When we ran a poll last month on our Bombay Outdoors Facebook page asking what our fans’ favorite patio drink was, we were a bit surprised by the passion of the response. More than 22,000 people voted in the poll. And just about every drink you can possibly imagine made it onto the list.
The overwhelming winner? Iced Tea with 11,960 votes! Second place was ice water with 5,753 votes. Beer, the first alcoholic beverage listed, came in sixth with a mere 533 votes.
So in honor of National Iced Tea Day, which is June 10 every year, we’re going to delve more deeply into the drink served everywhere from Savannah to Singapore, a drink so popular it’s got its own holiday, Iced Tea.
What’s in a Name?
Real tea is made with tea leaves from an evergreen shrub that’s natural habitat is the forest. The tea plant, or Camellia sinensis, can grow over 50 ft. high, but is usually kept below 6 ft. by pruning.
There are thousands of varieties of teas in the world, varying by the region, the time of year picked, and processing method. The main types are black, green, white, and oolong.
If it’s not from Camellia sinensis, it’s not technically a tea.
So although they can be delicious and we call them tea, drinks made with herbs like chammomile or hibbiscus are tisanes, not tea.
Iced Tea History
The origins of tea are steeped in legend. We know it was discovered in China more than 4,500 years ago and has been a popular drink there ever since. First used for medicinal purposes, well-known Chinese philosophers and physicians wrote about its curative powers and it was even used as currency in the outer provinces.
Tea seeds were brought to Japan in the sixth century, where it became increasingly important in religious rituals. Tea was mainly brewed for monks and then spread to the aristocracy and warrior classes as it was believed to “make one’s life more full and complete.”
Tea spread to Europe In the early 17th century, when a ship of the Dutch East India Company brought the first green tea leaves to Amsterdam from China. Tea traveled to France by 1636 and to England during the 1650s, when it was introduced through coffee houses. From there it was introduced to British colonies in America and elsewhere.
The rest, as they say, is history. To learn more, click the link.
To Sweet or Not to Sweet
Iced tea is a popular beverage across the world but the taste varies greatly by country. For example, in some parts of Europe it is sold carbonated, like soda pop, and in Japan unsweetened green tea is commonly sold in vending machines.
Indian iced tea (Chai) is available in many places around the world and features Indian spices while the Thai version is sweetened with sugar and condensed milk and then served over ice with evaporated milk and coconut milk (it’s delicious!)
Here in the U.S. “sweet tea” is the norm in the south but not in other parts of the country, where it is usually served unsweetened.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, these first three recipes are for you. The first is a simple sweet tea recipe from Southern Living. Just remember, as the article says, one way to let people know you weren’t raised in the South is to declare the tea to be “too sweet.”
The next two recipes are for Thai iced tea, my personal splurge. I first tried Thai iced tea in a small family-run restaurant in California and got hooked. These recipes are both good, but the first iced tea is much easier than the second one.
If you prefer your tea unsweetened, Chow.com has a very basic iced tea recipe, and if you’re feeling more adventurous, you can see 20 iced tea recipes from allrecipes.com. The Cherry Ginger Infused Tea caught my eye and I’m definitely going to try it!
Do you have a favorite iced tea recipe? Let us know and be sure to have a nice, tall glass of iced tea out on the patio today!