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Archive for July 18, 2011

FUN: Iced Tea Facts & Trivia

The Tea-Over-Ice Brewing Pitcher from
Tea Forte.


Eighty percent of the tea drunk in the U.S. is bottled tea, meant to be served cold.

Who invented iced tea?

It’s possible that centuries ago, some wealthy* person (or servant) in the tea-growing nations of Ceylon, China, India or Japan may have taken some ice from the ice-house to cool down a cup of hot tea.

If it ever happened, the practice didn’t take hold, and no old recipes exist for it.

*Before refrigeration, only the wealthy could afford to have ice cut from lakes and rivers in the winter and stored in ice houses for summer use. The oldest known ice house, built by a king in Persia, dates from about 1700 B.C.E. Most other people dug ice pits, lined with straw and sawdust. While commercial refrigeration was available by the late 1800s, the home refrigerator didn’t arrive until 1930. Prior to then, people used an insulated metal “ice box,” which held ice delivered from the “ice man” to keep perishables cold. When the ice melted, it was replaced.


Iced Tea Enters The Recipe Books

We don’t know who made the first iced tea, but we can approximate when it happened.

The oldest known recipe for “sweet ice tea” (with lots of sugar) was published in 1879, in a community cookbook called “Housekeeping in Old Virginia” by Marion Cabell Tyree.

The recipe calls for green tea, which was popular in the Colonies (Benjamin Franklin mentions it in his autobiography) before falling out of favor—likely because milk and sugar, the popular accompaniments, taste better in black tea.

There’s also a newspaper clipping recounting the menu served at the 1890 Missouri State Reunion of Ex-Confederate Veterans, which included iced tea.

The 1904 St. Louis Exposition

What you’ll most likely find in books and online is that iced tea was inadvertently “invented” in St. Louis at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition (often called the 1904 World’s Fair, but that term was not yet in use).

As the story goes, Richard Blechynden, a tea merchant, was having limited success getting people to taste his hot tea in the intense summer heat and humidity of St. Louis. He had the idea to add ice into the tea, thus creating a refreshing, cool drink.

Blechynden is sometimes referred to as a tea plantation owner, but in fact, he was an Englishman employed as the India Tea Commissioner. He headed an initiative, begun in 1896, to publicize the black teas of India and Ceylon (modern day Sri Lanka) to Americans.

According to, Blechynden and his tea samples were in the elaborately designed India pavilion. When he realized that it was too hot to get the crowds to taste free samples of his hot tea, Blechynden and his team did something ingenious.

They didn’t toss ice into the tea, as is commonly written. Instead, they created a cooling apparatus, filling several large bottles with brewed tea and placing the bottles upside-down on a stand that allowed the tea to flow through iced lead pipes, emerging chilled.

The “iced” tea was a hit at the fair, and a real boon to India tea awareness. After the fair, Blechynden took the lead pipe apparatus to New York City, offering free iced tea to shoppers at Bloomingdale Brothers’ department store.

Green Tea Fades Away…For 80 Years

Word spread, and iced black tea became a popular summertime drink. It led to recipes for tea punch, which included simple syrup, fruit juices (cherry, grape, lemon, orange and/or pineapple), lemon and/or orange slices, maraschino cherries, fresh mint and canned or preserved fruits.

Blechynden’s efforts also raised the popularity of black tea as a hot drink. Interest in green tea faded—except to those who visited Japanese restaurants beginning around 1970—until the health-conscious 1990s.


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TIP OF THE DAY: 5 Other Uses For Coffee Filters

We recently retired several coffee makers, from cup-tops to oldies that no longer make the coffee as hot as we’d like. We found ourselves left with several boxes of filters that don’t fit our remaining machine.

Fortunately, as we were searching through old emails, we found one from our friends at the Coffee And Tea Show, suggesting alternative uses for coffee filters.

1. Strain Wine. If an old bottle has sediment or the cork breaks, put a filter inside a funnel and decant the wine into a carafe or decanter. The coffee filter will trap the sediment or cork pieces.

2. Protect Good China. Coffee filters placed between plates and cups that are stacked for storage will protect them from chips and scratches.

