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sweet-tea-150x150I’ll admit it right up front. I’m not much of a fan of sweet tea. But that’s okay. The many fans of this syrupy variation on black tea don’t really need my approval. What I didn’t realize until recently is that there’s apparently something of a controversy brewing about this concoction that’s said to have got its start somewhere in the American South.

Which is what is the tricky part – determining exactly where sweet tea did originate. As the Charleston City Paper recently noted, “the Greater Summerville/Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce officially launched the Sweet Tea Trail with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.” This matters to the world at large because Summerville has taken to claiming itself as The Birthplace of Sweet Tea, has trademarked this catchy phrase and even begun advertising itself as such.

What the article goes on to note, citing a few earlier articles that are part and parcel of said controversy, is that this claim is apparently not true. Tea was actually grown in Summerville between 1888 and 1915 (and is grown in the Charleston area to this day) but the claim that tea was first iced there in 1890 at a reunion of Confederate veterans there doesn’t work for everyone.

After addressing the alleged deficiencies of the claims for Summerville, the author of the article goes on to speculate on where sweet tea might have actually originated. He cites a 2008 book called Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue, whose authors found accounts of something resembling sweet tea as far back as 1868 – and in the North, if you can imagine such a thing.

After that this notion apparently started to take hold and, as the article notes, “iced tea recipes are rife in cookbooks from the 1880s and 1890s,” many of which recipes advocated adding sugar to the mix. However, those who are fond of picking nits might note that sweetened iced tea is not quite the same as sweet tea, the latter of which is prepared in a very specific manner.

All of which goes on at a little more length and in a little more detail than yours truly cares to know about, especially given that this is a drink I find mildly appalling. But if you’re interested in all of the nitty-gritty details I’d encourage you to take a look at the article.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Sugar cubes (stock image)

Sugar cubes (stock image)

I’ve never been particularly keen on sweetened tea. I don’t know if that puts me in the minority of tea drinkers but the fact is that there are plenty of people who do like their tea sweetened. Enough to apparently make it worthwhile to do a research study on the topic. Or a bunch of research studies. Here are a few thoughts on some of the more noteworthy ones of these that I was able to locate.

It’s not about sweetened tea, in the strictest sense of the word, but a research study focused on green tea candy is close enough for me. As students of mouthwash and toothpaste commercials may know, gingiva is another word for our gums. The study was carried out some time ago by German researchers, who found “that the oral application of green tea catechins and polyphenols might have a positive influence on the inflammatory reaction of periodontal structures.” Which is as good a reason to eat tea candy as any, I guess.

Sticking with the dental theme for a moment, another study took a look at “the relationship between caries levels and sweet tea consumption.” While us Yanks might think first of the American South when we hear the term sweet tea, this study was actually carried out by British researchers on Iraqi sweet tea drinkers. Their probably not so surprising findings were that “exposure to sugar increases the intake sugar and the risk of dental caries.”

I’ve never been all that keen on flavored teas either, but even if I were I’m not sure what I’d think about a mix of sweet pepper, apple and black tea. But that didn’t stop Chinese researchers, a few years ago, from trying to make “a new composite health drink” out of these very same elements.

Not surprisingly, given tea’s reputation for containing potentially health-giving compounds, some people are driven to wonder what happens to those compounds when you add sweeteners and whatnot to the mix. A few years back Indian researchers rolled out a study that looked at the influence of milk and sugar on the antioxidant potential of black tea. Their results seemed to be somewhat mixed, but for the most part the milk and sugar appeared to have negative effects.

As for the effects of honey on antioxidants, well, don’t fret. Portuguese researchers took on this question in a study published earlier this year and found that honey “potentiates the antioxidant activity of lemon-flavoured black tea, increasing the reducing power and lipid peroxidation inhibition properties, as also the antioxidant contents such as phenolics, flavonoids and organic acids including ascorbic acid.”

