Iced tea in wine glass with lemon wedge and plastic straw

As much as we’d like to be able to claim that CBD beverages like the Sparkling CBD Lemon Iced Tea that we produce is the original iced tea, the truth is, the whole iced tea thing predates our company by a couple of hundred years. Hard to believe, we know. But it’s true. In fact, to discover the roots of this classic American drink you have to go back to 17th century Britain.

Tea first arrived in London’s coffee houses in the 1650s. It had been brought back to Europe from Southeast Asia by Dutch traders who promptly found a market for it in Britain. When the Brits began to colonize North America in earnest they brought tea with them, and by the time of the American Revolution tea was being grown commercially in South Carolina and was a big hit with upper-crust colonials.

Enter the Frozen Water Trade

While it might seem natural to assume that iced tea would have developed alongside the growing colonial affinity for hot tea, there was one fact standing in the way: a near-total lack of ice. You see, until the 19th-century ice was strictly something that appeared on ponds and rivers in cold, northern latitudes during the winter.

You couldn't reach into your icebox in Macon, Georgia in 1789 and grab a few cubes to plop into your tea because you didn't have an icebox. With the exception of just a few members of the European nobility, nobody did. That began to change, though, in 1806 when a New England businessman named Frederic Tudor realized the potential of harvesting ice from ponds near his home in Massachusetts and shipping it to sweaty colonials worldwide.

The “frozen water trade” quickly became big business with Tudor and others amassing huge fortunes from shipping ice to the far reaches of the globe. As ice became commercially available in the south genteel southerners began enjoying their tea on ice. But the new drink was still slow to catch on because imported ice was expensive.

The First Ice Machines and Widespread Acceptance

By 1845 the first commercial ice machine was invented and within a decade ice in homes became more common. As a result, by the 1860s ice tea had migrated north and by the 1870s ice tea recipes began appearing in newspapers and magazines from Atlanta to New York. Some of these early recipes called for squeezing a bit of lemon into the tea as well (so those of us at our CBD drinks company can’t take credit for the lemon thing either, unfortunately).

Ice Tea Enters the Market

While iced tea had gained widespread popularity by the end of the 19th century it was still something people made at home. Not something they bought at a restaurant or store. The 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis is credited with changing all that. It was there that iced tea was first served to the public on a large scale, filling in gaps in awareness of this delicious and refreshing beverage, demonstrating its commercial potential, and laying the groundwork for CBD drinks like our Lemon Iced Tea.

In the days following the St Louis World's Fair the popularity of iced tea skyrocketed and it began to find itself on more and more restaurant menus nationwide. High-end department stores began offering their wealthy patrons a cool glass of ice tea on hot summer days. Prohibition (1920-1933) also spurred interest in iced tea and by the 1930s kitchenware makers were marketing iced tea glasses.

What About Bottled Iced Tea Like CBD’s Iced Tea?

Because Coca Cola was being sold in bottles in the late 19th century you might think that once iced tea gained widespread acceptance that it too would have made the leap to bottles straight away. Not so. Right up through the 1970s, iced tea remained something that was made at home or could be bought by the glass or pitcher-full in restaurants, but could not be found in stores next to the Coke. Those of us at Colorado’s Best Drinks would have rectified that, but alas, most of us weren’t born yet.

It was actually two employees of the Swiss beverage company Bischofszell - Ruedi Barlocher and Martin Sprenger - who took this very American drink and put it in a bottle for the very first time. What is perhaps even more startling is that this didn’t occur until 1983, nearly 70 years after the St Louis World’s Fair where it first became widely popular, and nearly 100 years after the first soft drinks were being bottled.

Barlocher and Sprenger succeeded in being first to market with their bottled iced tea, but in the years since Bischofszell has been eclipsed sales-wise by the likes of Lipton, Nestea and other brands. Nonetheless, as a result of their pioneering work you can now purchase ice-cold iced tea in glass and plastic bottles of all sizes, as well as in cans, such as our very own Lemon Iced Tea.

To say that iced tea has been successful as a soft drink would be an understatement. In the US alone iced tea sales were just short of $4 billion dollars in 2020. Globally, it is estimated the iced tea market is currently worth around $22 billion annually and is expected to grow by nearly 35% over the next few years. We at Colorado’s Best Drinks are proud to offer our own unique take on this quintessentially American beverage. So give our CBD drinks a try.

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