Iced Tea, Ice Tea

by Patricia Reber for the HFSDV Newsletter
Searching the Net… This article is an exercise in using only various sites on the internet to research food history. There is a tremendous amount of information on the internet when used selectively.  Search terms used on the five web sites were: Iced Tea, Ice Tea, tea iced, cold tea, cool tea (with ice), tea and ice, tea with ice.

Not everything on the internet is true.  Do a basic Google search for iced tea history, and you may read that the first recipe appeared in Marion Cabell Tyree's Housekeeping in Old Virginia in 1879.  Some websites contend that it was introduced by Richard Blechynden at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.

As early as 1842 descriptions for tea to be cooled with ice then sweetened., as did a recipe in Timbs. [GB New; Timbs 1869] A northern cookbook, Buckeye Cookery, first published in 1876, gave what may be a ‘sweet tea’ - the sugar and tea appear heated at the same time, a method not appearing in other 19th century recipes I’ve read -

Iced Tea
Prepare tea in the morning, making it stronger and sweeter than usual; strain and pour into a clean stone jug or glass bottle, and set aside in the ice-chest until ready to use. Drink from goblets without cream. Serve ice broken in small pieces on a platter nicely garnished with well-washed grape-leaves. Iced tea may be prepared from either green or black alone, but it is considered an improvement to mix the two.

A literary reference from 1860: "Last summer we got in the habit of taking the tea iced, and really thought it better than when hot." [GB Robinson] 

Several accounts by travelers in Russia in the 1840s described how tea was cooled by ice and served with sugar and lemon in every town during the summer. [GB New]‘Russian Iced Tea’ or ‘Iced Tea a la russe’ recipes appeared later in Fannie Farmer, Aunt Babette, Boston Cook Book and other cookbooks.

Some early references were medicinal. Several times Dr. Dewees, in his 1854 book, recommended cold tea and in Chambers, under 'Thirst’ - "Cold tea, without milk or sugar, is the most satisfying drink under these circumstances." However, an article in the Inter Ocean detailed the perils of iced tea. [GB; MOA; NN]

“Iced tea is the latest beverage” proclaimed a Maine newspaper. [NN Bangor 1872] “Iced tea is constantly growing in favor, and is now considered a standard beverage in many homes.” [NN Boston 1888] Iced tea was “liberally provided during the warm weather” in the Senate cloak-rooms, and yet that year “the use of iced tea as a summer drink has not yet attracted the attention it deserves…”[GB American; Leslie]

In 1897, “Ice-cream and ice-tea are terms now commonly used for what are properly iced-cream and iced-tea.” [GB Raub] The no ‘d’ ice tea had actually been used earlier. [GB New 1842]

An early non-brewed recipe stated “...the best iced tea is not steeped in hot water. Just try “steeping” it for a few hours in cold water, using a little more tea than for the hot beverage and having it strong enough to be weakened with ice-water when it is to be served.” [NN Bangor 1880] It was also the method found in Aunt Babette’s. [FA 1889]

From a 1775 London dictionary: Cold’tea. Brandy. [EC Ash] A century later an article recounted a Senator’s stay at the Ocean House, Newport which was ‘strictly prohibition.’ He was told to go to the Casino and ask for iced tea. “But I don’t drink cold iced tea,” interrupted the senator. “Of course not, you only call for it. Don’t you understand? They’ll bring you brandy and soda.” [NN Sentinel 1886]

Newspaper articles in the later part of the 19th century discussed the virtues of either green or black teas and the best method to prepare iced tea.  One even contained a poem to Iced Tea. [NN Daily Picayune, 1897]

Advertisements offered free iced tea samples in the tea shops. “As usual, delicious ice tea served free at the Tea Store today.” [NN Macon 1896] Remember that the next you order an ice tea.

Web Sites Searched
EC Eighteenth Century [Gale, in libraries]
FA Feeding America cookbooks/index.html
GB Google Books
MOA Making of America
MW [1774-2006]
NN Nineteenth Century Newspapers [Gale– in libraries]

Works Cited
American Druggist July 1884 p130
Ash, John. New and Complete Dictionary. London: 1775
Aunt Babette’s Cook Book. Cincinnati: Block Pub., 1889 p465
Chambers's Encyclopaedia. Phila:  Lippincott & Co 1872-73. 
Dewees, Wm. Treatise on the diseases of females. Phila: Blanchard, 1854. 10th
Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly June 1884 p645
New Monthly Magazine. 1842 review of Kohl’s 1842. p144
Raub, Albert. Helps in the Use of Good English. Phila: 1897 p 248
Robinson, Solon.  How to Live.  NY: Fowler & Wells, 1860. p 157
Timbs, John. The Year-book of Facts in Science and Art. London: 1869 p159
Tyree, Marion. Housekeeping in Old Virginia. 1878 p64
Wilcox, Estelle. Buckeye Cookery. Minn: 1877 p119
Atchison Daily Globe (Ks) July 16, 1897 p4
Bangor Daily Whig & Courier (Me) Aug 24, 1872; Aug 9, 1880
Boston Daily Advertiser (Ma) June 28, 1888 p4
Daily Picayune (New Orleans, La) Aug 7, 1897 p7
Inter Ocean (Chicago, Il) July 25, 1878 p2
Macon Telegraph (Ga.) Aug 1, 1896 p5
Milwaukee Sentinel (Wi) Aug 22, 1886 – from: Albany Evening Journal