The Hot and Hazy Beginnings of Iced Tea

June 6th, 2019

In honour of June being ‘National Iced Tea’ month, I decided to look a little further into the ubiquitous iced tea, the facts, and fiction of this innocent little drink. And since we tea folk do love our legends, legend has a wonderful story about the invention of iced tea.

On a beautiful, wretchedly hot June day in 1904, a tea vendor at the St. Louis World’s Fair could not sell his wares. Unsurprisingly, very few people wanted to sip hot tea on a day that was equally hot as Hades; experiencing a heat wave beyond what many had seen before.

But Richard Blechynden, a vendor of Indian Black Teas, had a business saving idea. Purchasing a block of ice from another vendor receiving a food delivery, Blechynden started serving his brewed black tea over ice. Providing his fine, black teas in a cold and refreshing manner was a life saver for patrons who desperately needed a cool drink – certainly not something piping hot.

Because of this, legend has baptized Blechynden as the ‘Father of Iced Tea’. But was it really his invention? Or was he simply brilliant for remembering a cold tea recipe he may have tried or read elsewhere at an earlier time? While invention may be the mother of necessity, memory too can be a lifesaver.

There are written accounts of recipes for iced tea that pre-date this historic event by decades. Perhaps the St. Louis World’s Fair Iced Tea was not a sudden invention – but more of a savvy move of a panicked vendor using an old recipe from his past. It would make sense a tea vendor would have come across a cold brew method or two in his travels through the deep south.

Specifically, I point to book published in 1876 called ‘The Original Buckeye Cook Book and Practical Housekeeping: A Compilation of Choice and Carefully Tested Recipes’. A woman named Estelle Woods Wilcox details her original recipe for an iced tea – using a Green tea from China – and almost 30 years before the St. Louis World’s Fair.

At the time, America was dominated by the Chinese tea market, and green tea was the best seller in the American mid-west. Also, we must point out that Woods Wilcox was not the only person writing recipes for iced tea either. An iced tea, derived from Sun Tea had been popular in the southern States for some time – so the brew was prolific.

Most iced tea were originally created using the ‘Sun Tea’ method of steeping – basically in the sun or just sitting out on your counter. And while there are many methods to steep cold tea, ‘Refrigerator Tea’ is a safer method as it removes any concern of bacterial issues.

So in honour of National Iced Tea Month, in the vein of Mrs. Woods Wilcox’s use of green tea in her recipe, in a salute to the brilliance of Mr. Blechynden’s business saving idea, and because I am a germaphobe – here is a refrigerator iced tea method for you to try.

Happy sipping.
~ Tx



Refrigerator Iced Tea

I love this recipe but it really depends on the size of the brewing vessel you are using. I have 2 liter brown Ball Mason jars I use for everything, so I created this recipe for 2 liters of tea. I always make it the night before, that way I can simply remove the bags or basket after brewing and allow the tea to sit in the refrigerator for use throughout the day.

You will notice that I mix my green and black tea. You don’t have to; this is simply a preference after drinking gallons of tea to figure out what we like best at our house.

NOTE: this makes for a strong brew, which is what you want since the melting ice will water down the tea; and quite quickly on super-hot days.


• 2 Liter Brewing Vessel (I use Ball Mason jars – I am infatuated with the brown ones right now)
• 4 Jasmine Tea Bags (or 4 teaspoons of loose leaf Jasmine Tea)
• 4 Black Tea Bags (or 4 teaspoons of Argentinian Black tea is my go-to)
• Brewing basket or fillable tea bags (if using loose leaf tea)
• 2 Liters of FILTERED water (a Brita or the like)


1) This is so easy it’s incredible. Place the tea bags in the jar, leaving the tags hanging out or use a brew basket you can remove easily.
2) Fill with filtered water. Right up to the rim.
3) Tighten lid and place in the refrigerator overnight.
4) Next morning, remove bags or basket. Screw the lid back on and place in the refrigerator until you want to use it.

Whenever you are feeling the need for some lovely iced tea, grab a tall glass and fill with ice, and pour over your fresh brew.

While I will *sometimes* use a simple syrup if I am feeling saucy and want a little sweetness, I find this recipe perfect for drinking unadorned. Keep some sliced lemons handy for guests. To be honest, I don’t know what to say when asked how long it is good for in the fridge – it’s usually gone by end of day.


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