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

(stock image)

(stock image)

From time to time some publication will weigh in on the worst iced teas in all of history – or something to that effect. Perhaps I exaggerate just a bit, but the fact remains that all iced tea is not created equal. You might even go so far as to say that many iced teas contain more sugar and various other ingredients than they do tea.

A recent article from a New York paper didn’t pull any punches when it presented a list of 10 Iced Teas That Are Terrible For You. The names of these iced teas will be very familiar to anyone who’s ever set foot in an American grocery store or driven past a fast food outlet. As noted above, the “terrible” part of these delights seems mostly to be sugar and none of these beverages skimps on it. One 20-ounce bottled tea from a well-know tea company contains 55 grams of the stuff, which is just about 14 teaspoonfuls.

A while back Men’s Health magazine weighed in with a few thoughts in an article titled The 20 Unhealthiest Drinks in America – Exposed! In addition to noting that the Worst Drink in America was a milk shake from a certain well-known ice cream chain, they offered their opinions on the Worst Tea-Like Substance and the Worst Iced Tea. The honoree in the latter case was a bottled tea that contained a whopping 20 teaspoonfuls of sugar per 20-ounce bottle.

The article also noted that “your tea of choice should carry no more than 15 grams of sugar per 20-ounce serving.” I would go one step further and question why iced tea needs any sugar at all. This might seem like a downright heresy in those parts of the country (the South) where tea and sugar seem to be downright inseparable, but it’s not really that farfetched of an idea.

If the truth be told just about any tea that can be consumed hot can also be turned into iced tea. It stands to reason that the better the quality of the tea you’re using the better tasting the end product. I’ve been making my own homemade iced tea for quite some time now and I couldn’t imagine adding sugar to it – or drinking bottled iced tea, for that matter. But there are teas I’d rank as undrinkable whether hot or iced and I can see where the logical course of action might be to make them more palatable by adding something sweet.

If you’d like to start steering away from those sugary tea-flavored drinks, the best strategy could be summarized quite simply with the words time and tea. It’s likely to take some time for your overstimulated taste buds to get used to the subtleties of unsweetened tea, but you can speed this process along by using the best possible tea that you can get your hands on.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

As I write this, we’re approaching the midpoint of summer, and if that’s not a prime time for iced tea drinking, I’m not sure what is. It’s hard to say with any certainty who might have been the first to come up with iced tea. But we here in America are enthusiastic fans of it and have been for a while. As the common wisdom goes, at least 80 percent of the tea we drink here is of the iced variety.

Iced Tea and Accessories (ETS image)

Iced Tea and Accessories (ETS image)

Which can take many different forms, including bottled tea of every imaginable flavor and variety, the syrupy sweet tea that’s favored in the American South and occasionally something less common, something like a cold-brewed homemade iced tea made from a fine premium Japanese or Chinese green tea variety.

Iced tea has never meant just one thing to all people and if you take a casual glance through the historical record you’ll find evidence to support this claim. I was able to find references to iced tea going back as far as 1835 and I suspect that someone engaging on a serious research project might be able to go back further.

In an 1868 volume titled Handbook of Practical Cookery, they’re a bit sparse on their instructions for making iced tea, noting that it “is made as iced coffee” and assuming that the reader knows the formula for that particular beverage. The Illinois Cook Book, from 1881, gives a little more detail, recommending that the tea be made strong and allowed to cool before adding ice, sweetening to taste and lemon optional.

An 1890 volume called The White House Cook Book cautions against using sugar and milk in iced tea, notes that green or black tea (or both!) can be used and also recommends making it strong and well ahead of time. The Every-day Cook-book and Encyclopedia of Practical Recipes, from 1889, gives similar recommendations but votes in favor of sweetening the drink and claims that mixing green and black tea is an improvement.

