July 4, 2020
American Tea Drinking: Popular US flavors
Tea was first brought to America almost 400 years ago. Today, it’s not only one of the most important beverages, but it served as an inspiration for many globally important inventions too.
Is there tea grown in the USA?
There are more than just a few tea plantations in the United States. Although most of real tea still comes from major tea producing countries such as India or China, the first attempts at trying to grow Camellia sinensis plant in the U.S started almost 300 years ago. However, they didn’t succeed up until the late 19 century.
Today, tea is grown in around 15 different states, but mostly in small batches and sold in smaller quantities. The exception is the Charleston Tea Plantation in South Carolina, owned by the Bigelow Tea Company. It’s the only plantation producing both loose leaf tea and tea bags on a larger scale. Interestingly, South Carolina does not only have the biggest tea plantation, but was the first state to grow tea in America.
America produces almost all types of tea except dark fermented type, even a rare yellow tea that is produced almost exclusively in China and rarely in other tea growing countries. Most of American real tea is grown on small tea farms in small batches by professionals with great passion, enthusiasm and skills that are willing to experiment with types, plants and techniques to create unique specialty teas. The most well-known American grown tea worldwide is very likely tea from Hawaii, a state with more than a dozen of tea farms.
Inventions that changed the world of tea
The first decade of the 20th century was important time for tea “inventions“ that unmistakably changed tea drinking habits and tea industry around the world.
Tea bags are one of the most important tea inventions in the world of tea. They undoubtedly made tea drinking easy and more approachable. Tea bags or the „tea leaf holders“ were first patented right at the beginning of the 20th century in Wisconsin. About 7 years later they were invented one more time. Again, accidentally, by an American tea merchant from New York.
Iced tea was popularized at 1904 World’s Fair in St Louis by a tea merchant who decided to make tea more refreshing during a heat wave by serving it with ice. Today iced tea is so important and popular that it has its own national day on the June 10th each year. But the idea of drink iced tea appeared many years before it was actually popularized. The first recipe that included tea, sugar and ice was printed 75 years earlier in Kentucky – for a tea punch with cream and wine.
What are popular tea flavors in America?
Most of the tea in America, about ¾, is consumed iced. It wasn’t up until 30-40 years ago that loose leaf tea and regular tea in general started to gain more popularity among tea drinkers. The interest for hot tea and loose leaf tea significantly grew in the last couple of decades as different types and blends became more available.
Today, some of the most popular flavors are traditional teas from around the world, green and black teas, and herbal and fruity blends. Interestingly, in the past green tea was the more popular type for making sweet iced tea. Only later it was replaced by black tea, in a drink called – Russian Tea – cold black tea served with ice, sugar and lemon.
Earl Grey was first created about 200 years ago in England. This blend id made with black tea and essential oil extracted from the peel of Seville orange. Today, this is one of the most popular tea blends around the world.
Chai Masala is the traditional Indian tea with milk and sugar and additional spices. It’s one of the most soothing and comforting drinks and one of the most beloved tea flavors.
Breakfast blends include different full-bodied teas mostly from India, Sri Lanka, Africa and China. They have a high caffeine content and are strong enough to go well with milk and sugar. Some of the most popular breakfast blends are English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast and Scottish Breakfast blends.
Strong green tea
Hyson green tea and Gunpowder are two of the most consumed green teas. They are especially popular in blends, different hot tea drinks and iced teas. They make a great tea base because of the strong flavor that can blend well with different condiments.
Black Lemon tea
Today’s lemon iced tea is very similar to the Russian tea mentioned in the late 19th century’s Boston Cook Book. Home-made recipes usually have a stronger natural lemon flavor. They may include lemon juice and broken loose leaf black tea or tea bags and use lemon slices for decoration.
Besides lemons, peaches are the most popular flavor for tea – green, black or even oolong tea. Commercially available peach iced teas may only contain flavorings and no real fruit. For a delicious homemade peach iced tea, use real peaches instead.