Of Flags, Stories, and Iced Tea

Posted by Darren Hartford on

Today is Flag day. On June 14th, 1777, the Continental Congress adopted the Flag of the United States. The story we all know says Betsey Ross sewed the original flag, improving on the design the Continental Flag Committee handed to her. Yet, historians are quick to point out they can't prove she actually did so. There is just strong circumstantial evidence to support it. And the story fits with the other myths we create around the founding of our country. So everyone enjoys it.

Similarly, we enjoy the stories around the creation of inventions and new ideas. On a hot summer day, laying on your hammock enjoying a tall glass of iced tea, have you ever wanted to thank the person who came up with the idea of iced tea? You could thank, Richard Blechynden, an English (or was he American?) tea merchant. He was trying to sell cups of hot tea at the 1904 World’s Fair on a hot summer day in St Louis. When it looked like his efforts would fail, he cleverly decided to run the hot tea through pipes that were covered in ice rapidly cooling the tea. The iced tea was a huge hit at the fair. Mr. Blechynden saved his company, and created a nation of iced tea fans. Almost 85% of the tea consumed in the US today is iced tea. 158 million Americans will enjoy some iced tea this year.

But is it true? In Summerville, South Carolina, they celebrate being the birth place of Sweet Tea. In 1890, a receipt for supplies for a large gathering showed a few hundred pounds of sugar and 880 gallons of iced tea. Other people point out that Southern cookbooks listed iced tea recipes for at least 10 years before that date.


I think that iced tea may have come from the tradition of punch. The first Western mention of punch was in the 1600s. Sailors working for the British East India Company brought back to England a drink they found when they reached the shores of India that used Rum, Citrus and Spices.

By the mid 1700s, various recipes for punch were around the Britain and the Colonies. Using tea, (made with boiled water), added a sanitary mixer.  A recipe I found on punchdrink.com comes from just before the Revolutionary time period and may be where iced tea came from.  At least it is a good story to tell.  Enjoy some this summer as you try to decide who invented iced tea.

Something to sip and ponder…


If you want to learn more about Flag Day go here. Betsy Ross go here.

To learn more about Summerville and its role in Sweet tea, see this article or learn about their festival go here.  

Philadelphia Fish House Punch


1 cup sugar

4 lemons, peeled and peels reserved

4 cups black tea (I recommend Oliver Pluff’s East Indian or Congou)

1 cup lemon juice

4 cups rum, Jamaican

2 cups cognac

1/2 cup peach brandy

Garnish: lemon wheels and freshly grated nutmeg


1.In a large bowl, add sugar and lemon peels, and rub together to release the citrus oils into the sugar. (This is called oleo-saccharum.)

2.Allow oleo-saccharum to infuse for at least 30 minutes.

3.Dissolve sugar with hot tea.

4.Add rum, cognac, lemon juice and peach brandy and stir to mix.

5.Add a block of ice to chill, and continue to add smaller pieces of ice for desired dilution.

6.Garnish with lemon wheels and freshly grated nutmeg.

7.Ladle into individual glasses.