The world of tea is filled with myth, legend, and controversy. In fact, there isn't a tea blend out there that doesn't have a story attached to it. Iced tea is no exception. It is commonly held as fact that iced tea was invented by a tea plantation owner named Richard Blechynden looking to drum up some business at the 1904 World's fair in St. Louis Missouri. The story goes that Richard initially intended to hand out free samples of his hot tea. The weather in St. Louis that year was above seasonal however and few visitors seemed interested in sampling his steaming hot product. As a novelty, Richard decided to drop some ice into his teapots and began to serve the tea cold. The result was a hit and iced tea went on to become one of the most popular beverages in North America.

Good story right? The World's fair...exceedingly hot day...enterprising entrepreneur...the stuff legends are made of. Well, if iced tea was invented in St. Louis in 1904, then how do you explain the details of an article published September 28, 1890 issue of the Nevada Noticer newspaper? The article in question describes a mammoth sized barbecue prepared for 15,000 Confederate veterans over two days in late September of that same year. It details the menu thusly:
The following figures will convey some idea of the amount of provisions used at Camp Jackson during the recent encampment.
There were 4,800 pounds of bread, 11,705 pounds of beef, 407 pounds of ham, 21 sheep, 600 pounds of sugar, 6 bushels of beans,
60 gallons of pickles, and a wagon load of potatoes. It was all washed down with 2,200 gallons of coffee and 880 gallons of iced tea.
880 gallons of iced tea! It should be noted here that this article, published 14 years before the St. Louis world's fair, mentions iced tea without having to offer an explanation as to what that was exactly. This would seem to indicate that tea poured over ice was something that the article's readers were already familiar with!
So what are we to make of all of this? Well, there is no doubt that iced tea was served at the World's fair. One school of thought holds that iced tea, while perhaps not invented at the fair, was indeed popularized there. Whichever story you are inclined to believe we can all agree that iced tea is one of the world's most refreshing beverages. When it's hot out, the tea is brewed, poured over ice, and garnished with lemon and a dash of sugar, nothing else compares.