’t go to a single restaurant in the South that doesn’t serve sweet tea. In fact, Georgia attempted to pass a bill in the early 2000s to require any establishment that serves food to also serve sweet tea. It didn’t pass, but it may as well have! In the state of South Carolina, sweet tea is the official hospitality beverage. By the way- the recipe has changed a bit since that initial “2 teaspoonfuls”. Southerners like their tea SWEET, and some places add sugar by the cups when preparing this popular drink.
Celebrate National Iced Tea Month by stirring up your own sweet concoction and enjoying a glass in the summer sun!