The Hearthstone, or, Life at Home, from 1886, goes a little more in depth, suggesting that readers heat the dry tea leaves first, then scald a teapot (preferably earthen), add the “first boiling of water” from a freshly drawn kettle and steep for no more than five minutes. The kicker here is the recommendation to add an equal amount of milk to the tea, unless using lemon. Lemon also figures in a recipe in The Home Cook Book, from 1876. Iced Tea a la Russe calls for one cup of tea, ice and the juice of half a lemon. If it sounds naggingly familiar, look here.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Iced Tea by Shangri La - Traditional Black Brew Bags (ETS image)

Iced Tea by Shangri La – Traditional Black Brew Bags (ETS image)

It occurred to me recently that I’ve seen the type of tea that we drink chilled referred to as both “ice tea” and “iced tea.” It’s not something I ever paid close attention to and I’m pretty sure that the latter spelling is the more popular but I thought it merited looking into a little more closely.

Nowadays it seems that everything on the Internet begins with Wikipedia. While I wouldn’t use it for anything even close to serious research, it can be useful sometimes as a jumping off point. So what does Wikipedia have to say on the question of “iced tea” or “ice tea”? Well, given the fact that the article title is listed as the former, with the other version in parentheses, it’s probably safe to say that we know where things stand. According to another Internet giant, the “iced” version brings back a total of 16 million search results, while “ice tea” returns a mere 15 million. I’m not sure what that tells us, if anything.

If we look to the supposed experts on this sort of thing, it would seem that “iced” is preferred, while “ice” is generally considered an acceptable alternative. So say the good people at Merriam-Webster and the exalted Oxford English Dictionary, who apparently only added “iced tea” as a word in late 2012. At the Grammarist, they claim that “ice” has become more common, even though there are still many who consider it to be incorrect.

If we dip into the deep, dark depths of history we find that “iced” appears to be common in some of the early references to the beverage. Such as the 1905 book, The Original Buckeye Cook Book and Practical Housekeeping: A Compilation of Choice and Carefully Tested Recipes, which recommends cold-brewing iced tea starting the night before and adding ice just before serving. More than an quarter of a century earlier, in Housekeeping in Old Virginia, “iced tea” is also the term of choice and the recommendation is to use green tea to make it.

If you’re counting on the big guns of the tea world to provide some wisdom and guidance on this matter, then you may be disappointed in at least one case. I wasn’t able to discern the rhyme or reason behind Lipton’s decision to use “iced” on some of their products on “ice” on some others, but it seems that the latter version turns up more often on their products outside of the United States. Here’s an example.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

As we move past the first day of summer and the July 4th holiday and the temperatures continue to soar, it seems like a pretty good time for Arnold Palmer. Or should I say an Arnold Palmer?

It’s probably safe to say that Palmer, one of the greatest golfers of them all, is looking at age 83 at his best days in the sport in the rear view mirror. At his corporate Web site, he’s referred to as a golf immortal, sportsman, business exec, ad spokesman, aviator, and much more. But for purposes of this article his primary claim to fame is the beverage to which he gave his name.

Arnold Palmer Tee (screen capture from site)

Arnold Palmer Tee (screen capture from site)

As most people are probably aware, the drink known as an Arnold Palmer is a mix of equal parts of tea and lemonade. The facts on exactly how this delicacy came to be tend to be a little sparse and those accounts that are available tend to have the ring of legend about them. The Wikipedia version, which cites several books, suggests that Palmer was a fan of this concoction already when he happened to order the mixture during a tournament in 1960 at the bar of the Cherry Hills Country Club, in Denver. As the story goes, a woman who overheard all this ordered “that Palmer drink” and the rest was history.

Which makes for a nice story but it’s one that definitely has the feel of a myth. Earlier this year, an ABC News report quoted Palmer himself, who told a story not unlike the one mentioned above, but claimed that it all took place “at a Palm Springs, Calif., restaurant in the 1960s.” As to whether George Washington actually tossed a dollar across the Potomac, Palmer didn’t offer an opinion. But seriously.

In any event, it appears that the fame of Palmer’s namesake drink didn’t come with any fortune attached until around the turn of the century. Nowadays, Palmer has teamed up with the Arizona Beverage Company, who claim that the drink racked up about $200 million in sales in 2012 and is the fourth best-selling iced tea in the United States.

