Friday June 4, 2010 | 6 comments
The story of our nation’s independence begins with tea. At the celebrated Boston Tea Party of 1773, three shiploads of tea were dumped into the harbor in protest over high taxes on the tea being re-exported from Britain to the American colonies. This, you may think, is the most notable contribution to tea in our country’s history, but, in fact, the most notable contribution the U.S. has made to global tea culture has been popularizing iced tea.
This month we celebrate National Iced Tea Month. In the 100 years since iced tea was invented here, consumption of iced tea in the U.S. has grown to over 40 billion cups per year. According to The Tea Association of the U.S., about 80 percent of the tea consumed in our country is served iced. The average American drinks about seven gallons of iced tea per year.
The big surge in iced tea’s popularity came in the 1950s and 1960s, and along with that, standardization and processes for making a consistent product. Coincidentally, tea bags were first used about the same time as iced tea came about. Instant teas, along with tea bags, made iced tea easier to make at home. For our convenience-loving nation, this too helped boost iced tea’s popularity.
Americans have a 100-year history of being served iced tea in restaurants. Today, industrial brewers manufactured by Bunn are the most prevalent iced tea brewers in coffeehouses and restaurants across the U.S. However, the focus on convenience and consistency has meant less of a focus on the quality of the end product. Since the 1980’s, as the appreciation and demand for higher-quality tea products began surging, so has the requirement for premium iced tea among restaurateurs. Many menus now offer gourmet iced tea options, and coffeehouses generally offer either premium iced tea drinks or ready-to-drink products.
The challenge, of course, is to raise the quality of the product, without complicating the process. Several premium tea companies are now offering full-leaf or loose-leaf options that work in industrial brewing systems. There are multiple methods, ranging from making a tea concentrate that gets mixed with cold water, to straight hot brewing and chilling, to simply cold-brewing. Last month, we launched an iced tea program for food service that fresh brews five of our whole-leaf teas in a Bunn Coffee Brewer and serves them iced. And this month, at World Tea Expo, we’re previewing our “Steep & Chill”, for steeping loose iced tea and spa water at home, which will be available in time for this year’s 4th of July holiday. Consider these as The Tea Spot’s efforts toward trying to make summer a little tastier and a lot healthier. As we’ve always said, we’re here to make loose-leaf tea your everyday luxury, and now we’re doing that over ice!