Gourmet Iced Tea with the Steep & Chill
Iced Tea… America’s contribution to the global tea tradition
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. Interestingly, in our formative years, we were a green tea-consuming culture. Until WWII, tea was the most widely consumed hot beverage in the United States; it was not until trade was cut off with Japan did coffee take over*.
Most notably, the US has made its contribution to global tea culture by popularizing iced tea. It was first introduced at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. A group of tea producers from India had set up a booth to promote their black teas. The sweltering summer heat and humidity prompted them to serve the tea over ice, just to get people to try it. It was a hit! In the 100 years since then, consumption of iced tea in the US has grown to over 40 billion cups per year*.
In recent years, demand for gourmet teas in North America has risen dramatically. Restaurants, spas and cafes are now making quality loose leaf teas, innovative tea drinks and tea-related products readily accessible to many Americans. Health and lifestyle trends have given tea new importance. Tea is now thought of as a stylish, healthy alternative to coffee and alcohol. It’s widely available and ready for you to drink up and feel good about!
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 our latest Steepware innovation, the “Steep & Chill”, for steeping loose iced tea and spa water at home. As we’ve always said, we’re here to make loose-leaf tea your everyday luxury, and now we’re doing that over ice!