3. Make An Ice Pop “Napkin.” Slide the wooden stick of an ice pop through a coffee filter to catch drips and keep kids from getting sticky.

4. Clean Windows & Glass. Use coffee filters as an emergency substitute for paper towels. They leave no lint or residue and can fit on your hand like a mitt.

5. Line Flowerpots. When planting or repotting, first put a coffee filter over the drainage hole in the flowerpot; then, add the soil. The filter will prevent the soil from spilling from the bottom of the pot, yet permits proper water drainage.


We don’t need this size filter anymore. So we’re
using the remainder as paper towels.
Photo courtesy Melitta.


The History Of The Coffee Filter
Prior to the invention of the coffee filter, ground coffee was boiled in water, and the brew was strained through linen. Compared to today’s coffee, the brewing technique turned out coffee that was bitter, gritty and murky.

In the summer of 1908, Melitta Bentz, a German housewife, posited that if she could pour boiling water over the grounds, instead of boiling the grounds with the water, the bitterness might be reduced.

She punched holes into the bottom of a brass cup and lined it with blotting paper from her son’s school books—thus inventing the first coffee filter and the drip method. The ground coffee was placed into the paper-lined cup (today it’s a ceramic or plastic cone); water was poured over the coffee and it dripped into a pot below.

The Imperial Patent Office in Berlin issued a patent to Melitta, and in 1912, after some fine-tuning, a company was established to sell the paper filters, and later, filter bags. The company is still in the family: Melitta’s grandchildren market not just filters, but coffee beans and coffee makers.


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PRODUCT: Java-Gourmet Coffee-Based Rubs, Sauces, Salts & Sweets

Sauces are just the beginning of the coffee-
accented products from Java-Gourmet. Photo
by River Soma | THE NIBBLE.


Java-Gourmet is the story of two Bostonians who relocated to the sylvan shores of Keuka Lake in upstate New York. Surrounded by natural beauty, they began to roast coffee to order, slowly air-cooling the beans to retain their natural coffee oils—which hold not only flavors, but also antioxidants.

A few years later, they released Java Rub, giving zing to pork, poultry, steak, beef and turkey burgers, chili, enchiladas, tacos and other foods. An artisanal, coffee-based specialty food company was born.

Since then, the company has created a large line of products—more than 30 products, a lineup that’s unique in the marketplace—based on coffee (coffee is a favorite ingredient of Bobby Flay and many other chefs). If you haven’t yet cooked with coffee, it both adds a depth of flavor and helps to caramelize the surface of the food.

  • A Cornucopia Of Coffee Products. The rubs are joined by sauces and marinades, a coffee-based brine, a salt grinder (sea salt, peppercorns and coffee beans) and a finishing salt (a grinder with coffee beans plus garlic, paprika, herbs, spices, salt and pepper) that’s good on everything, including popcorn.

  • The Sweet Side. Java-Gourmet offers three varieties of chocolate-coffee bark: Java Bark, Java Bark Decaf and Java Bark Latte (a milk chocolate). They’ll delight any chocolate-and-coffee lover.
  • Java Sprinkles. The meal ends with a shake of coffee sugar—ground espresso blended with cocoa, cane sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar and spices. Originally developed to top cappuccino, cocoa and other whipped cream- and foam-topped beverages, Java Sprinkles have also found a place as a garnish for ice cream, puddings, tiramisu and buttered toast.
  • While all products are used year-round, summer grilling season is the perfect time to try out the rubs and sauces.
  • Try them at home and bring some Java-Gourmet gifts when you’re invited to a cookout. Plan ahead for stocking stuffers for everyone who likes to cook. All products are small-batch-produced, all natural and free of MSG, gluten and trans fat.
  • Click over to and treat yourself to a selection.
    Make Your Own Coffee Rub
    If you want to try it with your own ground coffee, we prefer a dark roast (espresso, French or Italian roast) for more flavor and a lighter roast for a more subtle flavor. For a lighter roast rub, add dried basil, kosher salt, lemon zest and/or orange zest, pepper and sea salt or kosher salt. For a darker roast, add chili powder, coriander, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, pepper and salt.


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