USA: The Cool Origin of Iced Tea

January 15, 2015

American Tea Rituals

We’ve explored tea rituals from around the world, and now it’s finally time to bring our journey home to the United States. From the Boston Tea Party in 1773, to the invention of the tea bag by New Yorker Thomas Sullivan in 1908, Americans have always found innovative uses for tea. But one of the most uniquely American tea rituals has to be the preparation and serving of iced tea.

Tea ritual was brought to the United States in colonial times by British settlers. Afternoon tea became a weekly social practice, especially in the Southern states. But after a long day toiling through the region’s hot and humid summers, piping hot tea didn’t have the same appeal for Southerner workers as for the Brits. Southerners wanted something cool to keep themselves refreshed and productive.

Iced tea began debuting at parties in the 1800s, but at the time ice was still rare and expensive, having to be cut and pulled by hand from frozen lakes in the winter. The advent of refrigeration and ice machines in the 20th century made ice cheap, and widely available. Soon iced tea was easy to make and affordable.

To this day iced tea remains a treat for many Americans. The drink is still enjoyed year-round in the Southeastern US where it is usually served sweet. But no matter where you are in the States, you’ll find iced tea used as both a way to relax, as well as a tool to keep energy and focus up!

Journey’s End: What Is Your Ritual?

Still image of a woman sitting with a book and a cup of tea.

Thanks for coming along with us as we’ve discovered tea productivity rituals across history and the globe. While many rituals are ancient in origin, they all exist in some form to this day, and continue to produce a focused and productive state of minds of billions of tea drinkers.

What are your tea rituals? Do you drink tea at a specific time of day or with a specific meal like the English? Or do you keep a pot ready throughout the day like the Russians? Maybe, like the Japanese, you see a cup of tea as much more than a cup of tea and take great care in the ritual of making tea.

Whatever your method, keep in mind that the effects of caffeine are only a part of tea's potential to focus your mind, calm your senses, and enhance your productivity. Having a tea ritual can have a huge impact on your habits and workflow. Don’t believe us? Try taking time for a tea ritual for a at least a few minutes every day for a week. You might be surprised by what you find!

Check out our other posts in the global tea rituals series:

Persia, Tradition steeped in melting pot

England, The sun never sets on the British tea empire

China, Dynasties Rise & Fall, Tea Ensures

 Neighboring Practices, Japan & Russia

Tea's Western Expansion - Mongolia & Vietnam