For more about the commercial version of the Arnold Palmer, cleverly dubbed Arnold Palmer Tee, look here. If you’re looking for something along the same lines but with a little bit of a kick, you might want to investigate the Arnold Palmer Hard Iced Tea Lemonade Malt Beverage.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

It’s kind of sunny here in my part of southern Arizona right now, so much so that grown men are weeping and the trees are bursting into flames. Perhaps I’m exaggerating just a bit, but what better time to revisit the topic of sun tea, something that was touched on several years ago, in these very pages. Look here and here for all the details.

I thought it might be interesting to see what sun tea-related stuff had turned up in the four years or so since those articles came out, so here we go. One of the first things I ran across was a recent article from the Yuma newspaper about…sun tea, no less. For those not in the know, Yuma, Arizona is said by some to be one of the sunniest cities in the entire United States and is certainly among the hottest. It’s a place where you could probably whip up a batch of sun tea in about fifteen minutes. The article is mostly a primer on how to prepare the stuff, without any mention made of the possible downsides discussed in the previous articles.

Solar powered sun tea jar (screen capture from site)

Solar powered sun tea jar (screen capture from site)

Of course if you want to know anything about anything, you go to the ultimate authority – and that would be Martha Stewart. The great one does not actually weigh in on sun tea at her site, but rather there is a simple recipe for a four-hour version of the aforementioned. Over at the popular food site Serious Eats, they give a recipe for sun tea and recount their experiences testing two different types of tea – “the first, standard Lipton orange pekoe and cut black in individual bags, and second, hand-filled sachets of Organic Golden Monkey black tea.” Not surprisingly, the latter gave the best results.

As the gadget columnist for this fine site, I suppose I’d be remiss if I didn’t make mention of a few sun tea-related gadgets of note. Starting with this Solar Powered Sun Tea Jar that actually claims to use the power of the sun to stir the tea while it’s steeping. On the hoity-toity front, you can get a Sun Tea Kit from the good people at Williams-Sonoma for a mere pittance – that’s just $69.95, sports fans.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Having lived in the Southeastern part of the U.S. for several years, I never quite managed to understand the phenomenon known as “sweet tea.” Now, after moving away, I think I finally get it. In short, it’s sort of a brown Kool-Aid, especially when made with the teas that have fruit flavors added to them.

Awhile back, southern gal and author CurtissAnn Matlock showed us her secrets to proper sweetened “ice tea.” (Image from CurtissAnn Matlock, used with permission)

Awhile back, southern gal and author CurtissAnn Matlock showed us her secrets to proper sweetened “ice tea.” (Image from CurtissAnn Matlock, used with permission)

A typical “sweet tea” recipe:

  • Steep up a double strength batch of your black or green tea of choice (usually about half a gallon).
  • Add a cup of sugar to the hot tea and stir well to dissolve.
  • Fill a pitcher of sufficient size (a gallon or more) with ice cubes.
  • Pour the hot tea into the pitcher over the ice cubes.

Some “sweet teas” I have tried when we first moved here tasted more like a five-pound bag of sugar was added in. That plus the fruit taste (raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, etc.) makes for that “brown Kool-Aid” experience.

Kool-Aid was something we drank a lot of when I was one of those little “rug rats” (or “crumb crunchers” is another term) running around outside and then rushing inside to get a cool beverage. The fruit flavor suited my kiddie tastebuds, and the sugar would hit my bloodstream and recharge me for more running around in the yard.

In my adult years, I lost my taste for so much sweetness and changed to drinking my cold tea both without ice and without sugar. It refreshes much better that way and avoids that Kool-Aid impression. I also don’t get an excess of sugar in my system, not having that childhood, high-gear metabolism.

“Sweet tea” is most definitely a style of tea enjoyment where swigging is encouraged and expected, just as I swigged that Kool-Aid. And now that that has been explained, start swigging. Enjoy!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Iced Tea by Shangri La - Traditional Black Brew Bags

Iced Tea by Shangri La – Traditional Black Brew Bags

When it comes to tea, certain seasons are known for certain things. I’m drawing a blank when it comes to autumn and winter, though it’s safe to say those are times when the warming qualities of a nice hot cup of tea are much appreciated.

