A Warm Day At The Fair Led To Iced Tea's Popularity

We've all been tempted to cook a trending recipe on TikTok. From copy-cat recipes to pasta shortcuts, cocktails, and wellness drinks, influencers are hard at work showcasing fun new ideas. But before the rise of social media, long before the internet, in the early 1900s when even telephones were not in every home, one of the most exciting ways new foods and cooking technologies were showcased was at large events like the World's Fair. The fairs popularized many beverages and foods we don't think twice about now, including iced tea.

In 1904, St. Louis hosted visitors and exhibitors from all over the world from May to December. Amid all the vendors hoping to get attention was a tea plantation owner providing samples of tea during a hot, humid Missouri summer, not an easy sell for a traditionally hot drink! Legend says that he switched to serving his tea iced, and that became one of the popular "new" beverages that became a sensation at the fair.

Iced tea then and now

We know that people were drinking cold tea long before the fair made the drink a hit, but the power of presenting the idea to the nearly 20 million people at the fair spread the story of iced tea far and wide. Iced tea was actually listed on many menus at the 1904 World's Fair, showing how popular the drink was becoming. Prohibition further boosted iced tea popularity as Americans looked for beverage alternatives when spirits were not available.

Today more than 80% of all tea consumed in America is served on ice. From heavily sweetened southern sweet tea to iced chai lattes and cold shaken matcha, iced tea has come a long way from its basic chilled past. To get the best result for your own homemade iced tea, we've got some great tips to share. 

Start with a quality loose-leaf tea and try the cold-brew method for a smoother result. Enjoy your tea as is, or make a flavored simple syrup to enjoy an icy glass sweetened to your taste, and raise a glass to those influencers of 1904 who helped make iced tea the phenomenon it is today!