In 1992, the American tea industry launched its first ready-to-drink (RTD) teas. The major tea companies joined up with large soft drinks manufacturers to create a range of tea-based drinks, some carbonated, some still, some with additional flavorings (such as lemon, raspberry, or peach), some containing just tea, some sweetened, others not, in bottles and in cans. These are now readily available in supermarkets and small retail stores throughout the U.S., the U.K., and Europe. Some do taste of tea, others (particularly the carbonated varieties) taste only of sugar and lemon and bear very little resemblance to the beverage that connoisseurs know and love.
In the U.S., where iced tea has always been more popular than hot tea, these trendy convenience drinks appeal to the younger consumer.
In Japan, street vending machines and supermarkets offer an even wider variety of canned ready-to-drink teas - hot or cold, green or black, with or without milk, fruit flavored or plain, sweetened or unsweetened, tea from Darjeeling or Assam - and Japanese manufacturers seem to have managed to produce a high quality product that appeals to a wide market.
The idea of drinking iced tea originated at the St Louis World Trade Fair in 1904. Most of the tea drunk in the U.S. in those days was green tea from China and, in an attempt to popularize black Indian teas, a group of Indian tea producers organized a special tea pavilion staffed by Indians who offered cups of hot tea under the supervision of an Englishman by the name of Richard Blechynden.
Temperatures during the fair soared and, although the British had always recognized hot tea's thirst-quenching qualities, on very hot days, the Americans totally ignored the brew and went in search of cold drinks. In a brave effort to sell his product, Blechynden packed ice cubes into glasses and poured the tea over. As word got around, customers started lining up to buy the perfect cooling beverage. So, iced tea was born and by 1992, the U.S. was consuming between 1.6 and 1.8 billion glasses of iced tea per year. More than 80 percent of all tea consumed in the U.S. is served over ice and almost 80 percent of American households drink iced tea. However, it has never caught on in Britain, and is only consumed in small amounts on extremely hot days in summer, laced with lemon and mint or borage.
To brew iced tea, choose a Ceylon or a China Keemun tea. Allow double the amount of tea normally used and brew as usual in a teapot Strain and sweeten to taste. Fill a glass with a lot of ice and pour the hot tea over. Add a few bruised mint leaves or borage flowers and a slice of lemon or orange, then serve.
Alternatively, brew the double-strength tea, strain, sweeten, and chill in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight, then serve over ice and garnish as before.