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Loving Iced Tea

Iced teas have come a long way since they were introduced in 1904 at the St. Louis World's Fair. Today, you can get bottled iced teas infused with a variety of flavors. So the editors at Food & Wine magazine recently conducted a taste test of more than 20 types of bottled iced teas.

Grace Parisi, the senior test kitchen associate for the magazine, visits The Early Show to share the findings and two simple recipes for you to brew, perfect for a Labor Day cookout.

Like so many good things, iced tea was originally discovered by accident. During one miserably hot day at the St. Louis World's Fair, an enterprising Englishman named Richard Blechynden decided to liven up his flagging sales of hot tea by pouring the brewed beverage over ice. Once the refreshing beverage hit the parched palates of the local fairgoers, the rest was history. Although there were iced teas recipes that started appearing in the 1800s, it was Blechynden who really made the drink popular.

The ready-to-drink market exploded in the early '70s when Lipton introduced Tea-in-a-Can. Then, in the late '80s, Snapple started bottling their drinks, and it really exploded with more brands following its lead.

But the year 1993 was a pivotal year for the U.S. tea industry. In many respects, it represented one of the most important years since the invention of the tea bag and iced tea itself in 1904. In 1993, many new ready-to-drink iced tea products were rolled out nationally and, even more importantly, it became apparent that consumers were readily accepting these products.

It was also the year in which a lot more money was devoted to the marketing of the ready-to-drink products, and that included explaining to the public the attributes of tea, compared to other beverage options. Today, there are many kinds out there after Tazo raised the bar again by introducing herbal teas and juice-infused teas, creating a demand for superpremium teas.

In 1999, Americans drank 50 billion servings of tea, with about half the population consuming a cup or glass every day. Away-from-home consumption increased by more than 10 percent annually during the last decade and is expected to continue to increase at this pace over the next five years.

The United States Tea Association has conducted a survey and found that 85 percent of tea consumed in our country is iced - a uniquely American habit compared with tea-drinking customs worldwide.

Taste Test:
With endless iced teas options flooding the market, Food & Wine's staff tasted nearly 20 different types of traditional iced teas: sweetened, unsweetened and lemon-flavored, from bags, bottles and mixes. They found the picks at local grocery stores, including an organic one.

What F&W looked for in a good tea:
Not too sweet, tasted like real brewed tea - sounds so simple, but with many teas using corn syrup and additives - it can be difficult to find teas that really just taste like tea.

Here are the three that scored the highest:

  1. Honest Tea Lori's Lemon Tea
    Cost: $.99/each
    What F&W liked: Slightly herbal, not too sweet and very refreshing
    Interesting note: When Honest Tea started in 1998, the company brewed tea in giant laundry-bag size sacks made from the mesh used for pool skimmers.
  2. Lipton Cold Brew
    Cost: $3.85/44 bag box
    What F&W liked: Clean tea flavor with a good hint of lemon. You will need to add sugar, not too sweet.
    Interesting note: A single bag of Lipton may contain up to 60 different types of tea.
  3. Tazo Organic Iced Tea
    Cost: $1.09/bottle
    What F&W liked: It tastes like well-brewed tea with a touch of lemon and honey. Lightly sweetened.

If you want to save money and try your hand at brewing your own yummy iced tea, Parisi has developed two easy, but flavorful recipes.

The key for brewing the perfect tea: To make 1 1/2 quart of tea: boil water; then POUR over 5 tea bags. Steep for at least one hour!

Juice Iced Tea
Pomegranate Iced Tea

Serving: Makes 3/4 gallon

24 oz of pomegranate juice
2 quarts brewed tea
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Method: Stir together all ingredients; chill until ready to serve.
Note: You can use this recipe to make any fruit flavored iced tea: Peaches, guava nectar, or blueberry juice. It really just spruces up basic iced tea.

Iced Green Tea with Ginger and Mint
Servings: Makes 6 servings

3 oz. Ginger, unpeeled and sliced
1 cup mint leaves
6 green-tea bags
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice


  1. In a large saucepan over high heat, combine the ginger and 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add the mint and tea bags. Cover and let steep for 15 minutes.
  2. Strain the liquid into a large pitcher or other container. Heat resistant glass is perfect. Add the honey and lemon juice; stir. Chill in the refrigerator. Serve over ice. Garnish with mint.
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