The quintessential English tradition of "taking tea" was forever changed 100 years ago, when plantation owner Richard Blechynden was inspired to pour brewed tea over ice at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, creating an American phenomenon. It was a particularly hot summer day and customers were uninterested in the hot tea Blechynden was serving, so he poured the delicious beverage over ice. Since then, people around the world have delighted in tasty, refreshing iced tea and have made it one of America's favorite beverages.
Today, iced tea continues to be one of the country's most beloved beverages, especially among those looking for a refreshing antioxidant boost. Drinking a tall glass of iced tea may offer more than just a thirst quencher. Many population studies and other scientific research suggest a connection between drinking tea regularly and a variety of potential health benefits, including:
- Cardiovascular health benefits, including reduced risk of heart attack, stroke and other forms of heart disease
- Reduced risk of certain cancers, including colorectal and skin cancers
- Benefits to bone health, as researchers have noted a correlation between long-time tea drinkers and stronger bones
- Oral health benefits, as researchers believe certain compounds in tea may inhibit bacteria that cause bad breath and plaque, and the fluoride content in tea supports healthy tooth enamel
- Healthy immune function, which researchers believe results from a compound in black tea called L-theanine which may support the immune system's natural resistance to infection and perhaps even tumors.
"Research suggests that tea drinking may offer a wide array of potential health benefits in a great-tasting and convenient beverage," says Joseph Simrany, President of the Tea Council of the USA. "Why not celebrate iced tea's centennial by toasting a tall glass to your health throughout National Iced Tea Month this June?" Brew What's Good For You Studies have shown that freshly brewed iced tea contains the highest levels of flavonoids, the antioxidants in tea. To brew up the best iced tea on the block, follow these simple steps for a pitcher flowing with flavonoids:
- For small quantities, bring fresh cold tap water to a full, rolling boil. Use one teaspoonful of loose tea or one tea bag per cup (five to eight ounces) of water. Pour the boiling water over the tea. Brew three to five minutes. If you prefer your tea less strong, add more water after the brewing period. Pour over ice.
- For large quantities, prepare a concentrate as follows: Bring one quart of cold water to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and add 8-10 tea bags per quart of brewed tea desired. Steep 3-5 minutes and pour over remaining cold water or ice cubes to prepare quantity desired. To serve, pour into tall glass filled with ice, garnish and sweeten as desired. (Note: this recipe uses fifty-percent more tea than used to make hot tea to allow for dilution by ice.) Celebrate iced tea's 100th anniversary with creative variations on the classic iced tea recipe:
- Mix a cup of orange juice into a pitcher of freshly-brewed iced tea and toss in a few orange and lemon slices for a citrus-y kick and added vitamin C
- Or puree a handful of raspberries, stir it into a pitcher of iced tea, add some whole raspberries and a few sprigs of fresh mint for a refreshingly sweet warm-weather treat
- Why not brew up a pitcher of iced green tea and stir in some honey for a touch of sweetness?
No matter how you prefer to drink it -- iced or hot, black or green -- tea may be the quintessential healthful brew. And with the body of research supporting tea's potential health benefits continuously pouring in, toast to your health this June with a tall glass of refreshing iced tea.