We are currently passing through spring, perhaps best known for being a time when the first tea harvests of the year take place. This gives us shincha, a Japanese term meaning “new tea,” and some of the finer of these varieties are among the most coveted of all teas.

Right now, the afternoon temperature in my part of the world stands at 92 degrees (with 5 percent humidity – truly a dry heat). So it seems very summery, even though summer officially does not commence for almost two months.

All of which means iced tea season is approaching. Never mind that for some of us, it’s always iced tea season. I’ve already written a few articles about my curious tea drinking habits and though my Esteemed Editor will surely cringe, I’ll direct you to one of them.

Rather than reinventing the wheel and writing yet another article about bold new ways to prepare iced tea and whatnot, I thought I’d direct you to a few of the fine articles already in the archives here as well as touching on some miscellaneous iced tea-related bits.

Such as iced tea consumption in the United States. I don’t doubt that Americans drink a lot of iced tea and that the majority of what we drink is of the iced variety. What I wonder about is that in the seven years I’ve been writing about tea the only number I’ve seen given for the percentage of tea we drink is 85%. Maybe this number hasn’t changed even one percent in seven years or maybe I’m just looking in the wrong place.

Then I got to thinking about the term iced tea itself and wondering when it first came to be. I found a travel book from 1845 that commented on the iced tea, coffee and chocolate in Naples. Three years earlier, a writer in the London Quarterly Review noted that the Russians cooled all of their warm weather drinks with ice, including tea. But the oldest reference I was found (in my not completely thorough search) was a passing mention of iced tea in the 1827 volume, Domestic Economy, and Cookery, for Rich and Poor.

If you’d like to brush up on various facets of iced tea knowledge you can check out the articles at this site by going here. Among some highlights, an article that takes a look at a few brewing methods, one that looks at iced tea tidbits and trivia, and an examination of the critical sweetened vs. unsweetened issue.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Ti Kuan Yin, chilled (Photo source: stock image)

Ti Kuan Yin, chilled (Photo source: stock image)

It is the wrong half of the year to even be talking about iced tea. I get it. I’m wondering if my Esteemed Editor will even be able to read through another piece that addresses my slightly offbeat tea-related quirk. I won’t go over the basics of it again, since I already did that here, but suffice to say that I’ve totally forsaken hot tea in favor of the iced stuff. Yes, totally. I can’t even remember the last time I drank hot tea.

But it’s time to pause for a quick definition of terms. To be honest “iced tea” isn’t really even suited to this situation. It’s a term that, for me at least, conjures up visions of those tall glasses, full up with ice cubes and tea and then there are those long spoons and of course there’s (cringe) plenty of sugar and perhaps a slice of lemon.

Blah. For my purposes “iced” tea is really just tea that’s not served hot but is kept on ice. I actually find that it tastes best when I’ve let it warm up just a bit. But “cool tea” just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

In any event, I realize that this puts me way out of sync with the rest of the northern hemisphere, where the cold winds are now blowing and the snowflakes are doing what they do and so forth. I know that I should be huddled around the wood stove with a cup of hot chocolate or perhaps some warm cider or mulled spiced wine or perhaps even some (double cringe) coffee, but it ain’t gonna happen. My cool tea works just fine for me, thank you very much.

No, it doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that I live in the relatively balmy environs of southern Arizona. It’s winter here for us as well, although those of you from more brisk climes might not quite recognize it as such and might even scoff at calling it that. But the fact is that when you’ve spent a good chunk of the year acclimating to temperatures that are only a few degrees cooler than the surface of the sun, what some might call a balmy winter takes on a totally different perspective.

In closing, I’d like to say that I’ll come to my senses at some point and start drinking hot tea again but I have to be honest. I don’t see it happening anytime soon. Sorry, Esteemed Editor.

[Note from the Esteemed Editor: Aaaaaaack!]

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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