Iced tea, please.

Post by Regena Rafelson, former managing editor of T Ching

You can blame King George III. If he had simply ignored the Boston Tea Party of 1773 instead of punishing the rag tag band of rebels with taxes and tariffs, the United States would have continued drinking more tea than the rest of Great Britain combined. Maybe.


Like all “what-if” games (What if Robert Fortune hadn’t been so fortunate as to have a few tea seeds fall into his satchel?  What if the Opium Wars never happened?), there is no way to know, but here we are, nearly 250 years later – and Americans still trail the rest of the world in tea consumption.


Except for iced tea. Iced tea counts for some 80% of the tea consumed in the United States! The first references to iced tea go back to the early 1800’s. If you read further, you will learn that iced tea was a commercial success at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. At the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, a think-out-of-the-cup entrepreneur had no trade at his stand selling hot tea. The weather was beastly hot, but the uncomfortable fairgoers had no appetite for hot drinks, so Richard Blechynden, India Tea Commissioner and Director of the East Indian Pavilion figured a way to cool the tea for thirsty patrons. While Mr. Blechynden did not invent iced tea, his brewed and chilled India tea was so popular that restaurants scrambled to offer the beverage.


Every fast food franchise in the US offers a cloyingly sweet iced tea choice. Some serve unsweetened along with a tray of sugar packets and lemon wedges. Most of this tea is Lipton, or Red Rose, orange pekoe. In the ready-to-drink market, there are dozens of choices of bottled teas in almost every color. Some choices combine fruits, seeds, and greens, presenting a meal-like “tea” experience.


June is National Iced Tea Month. Americans love nothing more than a holiday celebrating something we do – or should do – often. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Teacher Appreciation Week, Take-your-daughter-to-work-day. Iced Tea gets a whole month! Here in the Pacific Northwest, the timing couldn’t be better. We are entering our third week of high daytime temperatures. Some parts of the state experience high humidity and high temperatures. Iced tea is a delicious help in staying hydrated.  


I love iced tea. Each summer I experiment with combining odds and ends of exotic blends which students and acquaintances give as well-intentioned gifts throughout the year. But of course, my favorite iced tea is going to be my favorite tea, iced. For several months now, that favorite tea is Doke Black Fusion.  


Cold-brewing is a method I am trying for the first time this summer. Cold-brewing has the advantage of using cold rather than boiling water and no waiting for the tea to cool, or the diluting effect of pouring hot tea over ice cubes. Sometimes, black tea which is brewed hot and then chilled becomes cloudy, almost opaque. I have never had this clouding effect when cold-brewing. You can use green, white, black, or blended teas, as well as herbal tisanes. Here is how you do it:


1 litre (quart) of filtered/purified cold water

1 litre (quart) glass jar with tight-fitting lid

1/3 cup (6 Tablespoons) Doke Black Fusion (or other)


Place tea leaves in the bottom of the glass jar. Pour the water over the tea, shake well, and place in the refrigerator overnight, covered. Next day, strain the tea to remove all traces of leaves and keep chilled. Pour over ice cubes. Add lemon and sweetener to individual glasses, not to the pitcher.